So here's a thing that's messed up:
I realized that I'm more comfortable sharing fail pictures than successes on my own blog.
That's not ok with me.
|this was.... not planned|
Courage and I fail frequently and flamboyantly and I am happy to share those moments. They're hilarious. They're encouraging. They're humanizing. Whatever. That's great.
It's easy to fail. It's easy to point out what's wrong with this picture.
It's easy to sit here and say "oh yeah we ALL know what's wrong with that". Everyone can unite seeing me doing something wrong.
You know what's hard?
Making a horse from the ground up. Doubly so if you're dealing with a lot of baggage (like you know, six years of track life). Day in and day out, doing the unglamorous, repetitious things that take a horse from tense and flighty to rideable and interesting. It's hard work. (And also, if you blog about doing this work, you will find out that literally everyone on the internet is apparently better at it than you are, at least in their own minds. Fascinating, amiright.)
And see, horses don't learn in giant leaps and bounds by magic, not really. They learn like we do--one tiny baby step at a time.
So when I look at a picture of Courage like this, I think: "Wow look at my little ex-racer. He's pushing from behind and almost tracking up. His nose is on the vertical, his mouth is closed, and the muscle definition is in all the right places. Even the arch in his tail is telling me that he's using his topline."
Then I think, "hm this horse struggles with holding tension in the base of his neck and even at this relatively nice moment, he's just a little hollow there. That tells me I'm asking him to come a little more "up" in his front end than he's ready for at this precise moment and I need to ride him a little deeper and keep building the strength behind to allow him to really sit and lift without getting stuck or hollow."
And then, hey, I look at stuff like this:
Moments from the same ride as the previous shot, and I say "here he's definitely using the base of his neck well and giving me softness in his topline. These shots confirm that he needs to stay deeper and that I need to incorporate canter work as he's mentally up to it to really develop the horse I want to be riding in six months or a year."
Furthermore, because he's my horse and I see him every day, I can add in shots like this:
And then I look at him and say "all I really care about in these is the base of Courage's neck. In the first shot, you can obviously see how the trot/canter/trot transitions are helping him as long as I keep them slow and thoughtful. The second shot, I'd like him to be more forward and less on the forehand ideally, but I'll take it because he's thinking and figuring out how to use his body in a new way that's hard for him. I know that pushing him too forward right now will just set us back, so I'm willing to take the time he needs to learn to do this correctly."
I mean, sure, it's easy to look at the progress/training pictures and pick them apart. "Hollow. Lacking impulsion. Whatever.", but doing that overlooks the step-by-step process it took to get where we are. Looking at these pictures with no knowledge of my horse, it's easy to say "damn girl why do you ever ride in a gait other than canter because it's obviously his best?"
But no. That's all backwards. I was thrilled to celebrate with fellow blogger the Eventing Saddlebred
recently when she and her guy did their first somewhat-planned canter because I KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE. Canter is a hot-button issue for a horse like Courage. All he knows is how to invert and run and get hollow and make his stride two inches long. Every time we've gotten near the canter in the last two years, we've basically dropped back to walk and started over because he couldn't take it.
So where one person sees his canter as his best gait, I know it took this long to get the canter where it is and he's still not ready to offer it every day. We only canter when I know that we can do it well, because there is no point to cantering him badly. Even when we do canter, I keep it to just a circle or two and focus on quality transitions and covering the ground and building strength, which is a long, slow, gradual process.
|sass tail means hard work|
So yeah. When I post pictures of Courage looking a little hollow or not quite forward or WHATEVER, it's not because I'm a blooming idiot who can't see our obvious flaws. It's because I know my little guy and I'm so damn proud of how far he's come and how hard he tries and the partnership that we're building together.
The other day, he did his first steps of haunches in at the walk, and no, they weren't show quality. But you know what? Because of the partnership we've built together, he tried something new and hard and different that he theoretically has all the building blocks to do. He didn't get it the first time or the second time, or even the third time, and when he did "get" it, we just did a step or two, then I immediately praised him and moved on.
Last year, new information meant turning himself inside out and NOPING into the next county. This year? He's trying for me.