Monday, May 11, 2009

No Rest

The rain is supposed to return over the next two days so if I wanted to be sure to get some jumping in before this weekend's Hunter Pace, I had to ride today. So make that four days in a row. Brego and I approached the task with about as much enthusiasm as you would expect.

But the game of eventing is long, and one of the "skills" is mustering the strength of will to finish. It is also a test of discipline. Brego certainly tested my ability to keep him forward in warm up. He had decided to quit before we even got started.

Even in my darkest moments of frustration of having a horse who lives perpetually behind the leg, I know that he is the horse I trained. He is the product of my training. So if I have a habit of nagging (I do), or working too hard (I do), or being clumsy or noisy with my aids (I do), Brego has slowly been trained to only pay attention part of the time. Usually the part of the time right after I pop him with the whip and tell him, no, this time I mean it.

All of Brego's bad habits are mirrors of my own. So when I get frustrated, I have to constantly remind myself that this is the hole I dug for myself and now we need to climb out.

So after a fairly half-hearted, naggy, lackluster warm up, I stopped. I regrouped. Instead of going around on autopilot, I thought very hard about the exact response and actions I wanted out of Brego. For the next 30 minutes, I was going to say (with my aids) what I meant and mean what I say and it was his job to respond appropriately. A little conviction goes a long way. But first, a minor extinction burst. I asked for a canter and he lazed into it and could barely keep it from going four beat. That certainly was not going to get us over any fences. So I added leg and he ignored me, or maybe he even slowed down and raised his head, stiffly resistant. So I popped him. Hard. Quick, immediate, then reapply the aid. Again he said no, so I popped him again and he bucked so hard he threw himself into the wrong lead. But then he went forward. He auto swapped coming around the corner and we nailed the distance to a dinky 2'3" oxer and he jumped it at like it was 4' and went tearing off on the backside. Now we're getting somewhere.

So the horse can go, when I mean it. When I am clear and don't settle for putsing around. We had several more good rounds, each time requiring less effort on my part to get a nice working canter around fences instead of his western pleasure lope.

He finished stronger than he started and I hope, I know, we had a break through.

Keep me honest, Brego. I can't expect you to not be lazy when I am lazy with my aids.

With the rain comes two days of rest and then: New Horse, New Rider. Another chance for me to improve my communication.


Carole said...

"All of Brego's bad habits are mirrors of my own."

This is incredibly wise. It's taken me so long to know and understand, and I'm still working on applying it every time I ride. Fortunately it's equally true about good habits, too.

Anonymous said...

Very good post - it's amazing what our horses show us about ourselves, isn't it? You get a lot of credit (from me!) for realizing this and understanding that what the horse is (or isn't) doing is usually about the rider and not the horse - it's the rider that needs fixing first!

jenj said...

Horses are mirrors of ourselves, in so many ways. But, while bad habits are a mirror of our riding, so are GOOD habits. So while we definitely need to take responsibility when there are problems (instead of blaming it on the horse), we also need to remember to take credit when things are going well.

Susan Quinn said...

And this is the wonder of riding, isn't it?

It's a constant being in the "now" with ourselves and our horses, focusing just on what's happening in that very moment. That's where the communication comes through at its clearest and best.

God! I love riding! It's unlike anything else in the world!

Jayne Austen-Healey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jayne Austen-Healey said...

I watched two training videos this weekend. For those who have not seen George Morris's three day training clinic video-get it. Most of us can't afford to actually attend one of his clinics but this is the next best thing.

By the end of my DVD clinic, I wanted to take my crippled leg and return to jumping, something I have not done in thirty years! Instead, I hope to be a better coach for my son.

Horses are like two year old children and although we would love to point them toward the jump and enjoy the moment, it does not work out that way. We have to support them completely through the effort. We must ride it through.

I also watched another video by a world cup jumping champ that I found far less instructive. She kept saying her students needed to get their horses in front of their legs but neglected to define the effort.

Like our horses, we need supported through many of our efforts. Read, watch, study and analyze. Be fair and honest with yourself and your horse.

Finally, be safe!

May 12, 2009 4:47 PM

Anonymous said...

Yep, I could have written this one. The penny dropped this weekend when I realized how different my horse is during a lesson with the coach watching. Hmmm. It is not just the horse that is different, mostly, its me.