I went to Veneta, Oregon to play around on an outdoor trail course to try out some more 3 Minute Horsemanship. There were plenty of different obstacles that Lexi and I hadn’t tried before. She came out of the trailer relaxed, and we successfully accomplished all the obstacles that we attempted… until we tried the mailbox. To complete this obstacle, the horse must stand still while the rider leans down, opens the mailbox, retrieves the mail, and closes the mailbox.
I was surprised when she flinched and acted surprised, but then I remembered that we hadn’t done this before while in the saddle. I remembered trainer Mitch Hoover’s advice of just waiting at an obstacle and giving the horse time to relax. I decided to incorporate my “horse-breathing” even though Lexi was holding her breath. After I felt her relax enough that I could feel her breathing, I opened the mailbox. She made a very small flinch so I waited a little longer and tried again. This time she was perfect!
Then we wandered to the end of the field where we found The Sheep. Lexi might call them “Baaad, Scary, White Fluffy Mounds That Move!” Yes, they were moving, and they were pretty close! Lexi was high-headed with a tense back, but not scared to the point of wanting to take off. So instead of getting her feet moving, I chose to try to get grounded by relaxing myself. I relaxed my facial expression, and began “horse breathing” slowly and rhythmically, and did not gaze intently at the sheep. I used “soft eyes,” as trainer Sally Swift would say. It took a few minutes, but Lexi did soften and relax. She is a horse that likes to think about things. Perhaps my relaxation techniques (“horse-breathing,” etc.) gives me something to do while she thinks things through…or maybe it’s more than that?—-
LESSON 4: Greeting Your Horse