We all say it. "Man, work was rough today. I just want to go home and curl up in bed." That was absolutely me yesterday. Work has me more than a little twisted. While the exact details can remain a mystery, it suffices to say that my work is about as stable as our current political climate.
Also, I had a little something happen on Wednesday this week that made me have to start taking a medication that really does not agree with my life style. I can't have caffeine or alcohol for the next two weeks. As a person that drinks no less than 24 oz. of black, Mississippi mud-like coffee every morning ... this struggle is REAL!
I can't remember the last time I just didn't have caffeine; it's been at least three years. Let me tell you what I will never forget, though - the lack of caffeine migraine that replaced my simple morning ritual. I had many thoughts yesterday as I tried to focus at work, (specifically to never become a drug addict), but also, I did not want to go on this ride I had promised I would take earlier in the week.
You see, Liz introduced me to a very nice man in her office that, like me, needs a break every once in a while from the insanity that is work. I think most might agree that horses are (usually) a great place to seek refuge. Her coworker is a talented gaited horse trainer, but his horses aren't with him right now. In fact, they're many states away. I can't imagine what that must be like? He worked with his horses every day. They were his, and eventually his wife's life. Now, life has provided them both with other things to occupy their time, however, horses still hold a deep place in his heart.
I can relate. I remember what it was like, not so long ago when I'd do anything to just sit in my favorite four-legged chair for a few hours. Not having the opportunity to do so was tough. That is why, despite my utter discomfort and lack of motivation, I kept my word last night. I met Allen [names changed for privacy]out at the barn for a ride. After making my peace with my frustrations, I parked my car at the edge of the barn and went inside to grab two halters.
Lil' Bit is another gaited horse that we've been given permission for Allen to use. Lil'Bit also isn't the biggest fan of Jean-Luc. Yesterday was a good day for me to test my own resolve though because I simply wasn't in the mood to be afraid of their antics. Especially when it comes to a horse named Cody, and Jean Luc's best friend. That horse literally herded my horse away from me! Yes. I watched the snot look me dead in the eye and run away with his best friend (my horse) behind him.
Cody was just acting up more than actually threatening anything, though. He didn't even run far. When I went into the field to meet them, he just herded Jean-Luc back to the rest of the horses. After catching Jean-Luc, I tossed the second halter over Lil'Bit's head with relative ease. There were a few moments that made me nervous only because I was taking number two horse and bottom of the herd number nine horse, out together. Naturally, the rest of the herd surrounded us. They were confused by the dynamic I was creating and followed the three of us all the way to the gate. All in all, there was little excitement though.
Allen arrived at the barn shortly after 6 PM. I was swinging a saddle over Lil'Bit, as he parked his navy blue sedan. Allen and I made idle chit chat, bridled the horses, and lunged them in a few small circles before mounting up.
Truth be told, I was nervous. The day before, the horses had really acted up, but I just kept telling myself this was a different day. I was determined to be brave and stay calm. I knew Jean-Luc didn't like leaving the herd, but I thought maybe with Lil'Bit he would be okay. I was right.
As we crossed the little creek and made our way into the big field I noticed I was able to ride a pretty loose rein with Jean-Luc.
"This is nice," I thought in my head. Usually, when riding through that field we're a little bit of a mess. Feet go one direction my hips say to go another. Before I know it, often Jean-Luc is tossing his head and in total wild mustang mode. But not today!
Jean-Luc and Lil'Bit jockeyed some for who would lead, but eventually, Lil'Bit won out (he's faster). We made our way to an old gravel road and on the way there Allen explained to me where the gait originates on a gaited horse (back left leg in case you don't know). He went on to help me understand how to "feel" the gait. He honestly made me feel better about my confusion, explaining how in the beginning, it's very hard to tell the difference between a horse's walk and gait. If you push too hard, they will go straight into the pace - which is exactly what I was doing with Jean-Luc.
Once we hit the road Lil'Bit and Jean-Luc were able to walk side by side. This was great for me since all I had to do was mimic Allen's actions. Suddenly, like magic, the movement I'd been struggling to get for months now happened! Jean-Luc gaited! At first, it was so tiny and for such a short amount of time, I would never have known we were gaiting without Allen telling me we were.
"Pet 'em!" he reminded me.
I gave Jean-Luc tons of love on his shoulders and a big scratch between his ears where I know he likes it.
"That's the gait?" I said confused.
"That's it. You have to stay slow until he gets it. If he paces, let him commit to his mistake, then drop him down into the gait. The second he slows and does what you're asking to release the contact. That's his reward," Allen said.
Allen clearly has done this a time or two. In fact, at one point he even apologized for knowing so much and just not knowing where to start when it came to sharing his knowledge. That whole notion made me laugh inside. I literally had a professional, killer lesson, all for the outstanding price of ... ride this other horse.
Working on the gravel road was incredible. I can see why gaited trainers like having them. This road was basically flat and a few miles long. It was perfect for training. Before I knew it Jean-Luc stayed in a solid gait for nearly a mile.
Once I knew what I was looking for, I really started to chase the feeling of the gait. Getting Jean-Luc to perform it required constant focus, timing and various pressures from my thighs, calves, ankles, and hands. There was a sweet spot, and I was finding it.
"Look at your horse!" Allen kept yelling with excitement.
I can still remember how he said it. It was the kind of phrase that made you feel like you were accomplishing something special. Despite a freak storm, we walked the length of the road twice. Allen was thrilled to be there, and I told him how coming out and riding was exactly what I needed.
On the way back he started to tell me all the other things he could teach Jean-Luc and me (side passes, neck reining, spins, etc.). By the time we got back to the barn, we agreed this needed to become a regular thing. So, for now, we have a standing appointment Tuesdays at 6 PM. I am so lucky to have even received the smallest amount of gaited help around here. I can't wait to see what happens in the next few months!
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.