Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Measure Progress, Not Perfection

It's no secret that one of Brego's greatest challenges is becoming balanced and getting off his forehand. He's young, out of shape, and only been in serious under-saddle training for 6 months. Asking him to be truly balanced is a lot for him at this stage.

Which is why I measure progress and not perfection. It can be sometimes discouraging to saddle up and anticipate carting around his 800 lb head for an hour. So I am trying to make it a goal to not just ride, but try to ride with quality and see if I can get him to self-balance. Since I am not a great rider, again I have to be happy with progress and not perfection. Today we made progress.

I wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably cool weather (high of 82 in July!!), and do some canter sets. It has been so warm recently that I have not pushed his fitness level along. So we did 3 five-minute trot sets and 2 three-minute canter sets. After a 10 minute walk down, I picked up the reins and he seemed eager to go, so I thought I might work on some lateral moves to get him to balance back on his hind end.

Earlier in the day, I had discussed work-in-hand with my trainer as an option for Brego since he needed a lot of support learning how to balance back. Asking for a shoulder-in in hand was a great way to learn his balance spot. Well, I didn't work him in hand, but I did ask for shoulder-in and haunches-in along the far fence of the 10 acre event field. He did really very well, considering that a month ago just doing the speed work would have wiped him out completely.

So imagine my surprise when I give him a pat and head towards home and he breaks into the most lovely, forward, and surprisingly light trot. I was ecstatic! Where was the 800 lbs of head in my hands? Where was the pokey western-pleasure jog he is fond of? I sat this delicious trot all the way to the barn where I could yell for a camera because "Brego was doing something amazing!"

I circled him at the trot a couple more times and ended on a great note. He was different, lighter, cruising along. He wasn't perfect, I am not about to proclaim the war is over. But there was a hint of what could be if we work together and I learn this fancy dressage stuff. There was definitely progress.

Tommorrow will be another day, and we might not make progress, but it is days like today when I remember why I am trying to train a Percheron to compete in one of the toughest equestrian sports on earth: Because he just might do it and surprise us all with his quality.

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