Horses are learning tools...probably the best ones, come to think of it. There is not one day that goes by, where I don;t think about Chester, the other horses in the barn and how they all constantly make me think of ways to better myself.
I was out with one of my girlfriends the other day and the subject of positively came up. I looked at her and said 'You know, I have to be in a positive, relaxed state of mind whenever I am around Chester, because if not, everything I try to accomplish is just simply a disaster. It is almost as though he is my calming effect....that makes me crazy doesn't it?" She said it didn't, but I don't think I believed her...completely.
I learn something new about myself every time I ride my horse. From patience, to relaxation to determination to counting to '10' so I don't have a freak out when something doesn't go as planned. I could write a book just on what my horse has taught me about myself....
The most recent good example I have of this, was from our lesson last Thursday. We are working on Chester's front end - getting a better jump out of him and bringing him to the next level of his thinking. Mainly, getting his leads. This has always been a little tricky for him - even more so since his injury in March. He is much better to the right, then he is to the left and he is much more comfortable landing on the right, then he is on the left. The Boss set up two jumps on the diagonals, almost kiddie cornered to 'x'...I wish I had taken a picture of it because it is hard to explain. It is riding a figure of 8 with jumps just on the 'other' side of 'x'...meaning, the exercise is...you got it, asking to swap leads over the jump...Not as simple as it sounds. You know what else isn't as simple as it sounds...jumping from trot...don't even get me started on that one! As we moved through the exercise, we built on it as follows:
1 - from a trot, ask for the canter the stride before take off, get the lead, come back to trot, change diagonal, repeat.
2 - as above, keep the trot, then add in the second fence over the other diagonal.
3 - canter into the first, if he lands the lead, keep going over the pattern. If not, simple change, trot through the diagonal and repeat until we land the lead
4 - canter the whole thing, landing all leads.
When we started, step 5 seemed near impossible, I couldn't even land his correct lead out of a trot...pretty frustrating. There is a trick to getting leads - look into your corner (d'uh right?!), open the rein for the lead you are looking for and ask for the change before the fence...okay, SERIOUSLY? I am lucky enough that I remember to release enough to let Chester jump now I have to help him land his leads?! Jezzzzzzze. Luckily for me, my horse is brilliant and my coach is brilliant, so it is basically waiting for me to become brilliant. Joyce says, the more we do these sorts of exercises, the easier landing his leads will become, and he will eventually recognize where he is going and what lead he should be landing on and do it himself, AND he is about < > that far from his flying changes...I can feel it!! I don't like doing those sorts of exercises without Boss being there, so she said to mimic the pattern using our ever trusty canter poles and ask for the swap over the pole...so, we will work on that.
Things I need to work on: shorter reins, better release (Boss - "annnnd, why exactly is it you are releasing towards his withers?" Me - "uh - good questions?" Boss - your reins are too damn long and your ass needs to get out of the saddle!!"), getting my ass out of the saddle.
So - what did I learn?! When I think I am asking enough - I'm not and need to ask twice as much to get the result I am looking for. My horse is green, but he is smart. VERY smart. If I practice my patience, let him understand what it is I am asking him to do, if ask him properly, then we will go far.
I love my 4 legged learning tool.