Humble Yawning (Coppers Story)
The pictures below are from a recent ride on my horse "Copper"
Copper is an 8 year old AQHA gelding I have owned since he was 2.
Even at 2 years old Copper was a taller, big made horse.
Today he is 15.2 hands and weighs around 1200 lbs.
He is really fun to ride.
I like a bigger horse for myself roping and I also like a horse that can be nimble, and quick on their feet. I feel Copper meets all those criteria.
The summer I bought him I was healing from a little horse accident I had during late Spring.
I felt good enough to start working with him late summer. I know right away he was good to be quite a bit of work. He was friendly enough, but very suspicious of most things I did and was very reactive to anything he thought was a threat.
It seemed he thought most anything I did was a threat.
He was also at a point where I felt like we ended our session on a good note, but when I started the next day it was like he forgot everything we did the previous day. That was OK with me, I have seen many horses like this before and knew I just had to remain consistent and reward any try he was giving me.
I kept up with this quite a bit. I was healed up enough to start saddling him late Fall. That is when I found out how athletic this big horse was. I also learned how reactive he was. I worked at this for a while, after all this was not the first time I worked with a horse like this. However, I was started to feel like I needed some help.
As luck would have it a Bob King Horsemanship clinic was coming up soon at my friend Tom Hone's place nearby.
I signed up.
Bob helped me tremendously. I learned many tools with horses to put in my tool box.
I think I was up on Copper for the first time on day 2. Everything was going great, until later in my ride we went for a unexpected victory ride around the indoor.
It was not the smoothest ride, and I was amazed how fast you can clear an arena full of people (sorry about that fellow riders).
Bob quickly helped me through our little rodeo ride and Copper actually felt better after that as he was actually a little sticky not moving out before that.
For the next year I worked with Copper riding and roping. I felt things were going well, he still was not the horse I started with the from the previous ride, but we were getting better.
The next year Bob came he offered a real Ranch Roping Clinic. I jumped at the chance as that kind of roping really intrigued me.
I loaded some cattle and Copper and away we went.
I was also looking forward to show everyone the hard work I had put into Copper.
Things were going fine, I was learning a lot of new techniques with the roping and the horses.
We were toward the middle of the day. That's when I noticed a little change to Copper.
I roped a steer and kicked up Copper to track and that is when he decided he had enough.
If you ride horses long enough, especially young ones, you probably will fall off in front of people. That is what happened. It is very humbling.
I looked at this as a learning opportunity (after I took a big gulp to swallow my pride)
Bob showed me some things and talked about things I may have been missing in doing with Copper.
Those things still sit with me today.
I am grateful for those days working Bob.
Fast forward to today years later.
Copper is really fun to ride. He is getting to be a really solid, trustworthy horse. We still work on things but he has come a long way and taught me so much.
One of those things is the "Do Less" and "Just Wait" concepts.
It used to be I had an agenda I must get done on a horse. Copper taught me that horses have feelings and emotions too, and maybe we should check in with our horses to see where they are at today.
I always knew and believed in this, but I did not realize to what extent.
Now for the last year and a half or so with Copper I get on and just wait. I have realized he starts yawning almost immediately after I get on. Not just a little, but there are times he does it for a minute or two.
I did not think a whole lot of it at first, but as time went on I realized how much better he felt after. I can feel it from the tip of his rather large ears to the bottom of his tail, and most importantly all the way down to his feet
I read articles of horse massage therapist talking about how important yawning is and it is a sign you are doing something right. I have to say I agree with a lot of it.
It is pretty hard to be afraid and tense if you are yawning. It is so important in horses to have a soft jaw and a flexible poll. I feel that when he yawns.
There are times even during the middle of a ride he stretches his neck out and yawns. I let him too.
Copper has helped me think about not always having an agenda, to improvise and be flexible.
Goals are important but I have found I am better with a horse if I am listening and I can adapt.
Getting on my horses and just being quiet when I can helps me not to have such and ego. It helps me listen to where they are at. Would that be nice if we as humans can do this? Do not always react, just wait and listen, if even for a moment. I strive for that. I have a long way to go.