What is a bad ride? What causes a ride to become a bad ride?
For me, a bad ride is emotionally turbulent, accomplishes no clear goal, leaves horse and/or rider more frustrated than when they started, or ends in injury for horse or rider.
That's not to say that every ride has to be all-positive, all-the-time, 100% training focused. I mean, if you've been around here at all, you definitely know that I spend more time toodling than working my horse and I am 100% more focused on playing horse soccer than I am on going to horse shows. And while I certainly gush about ZB's (many) (many) excellent qualities, she's also a bit of a moose on the ground and not always the most motivated under saddle.
|Albeit a very cute moose|
A bad ride is more than an "eh not feeling it, let's redirect and trail ride today" where not much is accomplished. I would actually call that a pretty decent ride as long as you identify the issue and make intentional choices to address it.
One of those moments of clarity I found in between Courage and Zoe was this understanding that a partnership depends on being the person your horse wants to be with and finding the horse that you want to be with. It sounds oddly simple phrased that way.
It's not that every day is butterflies and rainbows.
It's that when I'm toodling around bareback in the pasture on a loose rein on the first cold fall day of the year and my horse goes COMPLETELY TENSE OMFG WTAF IS HAPPENING, I choose to slide off, do some ground work, address where our attention goes and when, and then choose a successful note to end on.
Could have been a bad ride. Might have gone ok. I addressed it in a different way.
That not to say one shouldn't ride through resistance because you 100% should, some of the time. It's important to set yourself up to win the little battles so you never really have the big battles. The other day I hopped on and ZB was definitely "eh not feeling it" on the going to work issue.
We started with halt/back/halt/walk transitions to confirm "you must comply in a soft manner", then added trot into the mix, which got the whole Going Forward/Stepping Under pieces engaged. Then lateral work for straightness, then figure eights with bend/counterbend for direction changes with consistent balance.
And all of a sudden, I had this lovely, soft, balanced horse who was on the aids and I asked her to stay soft and step up into canter (vs hollow and run), and wouldn't you know, she did it. And we could repeat the transitions. She wasn't strong/consistent enough yet to hold it for more than a few strides, but for the first time, she totally got it.
That wasn't the most promising start, but it became a good ride.
I'll admit I'm 100% spoiled here. Ms. Zoebird has this ridiculous Disney horse attitude and shows up for work 99.99% of the time. She's good natured, hard working, and lovely to be around. She makes it easy. Even if she really just needs to OMG MUM G2G BUCK AND DO RUNNIN, she lets me know that's on the table and tries so hard to make sure I get off first.
She's never going to be your international eventer and I dunno if she wants to dressage once the dressaging gets hard, but she's the horse that made riding fun again for me.
People have bad days. Horses have bad days.
If you're both having a bad day, it's maybe not the best day in the history of ever to get on.
More than that tho--good rides are about good fit. Good goals. Good camaraderie.
On a personal level, it has mattered a lot to me to take showing off the table. Instead of sort of patching together an uncertain partnership in pursuit of indifferent public approbation of my skills, I've gotten to zero in on the things I want out of riding and what I enjoy.
It's not that showing is bad, because it isn't.
It's that having a good ride is so much more natural when "good" is a finite term that I can see and feel and touch. It's that moment of appreciating my horse and knowing that I'm in the right place at the right time. It's the ability to take a day or a month or a season to teach her goofy things that make me laugh.
The other day, I wanted to win a shiny satin ribbon. I'm spending a little more time polishing show ring skills than I did before. I have a goal of taking a couple lessons to advance our skills that I think I can finally accomplish.
Maybe we'll give showing a go next season.
Maybe we won't.
Either way, we have many more good rides to look forward to.