There's an ad, I believe it is for Kentucky Performance Products, that talks about the comfort a horse brings a person when their world feels like it is falling apart. Though not the same, the reason I love Kentucky Performance Ads is that they really do just "get it."
Jean-Luc, despite his quirks, is my saving grace. I love that we don't have to talk or be on our best behavior for each other, but we can flow together. Though silence we've learned how to respect one another. With simple looks, we are to that point where we know what considerations we can make for each other that will result in comfort instead of stress. Jean-Luc has taught me what it means to be present in a moment, acknowledge a truth, and what trusting that someone, other than yourself, has the ability to take care of you.
The other day I decided it was warm enough (and I had the time) to not ride, but take care of Jean-Luc by cleaning him up a little and paying in a field of grass. So, that's exactly what I did. Especially now that he's teeth have been floated and a possible issue identified (more to come about that later), I believe he's truly one happy guy.
While this isn't the exact ad I was talking about, you get the point - KPP basically nails that "Feeling".
The weekend of May 15, the club I like to ride with went on a Mother's Day weekend adventure to the largest State Park in West Virginia - Holly River. The horse friendly trails were incredibly well marked, and overall, that ride was a perfect time.
Jean-Luc performed extremely well. Our bridle even fell apart on the trail (loose screw), and we rode the last half hour in a rope halter - something I wasn't sure we were ready for, but he proved me wrong.
The ride itself allowed for the opportunity to see the variations of fauna you can find in West Virginia. Plus, riding with an older crowd, I was able to actually learn what to look for in the woods. I mean, I have country roots, but I am no expert when it comes to the names of birds, plants, random critters, etc. It was an overnight ride I would absolutely do again, and one I will treasure.
If you ever get a chance to camp / ride in Holly River, I highly reccomend it. Here's the link to the Park Site and Trail maps:
Holly River State Park: https://wvstateparks.com/park/holly-river-state-park/
Trail Maps: www.wvdnr.gov/Parks/Maps/HollyRiverStateParkTrailGuide.pdf
As understood and retold by me.
After attending the Equine Affair my barn manager got a wild hair that she really wanted to be a better horseman(woman). She's a determined woman and I knew her motivation would only benefit me. So, I saddled up to support her as much a possible with our local riding club in whatever ideas she have.
It all translated to Mike Hurst, a local horseman, who happens to be the runner-up of the 2017 Extreme Mustang Makeover offering group lessons to our horse club. Check this video out for a little taste of who agreed to help us all.
I don't know what others think, but I really respond well to Mike's style and teaching. I have to admit, I was excited for our first lesson. What could we learn? Would I be on level with the others? Would I be able to sit in the saddle with my current knee situation? (I still can't even get in the saddle without assistance).
After catching horses in the rain, loading up, surviving a tumble in the trailer (Jean-Luc, not me), we arrived at Dakan Arena. We saddled up and made our way inside for our lesson. There were 8 other horses and riders in the group lesson. It was definitely a full house. Despite everything, Jean-Luc was an amazing horse. He was so calm that he fell asleep in between instruction.
Below is the lesson, roughly remembered, understood, and retold by me:
MIKE HURST – LESSON 1 NOTES – BASICS AND SAFETY
Mike Parable: Draw the letter, “A” said the Teacher
(As retold by me)
One day, a teacher asked her students, “Who can draw the letter, “A” on the board for me?” The students raised their hands and she chose one. The little boy went to the front of the room, and drew the symbol for the letter, “A” perfectly. His teacher said nothing.
“Who can draw the letter, “A” on the board?” the teacher asked again.
Students raised their hands and this time she chose a little girl. The little girl went to the front of the classroom and drew a letter “A” just as perfectly as the first little boy had. Again, the teacher said nothing.
The teacher repeated this with every student in the class. The students knew their letters were correct, however they were becoming frustrated – she would not tell them if they were right or wrong! Despite being correct, the students could not contain their frustration and began acting out.
Like the students in the teacher’s class, our horses need to know when they do things correctly. Too often we work, and work, and work for the right answer and forget to acknowledge that the horse actually acknowledge that answer when we get it. We have to take time, pause, and “Yes, that is how you draw the letter, “A.”
