Sunday, March 13, 2011

Glimpses of Grace

Grace: elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.

I’m starting to see it more and more. Sarah saw it today, so I now have a witness. The horse I thought I bought 10 years ago has started to show up. Peggy made a comment at our lesson last month when Grace took on a better weight bearing posture; “now we see the potential in the horse’s body….” I’ve started to see and feel a little more of it each day.

The horse I bought 10 years ago was a very well-bred American Quarter Horse. Her grandsire’s were world champions, her sire had attended and placed at the AQHA world show many times. None of mattered to me when I bought her. I was head over heels in love with that little bay mare and while I had dreams and aspirations of showing her, I really just wanted to be her person. It wasn’t long before it became clear to me that I was not in the financial position to show her at breed level and that the mare and I were nowhere near ready for that level of competition. We went to open shows and local schooling shows. Grace excelled in the walk/jog classes and cleaned up in trail. Her lope never really came together. My lope never really came together. Instead of pursuing Western Pleasure, I started to focus on events that we actually enjoyed. I had achieved my goal of becoming Grace’s person. We are partners, a team, best friends, but at the end of the day I am always aware that my horse is not finished. That she had barely tapped into the potential that has been living underneath all those onion layers.

I started to see more “glimpses” of Grace’s potential last spring when I finally shelved my agenda and started to focus on her soundness. At one point I had to look beyond her hock and finally start to answer the question of “how did we get here”. I’ve been aware of my own imbalances and soundness issues for years and I am very aware that they relate to my horse’s soundess. There is no coincidence that my last 3 horses all had the same left lead issue that Grace has. As I improved my own body posture I started to accept my own piece of the chicken and egg puzzle. Grace and I have developed a very symbiotic relationship, it can be magic when we are tapped in, tuned in and turned on, but it can also be one big cluster when we are out of sorts.

In the last year I have watched my mare’s body change dramatically. I had no idea that a horse at her age could completely change the posture of her body. I know her body better than my own, every divot, scar and the shape or lack of every muscle. I have felt the shape of her back change from day to day as I ran my hands over her spine. Her back is wider, stronger and higher and at times even looks shorter. Her withers tie her neck and shoulder nicely together and no longer look like an afterthought. When she stretches her neck it is long and slender almost swanlike, not the short fat upright upside down one I remember.

Today at our lesson I not only saw the glimpses of Grace’s potential, but I felt it. As I struggled to get my body to listen to my brain, there were moments that it all came together and the horse that was underneath me moved like nothing I have ever sat on. Her movement was effortless, her hind end was engaged, and she was actually using her hocks correctly. When I remembered to find my neutral pelvis, relax and fill my lower back, lift my sternum and keep my shoulders relaxed, oh and breathe at the same time, I found that there was very little I actually had to do to direct my horse. I started to see the potential for a “finished horse” the vision in my head of us working at the lope, one handed, smooth and effortless.

As I sat on the little bay mare that picked me out 10 years ago, I became very grateful that she wasn’t in this body when I bought her. If she had, I may have never found my potential; my onion layers would have remained unpeeled. I am again ever thankful not only for her patience, but also for her grace.

Grace: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency


  1. Fantastic post. I get a lot of what your saying. Of course we arent both working on the exact same things, but I know where youre coming from on working on oneself. Its been a struggle for me. But the results in my horse are too obvious to ignore...when Im out of the way, my horse can move effortlessly! Wish I could have watched you.

  2. Your story makes my heart swell :)

  3. Aw, that's lovely. I'm still waiting on my Peggy Cummings book, your posts have really gotten me excited to delve into it!

  4. I really enjoyed this post. Right now, my horse is smarter than me and he knows it. But, I get glimpses of what it will be like for us in the future. Congratulations to both of you for working hard to reach your potential.