dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, December 11, 2017

Micromanagement


My day job is as a manager in Health care. I pride myself that I am not a micromanager. I believe that people know their jobs and often know the best way to get it done. In keeping with my Star Trek metaphors I am more of a Picard:

I tend to take that approach to many things, including riding. It's not like I am not involved or give direction but, rightly or wrongly, I don't naturally try to guide every single step. I think a horse in trot should be able to carry forward in trot without nagging from me. 

After the close encounter with the grouse my ride the next day was fabulous. Carmen was with me the whole time and I was very pleased with her. I kept the schooling short and sweet. 

Sunday was raw and cold. I was waffling about riding but decided that I would regret not riding so I put on some warm layers and got Carmen ready. In the ring she was a bit tight but really not noticeably different then every other day. After getting a relaxed walk I warmed up the trot and then asked her to pick up a canter. 

We were cantering through troll corner when suddenly she jumped sideways, then leaped forward and we were in full-on bolt. I could not get her to slow up. I did not say 'whoa' and I don't know why- in the moment it completely left my brain. Instead I got into a half-seat and steered her through a circle making it smaller and smaller until I could get her stopped. It felt like minutes but probably wasn't. 

I took a deep breath and forced my heart back into my chest. That was a job in itself- my heart had clearly determined to find a new home. One where the person realized that she was on the other side of middle age and had taken up more sedate hobbies. Like knitting or cat collecting. 


I took a deep breath and went back to work. With a decidedly shorter rein. I have no idea what startled her but suspect it was the grass rustling. I was not getting off. 

I put her back to work asking her to bend and listen. She did another bolt int he same location which I  expected and was ready. I pulled her into a one rein stop. Or I tried. We actually were cantering a 5 metre circle. I gave her enough rein to not fall over (and I hoped fervently that that wouldn't happen) but was not letting go. She was NOT carting me across the ring again. 

It started to spit rain and that turned to ice pellets. 

I didn't care. My ass was in the saddle and I was staying there. 

I essentially went into micro-manage mode where I was controlling where all of her body parts were. At times it was downright ugly. I still didn't care. There was nothing there to cause the spooking (well nothing that wasn't always there). We were schooling goddamn it. Which makes me sound angry and I wasn't . I was a bit flustered, definitely frustrated by not angry and my emotions were under control. 

More and more her ears were flicking back to listen to me. More and more as I put a leg on to ask her to bend or move over or leg yield or shoulder in she listened. When she stiffened and/or ignored the aid I made it stronger until she yielded. 

I was bit brought down by the ups and downs of our rides lately. I do know that Carmen is used to me backing off when she gets really agitated and I am trying to change that conversation. Sometimes that means I am engaging more in horse shouting then whispering. And if you want to lecture me about that come on over and I'll put you on her. So much of riding is feeling the moment and trying to give the horse what they need even if they don't know what that is. Parenting was very similar. 

I had been truly frightened by what happened. My first thought was that Carmen had never done that before. My second was that she had but I was usually off by the second leap. I stewed on it for a bit and sent a text to Karen (my life coach whether she wants to be or not): 


After reading that I felt better.  

But I really like straight lines. 

39 comments:

  1. Congrats on riding it out. I'm sure Carmen wasn't expecting you to tough it out either.

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  2. Straight lines and horses. Ha!!! Good job sticking with her and not giving up. So many of your rides have been positive and I know it’s hard to do but try not to let one ride spoil it all.

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  3. I have a slightly different philosophy in that I do make the decision where each foot is placed when I ride but I see that as different from nagging. I think you made the right decision to ride it out and wait for Carmen to make the correct decision. You're both going to benefit from this, even if it's super hard to do in the moment.

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    1. I don't disagree with the guiding each step and I don't think it's nagging (although it can become that). It's just not been my approach generally- clearly Carmen needs a lot of direction and I'm trying to give her that. I was being honest about my style - not saying it was right or wrong. Obviously I need to grow in this area.

