In my dressage saddle.
ZB wasn't wearing the latest matching outfit. She didn't even have front boots on. Her mane hangs below her neck now.
She's not blanketed.
She's not clipped.
I'm focused on developing the horse I have in front of me. She's not fit, but she's smart and she's fun and she learns things very quickly.
All kinds of things.
What's the practical application of teaching her to kick a giant ball? Literally nothing.
What's the practical application of encouraging her to use her naturally inquisitive personality and food motivation to solve problems and think independently?
Hmmmm a lot.
I'm not trying to build a show horse right now, though that might come. It is so fun to put in the time to build the horse I want to ride. It's not about teaching her to mindlessly zip through a list of tasks. It's not about skipping steps to get to the "fun part".
I want her to be engaged with me.
I want her to think.
I want her to be brave.
I want her to trust that she can achieve what I'm asking her to do.
I want her to try.
Today the "try" is follow the soccer ball and kick it herself.
Tomorrow it might be to find her way through a tricky part of the trail.
The day after, maybe a challenging arena gymnastic.
What fascinates me is how little repetition a horse really needs to understand a concept. All those transitions and hours in the tack help us develop the muscle memory we need and it definitely builds the fitness a horse needs to feel strong and confident in a long, challenging test.
The horse doesn't need them to learn.
If Zoe does something well and I drop the reins and say "good girl", she doesn't need to do it again.
I can leave it alone for 6 months, come back, and it's still there.
It's not about cowboy boots and jeans or breeches and a hairnet.
It's about learning together.