The last few days have been a huge ego boost.
Not to worry friends, I’m quite sure my equine friends will find a way to humble me next week so I can fit my huge head back through the door frame again, but for now I’m going to ride this wave until she crests. Afterall, when you are working so hard on something, these glimpses of progress help pull you through when you are pulling your hair out. I had the great fortune of bearing witness to two of these enchanting visions this week. Indulge me, and let me tell you about them.
Wednesday night I had my usual lesson at FBF. Usually there are 3+ riders in my group lesson and often a hodgepodge of other riders schooling in the arena during our lesson. It can get a little crazy. But this past Wednesday it was just me on Sprat and only one of my usual lesson mates on a talented mare named Cassie. No one else was riding so it was just us and our fantabulous instructor. We calmly warmed-up our horses and set to work on some speed transitions and lateral work. Spratty and I were pretty in sync, and together we also matched nicely with Cassie and her rider. As we progressed through the skills, I found we had some of the same difficulties and we were able to address them with our trainer and work through them at a similar pace. Seriously! This is the stuff of “group lesson” lore! But here it was actually happening, and happening so well that my trainer even commented on progress at the end of our lesson. She stopped us and said “You guys! How great was tonight?! A-pluses for both of you! I love being able to ask for the next skill and you guys just remember them and set to work on them! Remember when you started? Wow.” My lesson mate and I just laughed and nodded thinking back to when asking us to do “shoulder in” was met with a quizzical look and a feeble attempt as we tried our best to take what was coming into our ears and manipulate our puppy-bodies into asking our horse correctly.
What a smile maker, and honestly, I rarely need help in that department when I’m at the barn anyway. It just doesn’t get much better though: go to fetch Sprat after a loooong day at work; Sprat walks over to greet me; the darling fellow drops his nose right into the halter; practically bridles himself, a great lesson physically and emotionally; and the icing on the cake, tucking him back into his blanket for the night.
Thursday night brought its own brand of progress in the form of my man Misko coming through in a big way on rediscovering his “WHOA”. I mentioned in my last post that I had pushed him too hard the first time I worked with him. It was pretty clear I wasn’t doing him any good and that he had checked out. I went back to the books, so to speak, and planned a new way to work through some of his challenges. I would say the results were quite telling. We worked on the same thing this week, I just went about them a little differently. Last week I got too caught up in punishing the incorrect behaviors that I think I was suggesting to him that no matter what he does…it’s wrong. I was confusing him and myself. This week I spoke clearer and simpler. I asked for whoa, got it, and then praised the heck out of him. I want to make “whoa” a great place to be- a safe place. He really started to get it and I found myself having to correct less and less. Even under saddle it was a huge improvement, he was…dare I say it…bordering on sensitive to my cue at some points- like a slight lift of the reins and he knew what was coming and stopped square. It was a beautiful thing.
Every week won’t be as great as this one, but for the first time in a while I felt like I had accomplished something. And that is a very powerful motivator.