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  4. Your text with Karen sounds so familiar to texts I've sent friends about riding through Spanish mare shenanigans, ugh. But I agree with her :) you rode out the issue and didn't give up. Way to go! It takes a long time to change the narrative when patterns are deeply ingrained, but you're doing a great job.

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    1. Glad to hear that I am not alone. And thank you

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  5. ugh i constantly battle between micromanaging and just allowing the horse to do his thing (i tend to be more micro, unsurprisingly). i also totally relate to being really frustrated or unsettled by a problematic behavior that suddenly gets worse after being somewhat under wraps for a while....

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    1. It is very frustrating. But we will figure it out.

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  6. I am very much like you, so much so I am always told to ask more of my horses when I am usually happy they are behaving. Haha I was told I will never get anywhere being mediocre and so now I am trying to ask more and yet not be the micromanager. Its hard. But I think you did the right thing.
    And I like straight lines too, lol but it doesn't work that way with horses and I should know that by now.

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  7. Good job :)

    And that text looks familiar to the ones I sent re: annie LOL

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  8. After two years of riding in the same indoor, we are still having the same conversation about the same end of the arena. I am no longer having the conversation. I am now saying "knock it off or its going to get ugly." No more letting the conversation get sidetracked. I figure six more months and maybe he will let it go.

    Good job staying in the middle and on track.

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    1. I really really hope I can make it gone in 6 months. I am really really working on the 'knock it off'.

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  9. I really like your coach and I also like straight lines ;) Sounds like you did an amazing job of riding through it and found a great answer in the moment.

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  10. Good for you on staying in the saddle and making her listen. Sometimes you need to get a little stubborn and not let them get away with nonsense. It’s the same as parenting. Like Karen very much.

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    1. I like Karen very much too. She has her own blog called the 'reflective rider'. I have to be more stubborn.

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  11. Straight lines. I want them. Some of the dips can be so steep, but so can the rises. Congrats on having developed such a good seat.

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  12. Karen's right - but you already knew that before she hit 'send' on her text. Velcro butt looks good on you T.

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    1. Ha! That's because there's so much of it.....

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  13. Hey, I like straight lines, too! That kind of a runaway is one of my worst fears because Leah is not as athletic as Carmen and there would always be the chance she would lose her balance as I try to get her head around. Leah has bolted when faced with obstacles she wants to avoid. I hate it. But again, at least Carmen is athletic and well balanced. That is a big, big plus if you can stick with her. Her bolts are much more rare, it seems, so that's good, too!

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    1. I was a bit worried about the loss of balance. I just really hate that there is no communication and it can be so dangerous

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  14. Bolts suck but I think you did the right thing riding with her until she was completely focused on you. Getting off sometimes reinforces that behavior. But recently, more of your posts have been good rides. If you feel down, look at your post history to remind yourself. :)

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    1. I will do that! I think even the getting off and lunging is reinforcing the behaviour. I will keep working on it.

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  15. I like Karen's response a lot. Agree with you too, sometimes micromanaging is necessary, it gives you both something else to think about for a while :)

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  16. I love this post because it is something that has happened to all of us, the sudden "I am going to ride dammit" moment! I agree with your trainer, I think it is a good thing because you didn't just give up. The only way to ever fail is to stop trying.

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    1. Those are excellent points. Thank you!

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  17. I love you stubborn determination to keep her schooling despite those shenanigans! Your seat is definitely enviable. What a pill she was being. I hope the up-down-up-down of your rides goes away and levels into majority positive in the very near future!

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    1. Thank you. I hope I can get us back on an even keel.

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  18. I think you’re approaching the situation correctly. You apply pressure until they release. If she’s too wrapped up in her bolt you hang in there until she’s listening. Because the last thing you want to do is reward her by giving her a release. If anyone wants to give you a hard time about it, they can try to train an Iberian horse on their own and see how it goes.

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