GROUND WORK PRACTICE
2. Adjusting Walking-Speed – Feeling the horse’s barrel between your legs swinging side to side, press your calves against the barrel as it swings. For example, as the barrel swings left, press your right calf against the horse’s side. As the Barrel swings back to the right, press your left calf against the horse’s side. This will cause the horse to speed up. Be sure your calves keep time with the rhythm of the horse’s barrel until you reach the desired speed. To slow the horse down, practice your seat. See how slow you can get your horse to walk.
Alternate between speeding up and slowing down. Try to focus on control. How synced can you and your horse be? What is your horse’s response time to your cues?
Overall, there Mike shared a ton of information that night. I am sure I missed plenty. I have been trying to make time, though, to practice. That said, with the torrential Spring storms we've been receiving, my knee issue, and an overnight ride last weekend, I've had a ton to do.
Do you ever feel like you are stuck in a loop? Like you are trying new things, but the same old issues occur again and again. No? Liar. I firmly believe that we all have something that keeps sucking us back in again, and again, and again. I also firmly believe that, though feel like it is something we can't help getting sucked back into, we just aren't making the right choices to lead us out.
"Everything is impossible - until it isn't." Jean-Luc Picard
For me, my loop is a knee injury. I had surgery in 2014 on my left knee after walking over an unmarked electric chord while working the Green Room for The Commodores at a New Year's Even Celebration at Snowshoe Mountain - truly a great story to be saved for telling in full another time.
The event took me out of life for nearly an entire season. Literally, I don't remember all of Fall 2014. Since then, I have gone through therapy, and thought I was on the road to a better, unbreakable knee. I tried eating healthier, signed on to several lifestyle changes, and even work in knee strengthening activities my every day life - but I could always do more.
One thing I will never forget is first time back in the saddle after surgery. I remember how desperately I wanted to ride again, and how other activities were already on the short list of things I probably shouldn't do - skiing, running, anything that puts uneven pressure on my patella. I remember the terror that came with doing those activities. But, I desperately wanted to ride. I wanted to be in the saddle, because, as I keep remembering, horseback riding is MY happy place.
Last Saturday, while I was supposed to be on one amazingly beautiful Spring trail ride, I did it again. Walking over uneven gravel I felt my knee dislocate from it's very specific location. My leg went out from under me as my body crumpled to the ground like it had before. Bone on bone grinding pain shot through my body, but all I could thing was, "Not again."
I landed in a shocked teary heap. Since 2014 all was well. My patella was tracking the way it should minus a few times I'd see it hop in the past six months. It didn't matter. My knee was done.
Thing is, Jean-Luc and I have really connected over the past few weeks. As we come to our year together, we managed to make our goal of getting into the Big Field 8 times unassisted by his birthday. We are really making progress with our stretches from Larry Whitesell. And I believe we are just starting to, “click.” I get when his scared; I know what is going to annoy him; I know what he likes as a reward or treat. I have learned the difference between something seems too hard for him and when he just isn’t understanding me – a bond is truly emerging.
That is why this literal blow to the knee hurts so much. When I say, “I remember what it was like getting back in the saddle after knee surgery,” I mean I remember the fear I had to overcome and the confidence I had to build in myself. If I am being totally honest with myself, I even afraid to go there in my brain. Letting myself think about how bad this could be and the road I may have to work through AGAIN is enough to break my brain.
I don’t cry often, but the other morning while talking things through with my mom over coffee, it was enough to bring me to that point where you choke on your own words. “I feel trapped,” I told my mom. “I truly feel like I’m stuck in a loop. I get better, then something like this happens and I’m literally years behind again.”
What does a person say to that when they know the crappy words a person just uttered are true – silence.
The pity party can go on forever. The fact of the matter is even though I tore all the muscles that were rebuilt several years ago, I can rebuild them. Like Nabila said to King Ezekiel in the Walking Dead, “Here’s the beautiful thing... You can tear it out and cut it down. You can burn it and throw it all away. But, if you want, it can all grow back.”
I want. It will all grow back.
Ironically, when I went to hang with Jean-Luc yesterday, he had pulled a shoe halfway off his front right foot.
“We were made for each other,” I told him.
I laughed to myself because despite the issues going on with my knee, I was actually going to try to toss a saddle on and ride yesterday – I was wrong.
Setting expectations for the week to come may not be the route to go? Instead, perhaps no expectations, in this case, will lead to a happier mental state. Fingers crossed the swelling subsides and I recover without the need for surgery. In the meantime, it’s back to getting 1% better every day.
(I also hope to poster our canter work videos soon. I have several and we’d been gaiting and catering just about every day for two weeks straight.)
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.
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