~ Courtney Crane
Linda’s Happy Horse Course just finished here at the Colorado campus. I learned so much watching Linda teach this course in Florida and learned, even more, seeing it again. It’s so powerful to watch the change in students when they understand what horse’s value – safety, comfort, and play.
Last week, Linda’s plan for the class in the afternoon was to play approach and retreat with trail riding. We were going to go to the playground across from the arena, ride around, and maybe, even venture into the trees or bushes. The goal was to prepare the students for trail riding with a focus on safety. (for the horse and themselves).
In the morning, we played the Seven Games while riding and then, had fun dividing into two groups. As a group, we rode in lines, weaving in and out of each other – each group circling around the other and finally, weaving in and out on a circle with each group going in opposite directions. It was challenging and a great lesson in communication with your horse as well as other riders. This exercise showed me how important it is for your horse to be responsive. But as it turned out, there was much more going on than I realized.
In the afternoon, we all went to the playground and played online – circling our horses into the forest and back. Next, we saddled up and did a few more group exercises in the arena (this time in smaller groups). Afterward, we rode in our groups over to the playground.
In this course, there were riders and horses of all different levels. When venturing out of the arena, I’ve seen horses start to wander and people getting worried. Well, this time was very different. Horses and people stayed calm and in control. If a horse experienced a threshold, the group would communicate and wait or do what was needed. Groups calmly ventured in and out of the forest with students smiling and laughing amidst the soft sound of horses blowing out. It was beautiful!
After a while, we rode over to Linda and shared our highlights. Linda asked us if we knew why it went so smoothly. I thought it was because the student’s focus and skills were improving. Linda said we had so much success because of our preparation – playing the Seven Games on the ground and in the saddle, along with our group exercises. The weaving in and out of each other, the riding in lines, and circling in a big group exposed our horses to squeezing in and out of tight spaces, following the horse in front at a certain distance, communication with each other, controlling your “car” and keeping it in its lane. Every single movement prepared us for the calm and controlled trail riding we experienced! That blew my mind! I had never made the connection how the group activities or “simulations” that we do in the arena perfectly prepare us for the trail.
After class, I told Linda how I didn’t even realize that what we did as a group in our morning session was preparing us for the afternoon. I learned so much that day. Linda replied with “Well if you stick around, I’ve got a lot more.” I definitely intend to and wanted to share what I learned with all of you. ☺