Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Training the Not-Hot Horse: Again

Courage challenged me every day and left me with a huge amount of baggage, but one thing I credit to him is the leaps and bounds forward I made as a thinking horseman. I don't mean technical riding skills and the "looking pretty" polish that wins the show ring, but the day-to-day intelligence, flexibility, and introspection that makes a horseman.

Now I have a horse that is decidedly not-Courage. I can't get over how relatively easy she is to work with, but at the same time, the skills that Courage brought me are the skills that are going to shape Zoë. While she is a horse that would let me "get away with" more, I think she is going to be that much better of a horse because I can be more educated in how I approach her.
definitely not courage
For example. Zoëbird is a baby. She's nearly doubled in size in the last few months. She's still growing. And yeah, sometimes she's not real sure where all her legs are going. In the present, I want to help develop her body awareness and teach her to carry her front end. In the future, I would like her to jump small courses safely.
such a cute lil buffalo

In pursuit of that, we do cavaletti from time to time. Because Zoëbird is her own sort of lady and not mindlessly hot, I've had to adapt how I work with her. She's very intelligent and doesn't require many repetitions to figure something out, which is good, because her idea of a good time is not just running for an hour.

However. Sometimes you introduce multiple cavaletti in a row and you get something that looks like this:
I R TRIPPIN MUM
(video here if interested)
We worked on it a couple different ways and things just weren't improving consistently. I rewarded good tries with immediate breaks. Kept her trotting if things weren't right. Kept things calm and simple.

It just wasn't her day.

But you know what? The next day, I set cavaletti again (snow was sliding off the roof and I didn't want to ride. sue me). (And yeah, ZS ZB gives the amount of shits you would expect. It's my brain that's the problem.)

The little lady had thought things through and her very first pass, she slowed her cadence, lifted her shoulders, and freakin' cavaletti'ed like a champion.
VERRY CAREFUL TROTTIN
This weekend, I got my first lesson on Zoë since she started training. I'm riding consistently on my own and I verbally check in with the trainer after pretty much every ride, but I'm not able to be present for them and I haven't have the time for a lesson until now. My rides look like what you'd expect from an ammy rider on a sweet but clueless baby mare (video here if you're super interested).
WUT R LESSON MUM

It was so valuable to me to have my trainer stand there and put the disjointed thoughts I've had about our rides into coherent sentences that make sense and then give me strategies to address our weaknesses. For example, I've noticed that Zoë sort of goes NEEEROOOOOOOOM down the long side with mirrors, but when we come back on the other side, she piddles around and I can barely keep her going. I've been trying to kick her forward in the slow moments and slow my posting when we're zooming with ah "mixed results".
not related but stinking adorable

Trainer said right off the bat: "Your horse doesn't have good natural rhythm so you need to post definitively and SET THE RHYTHM FOR HER."

Oh.

Yeah that's a good idea.

It super worked too. Huh. Trainers are magic.

Because see. Courage was a horse with a very light touch--he'd baaaaaarely take a contact and overreact to every tiny thing. Zoë is intelligent and sensitive and lovely (and I adore her), but learning to ride her is a whole new world. On her, I can pick up the reins and have a little contact. I can post definitively. I can actually think about what my body is doing and work on myself (even now!) because her default is to slow down and take a break.
so lovely

And again--I am not the anti-Courage committee. That horse taught me a lot of things, but riding him was and had to be very intuitive and instinctual because there was not time to think in the saddle.

I understand intellectually that I need to ride with my fingers closed, thumbs up, and elbows mobile. I can explain biologically that there is a tendon running through my arm that is locked when my hands are flat and mobile when my thumbs are up. I KNOW that open fingers just mean useless reins bouncing on the horse's mouth and closed fingers with mobile elbows is the route to steady, soft contact.

I know those things.
MUM R NOT SUPER GUD AT LERNIN

But when trotting my nice little mare (who doesn't even go on the bit yet), trainer got us to a place with good balance for a few strides and in those strides, I actually felt the reason why all those things mattered. It's hard to explain. I'm not saying we became dressage pros or magically better, but just her limited acceptance of the contact was still light years better than I've been on in a while and it was this sort of blinding flash of like OH I GET IT NOW.

And then it was gone, because that's the nature of things right now, but like.

Just that one moment was enough to excite me.

Zoë is going to keep teaching me about how to learn, but the places she will take me?

Cannot. Wait.

What a stellar lady.
very tired. can wait.

30 comments:

  1. That prancy trot poles picture?? Needs a unicorn horn! 🦄

    ReplyDelete
  2. So awesome that the lessons C taught you can translate over into helping you shape ZB into a damn nice riding horse 😁

    ReplyDelete
  3. Go ZB! Such a smart not so little cookie

    ReplyDelete
  4. It makes me really, really happy when I can pinpoint something another horse taught me that translates to another. For example, Moiya taught me how to really follow through the elbow and Niko LOVES that. And that little, tiny thing that is just basics of good riding makes me so, incredibly happy and grateful to have had the experiences I have up to this point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All of them have taught me something. Some lessons more fun than others. ;-)

      Delete
  5. Oh man, that snowy buffalo face....<3 I'm so impressed with her clever brain between those two cavaletti seconds. Clever girl.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha right? I watched a lot of documentaries as a kid.

      Delete
  6. Those moments make everything worthwhile. I'm sure your smart girl will make those moments more prolonged in no time at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are my very favorite part of horse training for sure.

      Delete
  7. Mine is definitely doing the "figuring out my growing body" thing and how to heave them over jumps inelegantly. Lessons are so valuable, even though I'm not able to fit them in as consistently as I should. Trainers make it seem so obvious right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love lessons! Hopefully as the weather improves (someday), I'll be able to get more in.

      Delete
  8. She has the most expressive face I love her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's like a cartoon of herself. I love those eyes.

      Delete
  9. She is just perfect. I need to squish her.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This lesson made me smile. I love how she thought about the cavalettis and then just did them.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think my absolute favorite feeling to get from a horse during the ride is the feeling of wanting to be better, to feel each of my own various body parts click into position and see that immediate improvement in the horse, even if it's fleeting. Very different feeling from sitting on a horse that feels very fragile, or one where I feel like I need to contort myself into a full body pretzel to get my message thru. So exciting that Zoe gives you such a good feeling!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think I've ever done the real baby thing before, but moments like this definitely make it fun for me.

      Delete
  12. Your blog fills me with lots of warm happy feels. Maybe my new, chill, relatively sane kid will be my ZB, and we will toodle and she can teach me to chill the f out :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw yay happy feels!

      I'm pretty careful on days when I can't just chill out--I don't want to give Zoe my anxiety, so we usually do groundwork or something instead.

      Delete
  13. ZB is a child genius. So glad things are going as they are for you guys!

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...