Rio and I had our usual jump lesson on Sunday, and then I hung around to watch a few more lessons. Trainer Stacie definitely had one unifying theme going on during everyone’s rides: Do not nag your horse. Of course she said it much more eloquently then that, but you get what I mean.
Far from the first time I have heard this concept, it definitely didn’t hurt to get a good dose of reminding on Sunday. Trainer Stacie was really after all of us to stop helping our horses so much. With Rio, he struggles to maintain that perfect canter. When I ask Rio to shorten his stride and carry his step a bit more, he sometimes breaks to the trot. He KNOWS that isn’t want I want, it’s just easier. Knowing this, I often accept a flatter/longer canter, because I am scared that if I ask for too much, he’ll break.
This is a no-no, and I cannot let him do that. I need to give him the opportunity to make the mistake (break gait), and then make it very clear that that is NOT the correct answer. Allowing him to have a lesser quality canter because I feel like he *might* break is really not doing either of us any favors.
Trainer Stacie emphasized that by continually nagging your horse, and not making the correct/incorrect responses black and white, that we as the riders are not being very fair to our horses. We are conditioning them to think “Leg, leg, harder leg, spur” is a perfectly acceptable aide for canter nowish. Where as we should really nag less, and be very clear that “Leg” means canter NOW. Again, not a new concept to most riders, but definitely a good reminder.
My desire to ride well means that I end up doing MORE to get Rio doing what I want. More hand to support him, more and more leg, more constance guidance guidance. When you take all of that extra effort on the part of the rider away, he can act like he doesn’t know what to do and fall apart. It’s my job to CLEARLY ask for what I want, then give him the opportunity to do it. If he offers up the wrong response, I have to very clearly correct him. It really is the only way he will continue to progress, and become the type of ride I want him to be.
Who else falls into the trap of ‘doing more’ in an effort to help out your equine partner? Are you slowly doing more and more work to get the desired response? When I hack tonight I am going to try really hard to keep this lesson in mind, and do LESS, even it it means allowing mistakes to happen.
Also- the new bit arrived in the mail yesterday (the metal mullen mouth with light tongue relief), and the Sealtex. I wrapped it up and I plan to try it tonight. I’ll report back with how it goes!