Emma at Fraidycat Eventing wrote a post that really resonated with me. It was based on an article by Matt Brown on 'A Case for Not Focussing on Your Goals'. Both are well worth reading but I loved the switch in perspective on goal setting. The point is that having highly specific goals can take the fun out of riding and actually make us less happy. It creates a dissatisfaction with ourselves (and our horses) that is counterproductive to development.
It fits me to a T. I am a goal oriented person. That is my nature and my comfort zone. However, the downside is that it makes me push myself and Carmen. Carmen does not like to be pushed. In fact, I am slowly learning that fighting with her leads no where because she will not give in. Ever. However, if I can soften and relax and then invite her to soften and relax we get farther.
|a photo to break up the wall of text|
This quote from Matt also really made a lot of sense:
"Process goals are more conducive to actually feeling fulfilled on your journey towards a goal, and oftentimes are more useful in the actual accomplishment of your goal. Process goals consist of things that are within your control. They have mainly to do with your attitude, your behaviors, your thoughts, your level of effort and your actions. When we focus on the things we can control we can take ownership of our path, and we can make progress in any situation regardless of our circumstances."I finished this year upset at how the wheels had fallen off our training. We have gone backwards. I wanted to be regularly schooling second level by now, not getting her trust back. This perspective is helping me realize that I need to let go of my drive to achieve the perfect leg yield or walk-canter transition and focus on the process of getting Carmen back to me.
I've been approaching our sessions with the focus of helping her seek to find the relaxation. I can make Carmen go into the spots of the ring that she is worried about (although even that is debatable as she will fight and fight and fight). The trick is getting her to seek to relax in these spots.
I start in the barn, taking my time getting her ready, helping her to stretch and relax and just have both of us 'present'. It's hard for me to not just get right at it. But rushing makes her tighter. We head up to the ring and I repeat my stretches. It's interesting how she can be loose in the barn and then gets super tight in the neck just by being in the ring. She actually finds it difficult to stretch her neck around without moving her feet. I don't worry about, I just keep asking and letting her know that I get that she's trying. Sometimes relaxing during ground work comes quickly and sometimes it doesn't. It drives me nuts that I can't hurry it along but I'm more accepting of it now.
Once she's relaxed I get on. And it starts again. I've gotten much better at not tightening my seat or hands and letting her walk forward. I slowly start spiralling out checking to see where our areas of resistance are. Sometimes it's really frustrating because she's freaking out at everything (yesterday it was Chester our cat chasing mice in the next field). Sometimes I have to dismount and start again. I don't let that bum me out because I'm working on the process goal of getting her to relax rather then doing perfect transitions.
I use bending and focus exercises to help with this. We do a lot of small circles. I ask her to go forward with leg pressure but I don't go over the top. I've left the crop in the barn. If she stops to look at something I let her and then ask her to walk on. After a few times I then encourage her to keep going. If we're trotting and she breaks to walk or starts to freak out at a certain spot I bring her back to walk and ask for a simple bend. If I can't get the bend I then insist that if she's going to do a shoulder out she does a proper one. If she spins away and refuses my aids I will back her up to where I want to be and then drop the reins to let her breathe and process.
|my goal is to get her this relaxed|
It's hard for me when she's being really resistant because giving in teaches her the wrong thing and fighting just spirals. I try to help her find the spot of where we can give to each other. Sometimes I get it wrong. It feels like I'm getting it right more though. If I have to 'wrestle' her somewhere (which can happen when she decides 'fuck it, I'm out' with minimal warning) I always halt and let her breathe. I give the reins and let her take the opportunity to bolt if she wants. She doesn't.
I work where she is comfortable and then ask her to extend out of her comfort zone and seek to relax. The way I do that is to insist she stays under me and I give the rein so that she can run if she chooses. She doesn't often take that option but she will stiffen under me. When I feel her start to seek the bit down when I give, I carry forward a bit with lots of verbal rewards (and pats). When we're there and she understands what I want I end the session pretty soon.
I have no idea is this makes any sense or if it sounds like I've lost my mind. I do believe that helping her seek relaxation will pay off in everything else.
One of my favourite sayings at work is 'You can't afford the time to not take the time'. I'm applying that to my riding and trying to be okay with how much time it takes.
