“Hey lady, do you mean it? Just because, you know, if you changed your mind that’s cool with me…”

When I picked up my copy of Equine Fitness, I saw that the bookstore had a copy of Zen Mind, Zen Horse. I had my $10 off so I bought it as well. It completely sucked me in! I was most excited for Equine Fitness, but didn’t actually begin reading it until today.

So Zen Mind, Zen Horse… doesn’t really have to do with Buddhism, or really with being Zen. It is more of an analysis of how a horse’s brain works- part neurology, part psychology, and how to apply those concepts to training. It also is a bit of a human neurology/psychology book. It was written by a brain surgeon (he also wrote the Scalpel and the Soul) and was definitely more academic than I thought. Being a bit of a nerd, I loved it. I’m more than half-way done and will definitely have to re-read it at a slower pace soon. It’s not really a book that helps with training and hands-on ideas, it’s more knowledge of the working of the brain and thought processes for the sake of knowledge.

Cello has had yesterday, and looks like today, off. I planned on being out at the ranch today but random thunderstorms rolled in, and it’s hot and muggy. Our next ride really needs to be on the trail.

We did some ring work on Friday, and at the end we were both a bit frustrated. What’s a blog without some honesty, right? Cello is super stiff, un-giving, and reluctant to steer well going to the right. We did a lot of softening and bending exercises, but honestly without much noticeable improvement. These things take time and effort, so I wasn’t expecting much, but just.. something. It didn’t really happen. We did end on a good note, with the slightest of all improvements, but I don’t think either of us really felt good about it. Cello was a bit resistant and I was a bit frustrated. We definitely feel better after our conditioning rides.

Friday felt like an all-around testing day. Nothing stood out to really write about, but it wasn’t as “easy” as the rest of the week had been. Part of a horse’s psychological make-up tells it to test, test, test their leader constantly. I’ve definitely noticed more random testing with Cello than with some of the other horses I’ve worked with. Most of the domesticated horses I’ve been close to tested things a few times when they were new, then seemed to almost shrug the idea of testing out of their minds once the point was made. With Cello, he will do things perfectly for a few rides, and then say “Hey lady, do you still mean it? Just because you know, if you changed your mind, that’s cool with me.”

Pop quiz time! Do I really have to stand still? Do I really need a bit in my mouth? Is steering really important? Why should I flex? Most of these questions were just quickly asked and quickly resolved, no arguing or extra coercion needed, but they were definitely thrown out there.

Speaking of the previously mentioned conditioning/schooling days, that’s one thing I love that Equine Fitness pointed out- after explaining some basic exercise physiology concepts, the author really drove home that conditioning and schooling are two different areas of work but are often lobbed into on category. An unfit horse will not school well, and a horse that only schools and whose underlying fitness is not addressed is like an athlete doing one workout over and over- say practicing throwing the football but never actually running. There has to be a balance there, and right now Cello and I need a higher ratio of trail days to ringwork days. We don’t just plod around on the trails, we actually work, and when we make it back to the ranch we are always way more in sync and mentally satisfied than when we work in the pen. To use my previous metaphor, we are on the same page, and by the end of our trail day we are on the same paragraph, working towards the same sentence. Like I said, at this farm the arena isn’t really the arena- I call it that because I ride in it, but really it isn’t conducive with serious work. I will have to walk some of the larger pastures there and see if there’s a good alternative, but up in the mountains we have a huge ground squirrel problem. Have to get the schooling days a little more hammered out, to be a little more productive. Two weeks into being home means business is about to start!

A friend offered to take us to the Eagle arena, so hopefully that is in the near future. I’ve also called around on a few stock trailers. I plan on taking Cello on an overnight trip the weekend after next- not actually backpacking but trailering to this close-by campground that has corrals for nightly rent. I am super excited and really looking forward to it.

I can’t wait for our next trail ride tomorrow night. I’m positive we will both feel much more together after!


Cello & Dani


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