Sunday, August 28, 2016

Horse Walks and Dancing

When I first arrived at the Big Purple Barn I immediately glommed onto Aspen as the horse I wanted to hang out with the most and try to become friends with. I'm not totally sure why it was Aspen. Maybe because he's a beautiful grey thoroughbred, maybe because he was shy and unsure of things and I identified with that, having just started learning about horses. In any case, he's the horse I like brushing for long periods of time and taking for walks. 

Aspen enjoying one of his favorite activities: Eating.

Recently his neighbor in the next stall over, Nadiya, had some friends leave who had her as their favorite Big Purple Barn horse. (We all love all of the horses equally, but also tend to play favorites. Shhhh.) They moved recently and for a little while she didn't want anyone to brush her or interact with her, but she's gotten less aloof recently and I decided to start taking her for walks as well, alternating with Aspen. This is partially because I would like to practice things like going around cones and backing up and moving forward and Aspen can't do those ground exercises because of tendon troubles. So, I will do all of the me-training with Nadiya and save my laid-back just chillin' with a horse walks for Aspen. I think it's sort of funny that I'm slowly working my way up through the herd hierarchy in terms of my comfort with walking them. Haha.

Nadiya and her friend Wyatt who recently moved. 

Let me tell you, Nadiya steers like a dream. She tends to be hyper-aware of the humans she's around, which is bad if you are nervous or unsure (hence why she wouldn't have been a good horse to start out walking), but SUPER cool if you're trying to direct her movement because she picks up on it immediately. I don't know if that's training or personality or a combination of the two, but it's neat.

Barbara let me do some round pen work with her the other day, having Nadiya trot around one direction, then turn her and trot in another direction, all without a lead line. I've only done it two times before (neither with Nadiya), but it went really well! Nadiya even followed me around the round pen for a lap afterwards without any lead rope or anything! I still don't quite understand how that works but it is really neat to experience. The next day she was also a lot calmer with me and actually let me scratch her around the ears and chin for a good five minutes. Like, leaning into the scratch enjoying it. Before she'd tolerate it for a second or two and then move off. I made sure to give Aspen some ear scratches too just to make sure he didn't feel left out! Then I also ended up giving Chuck ear scratches because he looked like he needed some too. Lol. I am an ear-scratching expert.

Chuck has always been up for ear scritches.
Or peppermints if you have them.

It turns out that walking horses and riding horses, from the few rides I've experienced, is a lot like swing dancing. (Maybe swing dancing will be another post! I haven't gone in forever, but really do need to get back to Glen Echo and swing dance again...) Each partner you dance with has the same approximate cues for swing moves, but each is different enough to require an adjustment period while you learn how to follow the new changes. Some have tiny cues that you have to weed out from the general background noise of movement, some have cues so clear that you find yourself following the dance steps almost without knowing the exact move. Some don't really know what they're doing yet so the cues and moves are muddled and you get confused, and some have been dancing forever so even if you make a mistake they make you look good. Everyone has a few swing dance partners that they really click with and dance well with but everyone benefits from the variety of dance partners there, as you only learn how to swing dance well by practice and diversity. No matter what you have to pay attention to your dance partner and what they're doing, otherwise you get stepped on! haha. Luckily there are plenty of dance, er, walking partners to practice with at the barn.

This dude has stepped on me a few times.

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