For those of us who have gotten to know Summer Snow (Rainier) over the past 85 days, the next 15 days leading up to the 100 Day Challenge Show on Oct. 5th are bittersweet. In the beginning, his looks captivated us and his personality enticed us into his life, but as we have gotten to know him, it is his mind that stands out.
It is easy to label the physical skills of a horse. The horse can walk, trot, and canter, the horse loads, clips, and bathes, the horse side passes, the horse leg yields, the horse has flying changes, etc. All theses skills add value to the horse. How much value depends upon the eyes of the person looking at the horse. The inside of a horse is harder to see. How do you determine the “heart” and “mind” of the horse? Through observation we make estimates and assumptions about inner qualities. What is the value of a good mind?
Since Rainier began the 100 Day Challenge, he has faced many new experiences and expectations.
He has gone trail riding, crossed streams with unstable river rock footing, gone over bridges, cantered through the woods…
…learned to jump stadium and cross country courses, gone to a Hunter Derby and brought home ribbons, stood tied to the trailer waiting for the show buddies to compete in their classes, patiently enjoying his hay. He was handled by multiple people in the process. Rainier was a good sport throughout the day’s event. With each new task, Rainier has presented a consistent personality. He is who he is no matter where he is.
Devin’s primary goal for Rainier during the 100 Day Challenge was to give him a foundation of experiences on which to build. He has demonstrated a willingness to participate in a variety of activities and is readiness to explore higher/harder skills.
Learning to make good choices has been one of the strengths of Rainier’s training program. For example, if he is having a jump lesson, Devin initially helps him figure out the distance to the jump and sets him up for success. They practice success and they practice correcting judgement errors. In a short time, Devin will not be the one riding Rainier and he needs to know how to set himself up for success as well. In the process of teaching jumping skills, she is also working on his decision making skills. She allows him to get things “wrong” sometimes and the quickly shows him the correction. Errors are always corrected, but never condemned. Through this process, Rainier not only strengthens his jumping skills, he also strengthens his decision making skills. The same sort of process unfolds during his flat work training. In the beginning, right leads for the canter were difficult for him, not surprisingly considering he was just off the track. Horses, it seems are much like people, and prefer to work on what’s easy, both physically and mentally. Over the course of the last few weeks, Rainier has not only learned to pick up his right lead, but he has also learned his flying changes. Devin encouraged Rainier to push beyond his training “plateaus” and challenged him to deepen his skill set. By correcting his errors without condemning them, Rainier has become an even a better thinker on his feet.
Knowing what lays ahead for Rainier as the 100 days of training winds down, Devin has begun testing his knowledge by allowing other people to ride him. In the last week, 2 different riders, of different ages and skill levels, successfully rode him, each one having a good experience. As usual, Rainier took the variable of new riders in his stride and made good decisions. Being able to adapt to different riders demonstrates that Rainier is able to transfer and apply the skills he has learned with Devin. His new skills are sticking and becoming an integrated part of him. If the rider is a different size or build from Devin, Rainier can still figure out what is being asked of him. Both people who rode him last week commented on safe they felt with him and how responsive he is to a rider’s commands.
Watching Rainier progress and learn over the past 85 days has been an inspiration. Those of us watching can take our own life lessons away from the experience. While his beauty still captivates us, his mind is his power.
The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas,
never returns to its original size.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes
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