This is a weird post to write. Last week, I talked about how sensitive and complicated Courage is, and that is definitely 100% still true. And y'all probably remember our epic flailing lessons from last year (here's one).
I got on the schedule for a lesson at the end of last week. I picked out the most perfect outfit for pictures, recruited a photog, bathed my horse (hey, it was 43f! #heatwave), and saddled up. My last ride before the lesson was a bit flail-y, but I chalked that up to our first ride outside (dressage in big space NOT THE SAME as dressage in tiny indoor).
Game face on. Mental blank slate. Here. We. Go.
|yeah that's what it looks like|
We went through the normal rigmarole of exercises--bend, changing bend, counter bend, moving off the leg, spirals, and nada. He got a little better, but wasn't really "improved" and definitely wasn't "connected". So we tried throwing in some transitions and trotting to see if that would help explain it.
It would not. Instead, Courage started running sideways. Corkscrewing his tail. NOT TURNING RIGHT. Alyssa (intepid photog) preemptively climbed the fence to avoid getting trampled (it's... happened before).
Our trainer was attempting to talk me through it and make some sense of the situation when I rode up to her, got off, and handed her the reins.
Courage and I have been through A LOT together. That's good and bad. The good part was that I 100% knew he was having a screaming tantrum and throwing all his toys out of his crib and that if I so much as BREATHED in a way that annoyed him, he was leaving the county.
And that's the good news.
The bad news is that he has to learn that even if he doesn't feel 100% and doesn't want to play, he has to express himself in tactful ways, trust we will listen to him, and not bolt into the sunset/fence/photographer.
And that, dear readers, takes an immensely tactful ride that while I may be capable of, I was struggling with emotionally because of all we've been through together. I wasn't upset that he didn't come to play. I understand what he's doing. I just really DO NOT ENJOY the full-on flail that was building and I knew that if I emotionally reacted and pulled on him or kicked at the wrong time, it was game over.
And those moments break down our trust instead of build it.
This is what it looked like AFTER lucky trainer had spent a good long time walking and bending and talking Courage in to going left reasonably. Right is our hot button side. He doesn't do anything dramatic. He's not even being that naughty. He's just saying "CANT CANT WONT HATE STOP EFF YOU ALL".
And she is very tactfully, very patiently, very calmly riding through it. As she describes it, she has to constantly find just the right feel for him--she has to put her left leg on because he wants to blow through it, but she can't push him off the left leg, because then he will blow through it.
Gentle, simple, incremental steps. With the horse in mind.
|this is what i want to ride|
|love this shot|
Now that he trusted we weren't going to hurt him, I needed to trust that he wasn't going to take advantage of me.
|to the right even, omg|
There was no leaping or flailing or breakdowns or tempers. There was no fear or anger or tears.
I'm so proud of Courage for getting to a place where he's willing to trust us when his first reaction is to be very agitated and defensive.
I'm really happy with myself for being proactive enough to make good choices.
Obviously, we're both thrilled with trainer C for getting us through this.
|i'll take it|