When I rushed Beautiful's training, I paid a high price. Where we had been moving forward slowly, but steadily, we went backwards so far that I don't even see a way forward anymore. It's called rushing to failure. I'd just come back from a clinic, and I had goals that were set in cement. Mine was an extreme situation, but it is a radical example of what you're talking about. The truth is, it's all about the horse. ALL. And, the sooner we get to that, the better, even if it means throwing all the goals in the garbage heap.ReplyDelete
We try our best with the info we have. Sometimes we read the situation wrong- either because of our own analysis or because of someone else's. I don't know if Carmen and I will ever get past this recurring theme but I'm still hopeful.Delete
I know that you have worked on some WE obstacles. My busy minded mares prefer doing obstacles... that happen to make dressage movements make sense. If we just do dressage, they get bored and naughty. Can you incorporate more cones and poles to help slow her mind? I find they suddenly make my dressage horses think “Oh, this is why she is asking to practice lateral movement”.ReplyDelete
I should have said- they are ALWAYS part of my schooling now. Today I set up some slaloms with cones which was our 'anchor' exercise.Delete
Resistance is a beautiful opportunity to reassess. Your spooky corner is like my arena door. All kinds of tension and bolts happen there. Ive turned into my place of relaxation. When we are away, we work. When we arrive, we rest.ReplyDelete
Water will always find its level. Make the right things easy, the wrong things difficult.
Ive been following Tristan Tucker through his various stories on youtube. I particularly enjoyed the “explosive gelding”. This one is also an interesting introduction to his method.
Keep up with the groundwork, and translate it to the saddle. Like my non horsey husband says, groundwork is about learning vocabulary and saddlework is applying the grammar. The TRT method seems to do a good job in the translation.
I’m off to check those videos out. Thanks.Delete
Glad you liked that article so much too!! It was a really timely analysis for me since I’ve kinda been trying to understand how I feel about this past year and what I want from the year to come. I love your idea of focusing on getting a “feeling” from Carmen and letting the rest build from there.ReplyDelete
Thank you for finding it for me. Like you, I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about the year.Delete
"It's hard for me when she's being really resistant because giving in teaches her the wrong thing and fighting just spirals." Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I know this so damn well. These sensitive mares! And the letting her stop and breathe with loose rein - also completely relate. They just get so spun up in their own heads and bodies they can't remember how to relax until it's given to them on a silver platter sometimes.ReplyDelete
Carmen is fortunate to have a partner who is so focused on her and determined to find harmony. <3
I've been exploring the Tristan Tucker videos. There's a set called 'The Vertical Mare' which had me saying 'YES THAT'S CARMEN'. Check it out and see if it sounds like Q. :)Delete
I really enjoyed that post too and it resonated on many levels. I used to be a hard-core goal setter. I had a 20-year plan when I was in my teens! Lily taught me the hard way to not set goals in stone, which is why I've never been one get on the "Yearly Goals" bandwagon. Setting concrete goals out loud would turn me into a rigid, inflexible person that would feel like a failure if life threw a curveball and I couldn't achieve those goals. I learned instead to loosely set my sights on something in order to have it give my training direction (whether it's the horses or myself) and make sure to turn that journey into something I legitimately enjoyed: the miles spent on beautiful trails that I would have never explored otherwise, the dressage cross-training to balance and strengthen the girls' bodies, the time spent in the gym lost in my music while feeling myself get ever stronger, the beauty of a meal that is both nourishing and tastes amazing. Which is, ultimately, what I try to show with the fitness posts: when you enjoy the journey, regardless of what that journey is, the goals stop being so blindingly important because we learn to live in, and appreciate, the current moment. I'm glad you're starting to experience that with your girl! <3 It's a beautiful feeling.ReplyDelete
Aww thank you!Delete
Your patience and dedication is inspiring. Carmen is a tough horse and with any other rider I bet she'd be a basket case of anxiety and tension. Your methods of working through things and giving her time has done wonders from where you started. You guys will get there!ReplyDelete
Thank you Sara. I sometimes wonder if she'd be farther along with someone else.Delete
I too was really intrigued with thought by that article. That man should become a writer!ReplyDelete
For me setting goals is nonexistent. I used to do it all the time when I was younger. It only causes tension for me and the horse. Now my only goal is to ride and have fun. Sure I set some easily achievable goals for Rosie or Blue but nothing that can't be changed once in the saddle to go with the flow. The whole idea of riding is to enjoy your time in the saddle.ReplyDelete
I think that you are so wise (much more than I). It's hard because I've always been very driven. Sigh. Horses teach so much.Delete
I admire your resilience and patience with her. I think it's going to pay off in the end for both of youReplyDelete
I definitely think they can feed off of us if we are in a rush to get on they get in a state as well. Good for you on finding focus and calm.ReplyDelete