Something magical happened yesterday. Something that hasn’t happened in 48 days. Yes I have been counting. But before I get to that, let me catch you up on how Rio has been doing lately.
Last Saturday we had a flat lesson. Let me preface this with a little bit about myself: I may come across as an extrovert when you meet me, in fact, I play the part pretty convincingly some days. But, I am in fact an introvert at heart. When I am sick/tired etc, I no longer have the energy level to support being an extrovert. My ability to have patience also steeply declines. Patience doesn’t exactly come easy for me, it is a learned skill, so it is one of the first things to go when I am not 100%. Knowing all this about myself, you would think I would not try to ride when I am sick, much less be around other people and take a lesson.
Ya right. #Diehard equestrian right here. I obviously rode anyway.
Long story short, I was HYPER critical of my horse and my riding, and harder then necessary on Rio when things weren’t instantly perfect. The whole “take baby steps and be happy with small amount of progress” mantra that I usually try to subscribe to went right out the window. Why was his canter not perfectly balanced with a perfectly soft mouth? Why couldn’t we canter basic canter poles perfectly every time?
I’m pretty sure Trainer thought I was taking crazy pills and insisted that Rio looked good and was definitely improving. It took me a day and a 1/2 ish to percolate and review what had “gone wrong” in the lesson. Next time I’m in a sick/tired/cranky funk I am going to save poor Rio to headache and ask Trainer to ride instead of me taking a lesson. It will be better for everyone. #lessonlearned.
Still wondering what that majikal thing was that happened? Well now I will tell you! I had another lesson last night and things were going MUCH better. Although learning to trot and canter in a balanced fashion is still hard for Rio, I was much more understanding of the effort he was putting forward and appreciative of the baby steps we are making (as I should be). We actually had some moment of brilliance where he could maintain a lovely, self-carrying canter for an entire circle! Trainer reminded me to keep him sharp on my aids (like in upward transitions to the canter) and not allow him to drag-downward into the transition. We did a bit of halting and backing which really helped. When I thought we were wrapping it up, Trainer surprised me by saying she had texted Amazing Vet and she cleared us for some light jumping!!!
Rio seemed a bit confused as I pointed him to a low X rail. I am pretty sure he thought his jumping career was over, but he jumped it like a seasoned show horse. A few times over the X and a few times over the log and we finished on a very positive note.
Trainer even sneakily videoed it!
Getting to jump something again also really helped all the flatwork we have been working on “click” for me. Like, adjustability in the canter is REALLY important. Self-carriage is REALLY important. All of our flatwork struggles are really going to pay-off when we get back to jumping more. Rio used to just lumber up to X rails and kind of throw himself over. Like, it wasn’t cute. And now, I have the ability to ask for a shorter, more carrying, canter step and he is more able to sit back and lift with his front end, versus taking whatever gap we happened to get to.
I have been struggling with my “idea” of how hunters go, versus the reality of training one. It isn’t always a soft pretty 2-point flowing canter with no feel on the mouth. We will get back to that soft floaty ride, but right now Rio needs to learn to accept my hand, be more adjustable, and balance what is naturally a 14 ft legs-going-every-direction canter stride. Training a hunter is not always pretty as it turns out. They do not all go like Catch Me from the get go!
What are some of the “ah hah” training realities you have gone through with your horse?