A New Name

I was responsible for chores at Vi’s barn that included feeding and watering, bringing in the tractor with the manure spreader through the aisles between the stalls for the early morning muck, grooming horses, tending to various aspects of maintenance around the property and sweeping. A micro manager, Vi had a peculiar way of removing only the stained sawdust and manure and stressed the importance of not wasting a single flake of shavings. Every aspect of the tasks I was responsible for had a concise way to be accomplished and she provided clear instructions for me to follow for each procedure.

Not at all eager to use the registered name of my horse; ‘Long Shot Deuces Wild,’ as a moniker, I called him Bud for a while until I found a suitable name. While perusing a German/English Dictionary in Vi’s tack room, I found a word in German that meant extremely good … ‘Souveran.’ Delighted with this find, I set out to find exactly how a German pronounced that word and I began using his new name “Zoo-vel-rain”

With the horse introduced to and responding to the series of verbal and visual postural commands that take place at the lunge, the time finally came to begin ground driving. I still had the bitting rig used in the preliminary work with Sassy, and the long lines. In the arena, once the horse was accurately fitted, he began to respond to bending, holding and driving effects to prepare him for the next stage. With plenty of time working together with my horse, Vi noticed areas of my understanding that required more of her tutelage.

One particularly valuable lesson took place in the tack room while I held the bit in front of my face. Vi, behind me, held the reins. She signaled and clucked the way I did.  I began to empathize with the signal coming from the rider’s hands and the horse received this information. My attitudes had been misdirected. The result of this session was that I became a finesseful communicator with my horse.

The ground driving took three months, during which the horse responded nicely to the aids at all three gaits; walk, trot, canter. Finally, my horse was ready to begin work under saddle. Not being in any hurry, I learned the importance of having a strong foundation of remaining calm at the walk. I later realized the value of this strategy.

I thought Vi’s slow and thorough manner of going about every facet of the training process approached being silly but looking back I see how effective and memorable the long-drawn-out experience is for the horse. With the slow introduction of everything that lead up to carrying weight on his back, there was no surprise at any point. The animal willingly accepted each new request and as an additional positive result, also learned a good work ethic.

My mentor had a background as a teacher and had been imprinted with an interest in teaching horsemanship as the result of attending the circus where she saw the Konyot family perform on their horses. Soon thereafter, she began to study under Arthur Konyot, the patriarch of the family. Although she learned from circus performers, she made me promise I would never use this horse for circus-style performing. I modified my goal while in her presence to become proficient at contemporary dressage and all aspects of trot work under saddle, bending the horse around the circle, two tracks down the straight line; Travers, or shoulder-in, and Renvers, haunches-in, halt and back up were all perfected under her watchful eye.   

About two months into our exchange, I became aware of having a chip on my shoulder in regard to resisting her long, tedious manner of teaching. The thought occurred to me that this was silly. I was investing time to be in her proximity while I resisted and was mentally belligerent. So, I lifted the dynamic, whatever it was, up to God. I even admitted these faults to Vi. I then entered into what became a close relationship with her. Soon thereafter, we became good friends.

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