Monday, 17 October 2011

Colour Within the Lines: Self Carriage

When a horse has established consistency in his pace, straightness and outline/frame without me holding him in place, he’s established self carriage. He’s discovered, by trial and error, the perimeters of the box, encountering my aids (leg, hand, voice and seat) when he makes an unauthorized change. He finds release, or negative reinforcement, within the box.

The fun part comes when we can add “colour” within the lines. It’s expression and energy and suspension (that “bounce to the ounce”) that changes an ordinary performance to brilliant.

But without self carriage, an awareness of the boundaries, a rider’s attempt to create brilliance results in a quick stride as a horse rushes forward out of rhythm. Or a sour expression as he’s held in place by his rider’s strong hands. Or dull as he sits on the back of the box, nagged along by a rider’s constant leg.

In Jesus’ day, He was saddened by the “religious” crowd. The sour and joyless rule followers. They were so focused on obedience to the rules that they forgot who’s rules they were following and why the rules were there in the first place. Jesus spoke of a relationship more than rules. If it’s true as He said, that a relationship with the loving God who made us is really possible, than following His guidelines would overflow from a heart that wants the freedom and peace staying within His “box”. That would add colour and energy to anyone’s life!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

In the Box: Self Carriage

Boundaries. With kids or horses, establishing limits and expectations is the one of the most considerate things we can do for them. Insecurity and resentment arise when boundaries aren’t well communicated or they shift.

As decision maker the horse/human partnership, riders must clearly define their expectations of the pace, path and package with which they want their horses to travel. How long a canter stride? How slow a walk? Exactly how deep into this corner will we ride? How much of a bend in the horse’s body? Short or long frame/outline? Lowered or raised neck and head?

What kind of a “box” do you draw around your horse? My box, for example might look like this – “In the serpentine shape we’re cantering, I’d like a consistent 7 foot stride (collected), with straight body alignment going across the arena with an arced shape around the curves. All this in a medium frame.”

When my horse extends his stride to 7.5 feet, he meets the front of the box. If he steps of the “balance beam” across the serpentine, he encounters the side of the box. When he elevates his neck and ventures above the bit, he feels the top of the box.

When my horse stays inside the perimeter without me having to hold him there, that’s self carriage. There’s freedom and peace within the boundaries.

A box protects it’s contents. The rules of a household and the rules of the land are ideally for our own welfare. In my life I’ve pondered that if God exists, if He has a plan for my life, if He loves me, then His guidelines aren’t to spoil my fun but to give me freedom and peace.

I’d say, that security and confidence has given me some self carriage.