the learnin’ never stops folks

Ugh – this morning I woke up and every inch of my body was hurting. I had a fantastic lesson last night and I’m really kicking myself for being so lazy this winter.

As an adult equestrian who also has to venture into the real world occasionally I have many non-horsey friends. It is funny to talk to them about my lessons – as they A. usually don’t care and B. don’t understand what I’m saying anyway. My favorite comments are usually along the lines of, “I thought you already knew how to ride?” Well… yes, and also no. Do professional athletes have practice? Why would all of baseball go to spring training if they already knew how to hit a ball? I know my reading, writing, and arithmetic but I still felt the need to go to college. Medical professionals have to do required “Continuing Education” hours. Did you know that you might forget something or you might want to learn a new technique or possibly want to improve on something you already know but want to know better?

Last night we work working on our stretchy trot which will be the death of me. Pony and I have only recently engaged in this thing called dressage, since we have both been doing it wrong for many years. I get really anxious and nervous when we start stretchy trot because we are working on letting Pony figure out that I can’t carry him anymore, he is quite large and heavy. So slowly but surely I’m trying to slide my rein out a bit and extend the contact so he can lengthen his neck, soften his back, engage his hind. Pony deciphers this as – “Mom…mom… hey mom… you aren’t holding my hand Mom, MOM HOLD MY HAND WTF!!! MOM COME BACK!!! I MUST RUN FASTER TO REACH YOUR HAND!!” And then he even gets to the point he is reaching behind the vertical in a desperate search for contact to help him – he was creating the heavy contact to cheat. Eventually… very eventually… with a few minutes of trainer hopping on him too… he GOT IT. He did NOT have to run faster, he did NOT have to lean on me, he could support himself with a little guidance of my outside rein and a lot of leg moving him forward and off his forehand and encouraging him to reach out not down. Whew! What a freaking ride but so nice once he figured it out. We managed to get a few really solid circles before we stopped on a good note.

I do blame myself for these habits he has- as I was not always consistently working with a trainer, and I have also always treated Pony like the precious Prince that he is. I don’t want him to fall on his face from trotting so out of control – so I help him and hold him too much. When he was doing something nice (or what I was interpreting as nice) I would stay out of his way. When he would get fussy about his face I would just give him the reins. He gets seriously so offended when he is told he is wrong. The other day I was doing his liberty work again and I legit tapped him on the haunches just to move him over a bit. Good God you would have thought I was trying to kill him. I could barely get him to just walk on a lead rope like a normal horse after that! And he is the most desensitized horse you’ve ever seen – I can touch him all over with a whip, I can throw it all around the arena, but God forbid I actually use it to ask for a little more. Just like as we are learning our new dressage tricks I’m actually picking up CORRECT contact and he immediately throws his head up in a fit “HOW DARE YOU TOUCH MY MOUTH!” For the record- there is nothing wrong with his mouth, bit or bridle. He is just very easily offended. He does the same thing when he is ignoring my leg and I give him a little kick – then he gets cranky I asked so hard. He is a sensitive delicate flower.

Anyway back to the point. Although I’ve been riding for 15+ years now there is a never ending list of things I don’t know and I’m not good at. Paisley and I are back to basics right now and there are so many steps we skipped in our younger days so I think that is also hindering us a bit, but even at 20 years old we are going to learn them together whether he likes it or not!

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