"It's always the rider's fault"
"That horse can't be trusted"
"emotions have no place in the saddle"
"just relax and your horse will be fine"
"he doesn't like dressage'
Full Warning: this post is likely going to get a little rambly.I have recently discovered podcasts.
I know, I know- I'm old. To be honest I didn't realize that there were horse-themed podcasts out there. Now that I've discovered them a whole new world of learning has opened up. I started with Nikki Porter's Podcast "Take the Reins". I knew Nikki from the Ultimate Trail clinics. She is branching out into other areas and it's so cool. From these I am finding others. What has been interesting is that a lot of trainers that I admire (Warwick Schiller, Nikki Porter, Johanna Batista, Karen Pyra) talk a lot about the internal state of the person and how it interacts with their horse.
To a certain extent I've always understood this but only on a basic shallow level. As I delve deeper into my riding and being a partner for Carmen I am finding that this is real key for both of us.
|oops I've bored the dogs to sleep. Good job on the Farm Security guys!|
We blame the rider or the horse.
And often the truth is much more nuanced than that. We've all seen wonderful horses seem to fall backwards in behaviour with new owners. Or someone else rides our horse and the angels sing. To figure out what is going on we fall to blaming the rider, or that the horse was drugged.
|Carmen: why would you blame me? I'm so innocent|
And that is not wrong. Which is why it can be dangerous.
Because a horse and rider is a relationship. Insecurities in a horse can feed the insecurities in a rider and vice versa. There is this really interesting video of Warwick's. If you don't want to watch it here's a brief summary: In it there's a very anxious horse who is quite keyed up in a new arena. Warwick take the lead rope and does almost nothing. Yet the horse immediately goes 'phew' and relaxes.
This is when despair can set in because it looks like magic. And we know in our souls that we are not magical. What I do admire about Warwick (and others) is that they are clear to point out that it is not magic. And most point to the work they've done outside of the ring on themselves.
But that a rider may need more skills (either in the saddle or out of it) or that a horse may need more training with a person with more experience is also not wrong. Your bit/saddle etc may not be comfortable for the horse.
|Irish: You know you really are good at complicating things|
Okay, okay Irish. Let me try to simplify it.
Think of us and our horses as a teeter totter.
To quote Karen 'it's about the balance'. Working on one part of the teeter totter won't fix the balance. We need to look at what is causing the imbalance and figure out how to adjust ourselves and the horse.
What really helped me to think about things this way have been related to my riding lately. I've actually managed to ride more times this January than I have in the past few years. Most of these rides can only be at a walk and, occasionally, some trot. Past me wouldn't have dreamed about taking Carmen out and just walking. I would have had the belief that things would go wrong pretty quickly. But we're not in that place anymore. When I have been riding I've been really thinking about my seat and hands and working on eliminating any tension. At an easy walk it's easier to locate my tense spots.
The other day Julia came out and we took the horses up to the ring to ride. I didn't lunge but I did do some light groundwork before swinging a leg over. Carmen expressed some worry about some areas in the ring but I refused to grab the reins (although I did shorten them a few times), made sure my legs/seat were relaxed and carried on. It was going pretty good. We picked up a slow trot and as we we were going around she spooked and spun away from 'Troll corner'. I turned the spin into a circle, walked her to the corner where I dropped the reins and released all pressure (although I did hold my grab strap).
Carmen stood there for maybe a minute before going 'nope' and turning away to leave. I kept myself soft with a 'no big deal' vibe and asked her to pick up our slow trot again. When we came back to the corner we stopped and I dropped the reins. This time I focussed in on my breathing- making it long and slow (like in yoga). Carmen began to sync her breathing and body tension to mine and then relaxed. We stayed there for a bit, then I picked up the reins and we went back to work. When we came back to this area she dropped to a walk, marched into the corner and stopped. 'this is where we breathe' While this is not what I had planned I went with it. Getting after her for doing what I had asked before would have created confusion. Our ride carried on and we finished on a good note.
|relaxed after the ride|
|can we see these costumes too many times? I think not!|
I think it's because those are times when I am feeling pure joy. I am having fun and that translates into my posture, breathing and attitude. Carmen is of course affected by this.
Have we conquered troll corner? Probably not. This worked this time because that is what she needed. We'll see about next time.
In the meantime I'm enjoying listening to the podcasts and thinking about myself.
Carmen and I may never get to the point where we are in sync enough to do great in the show ring. But you know what? She has taught me so much about myself and forced me to be better- both in skills and in myself. And that feels like a better outcome to me.