Finale: Cheek Press, Caterpillar, and the Dressage Arena

img_6137It surprised me a bit when Finale waltzed up first to join me. She often lingers back, but I’ve been giving her more love and heartspace recently and I believe she’s feeling it. As I put the bridle on, I let her know how proud of her I was, how special and beautiful she was, and how glad I was to be able to play with such a lovely lady.

We went off to play in the newly set up Dressage arena in-hand with a clear purpose. She seemed to enjoy the clarity that I was providing with both my intentions and my body, and for the most part gently obliged to anything I asked, or only gently tested the line once before joining me in my request.

It was interesting to me to re-find the body coordination with the reins and the stick while on the ground, but I got the hang of it fairly quickly. At first we just worked on Peggy Cumming’s Cheek Press, softly and gently rotating at her Atlas-Occiput junction. I started off with helping her more with my hands, and then moved to see if she would just respond from a normal rein aid. We got that a few times with a lot of love and verbal thank yous in between.

It was interesting to watch the tension slowly fade from her eyes. Finale is often tense while interacting with me, always having an air of not being sure what I’m asking, or more accurately, why I’m asking, and why it’s important. As I asked her to do this simple movement and then moved into Peggy Cumming’s “Caterpillar” exercise, I began to explain to her that these simple exercises were to give us a basis of communication that would allow us to always be soft and gentle with each other, and to help her learn how to move in a way that felt free and good in her body. I found myself softening into my knowing that this was right and melting with my explanations. She followed suit, softening with my simple but meaningful description and my shift of intention and body language that went along with it. I’ve never seen her eyes so soft, or so deep in color. It gave me a gentle old lady smile–the kind you see when the person’s seeing something simply beautiful, or simply love, and nothing else.

We went on to do these exercises in movement within the Dressage grid, giving us a clear direction and a clear path for where we were going. She seemed to like the clear path, and appreciated that even when she got a bit woobly I stayed the course and gently brought her back. Before long there were no wooblies left, and she seemed to find a new purpose and passion behind the lines and turns and arcs we were creating and following in the grass. I’ve never seen a horse that excited to follow a path. It was refreshing, and gave me insight into the land of possibilities…

But I stayed there with her, rather than going off into dreamscape. We stayed with our simple exercises: cheek press, caterpillar, turns, stops, and straight lines. My intention was to keep everything soft and clear in my mind, my body, and in her mind and body. We stayed together, and in the last moment she basculed a little more, enough to where I really noticed it. When I brought the tiny chunk of sweet potato out, that minor bascule turned into a gorgeous, big, reaching one. I praised her and let her know how amazing it was that she could lift through her thoracic sling like that, and softly slipped the bitless bridle off for her to go explore the morsels.

Published by Kara Cumberton

Wellness and horses are my things. I'm a rider, a bodyworker, and a college student studying integrative health and wellness. I also love nature, yoga, my dog, art, writing, and cooking.

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