Once again, I am headed out for the weekend– this time to Raleigh NC for the Equine Extravaganza horse expo. This is the second year for this expo and the one last year was great—so I’m sure this one will be even better! There aren’t too many expos in the summer—it tends to be a “shoulder season” type of activity. This time of year, horse people are generally pretty busy on the weekends—going to shows, trail rides, clinics, camping, whatever it is that we do with our horses.
Rich is no exception. He and his new horse Diggs are headed out this afternoon to a two-day clinic and one-day competition. He’s unsure about competing on his new horse—he’s only been riding him a week. But it is a schooling show anyway and as long as he doesn’t have unrealistic expectations, it would be a good way to start figuring out what their strengths and weaknesses are. It takes a long time to develop a tight relationship with a horse and there’s no real short cut. It takes thousands of cues and transitions, lots of mistakes and many corrections before your horse can have a true understanding of what you are asking (articulately or inarticulately). Doing the clinic on Diggs this weekend will give Rich lots of concentrated time on his new horse and with the help of several professionals, help him come to a closer understanding.
In the midst of packing fro my trip this weekend, I had a lovely surprise yesterday from my dear friend and neighbor, Cheryl. She called to say she would pick me up for lunch at precisely 12:15 because she had made a reservation. I thought that was odd, since there’s absolutely no place in Salida where you need a reservation for lunch. But instead, we went to a lovely little day spa where we had manicure (Cheryl), pedicure (me), neck and shoulder massages (both) as we sipped our wine. What a lovely afternoon! Then we did go to lunch and sat out on a great patio overlooking the river and mountains and soaked in the glorious Colorado summer day (it’s a very short season here—so you must enjoy it!). What a treat! I never in a million years would’ve done something like that for myself—but it was SO relaxing! It took some covert planning on Cheryl’s and Brenda’s (my office manager) part, but it was an afternoon well spent.
I got home just in time to ride my horse one more time before leaving. Although I hated to put on socks and boots after getting my first pedicure (for god’s sake, I don’t even own any open-toed sandals—Cheryl had to lend me hers just so I could appreciate my pink toes!). After that mellow afternoon, Dually and I had a really relaxed ride—which is how I wanted to leave it before my trip. I’ve had some interesting revelations on him lately—stemming from an off-handed remark someone made to me a couple months ago, having to do with what my body language looked like while I was riding Dually. Riding a high-test, sensitive horse is really challenging, although rewarding. It’s a what-comes-first thing—the chicken or the egg? I’ve written about this before—does Dually anticipate or do I anticipate his anticipation and subsequently send him a subtle signal?
I see this all the time in clinics with spooky and volatile horses—is the horse causing the reaction in the rider or is the rider causing the reaction in the horse? I know from my experience in clinics that it is usually the rider because if I get up on the horse, riding with confidence and with no pre-conceived notions, the horse immediately relaxes and does fine. So in the past few weeks I’ve been really focusing on this as I ride. And low and behold, if I stay totally neutral and relaxed, so does he!
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Don’t try to prevent your horse from making a mistake. Let him make it, then fix it. That’s the only way he’ll learn. No micro-managing. It’s the same reason why a kid can’t truly learn to ride a bicycle until you take off the training wheels. As long as the crutch is there, he’ll rely on it. But take them away and he has to balance himself or fall down. It’s the same way with a horse. Ask him to do something, then release him. If he makes a mistake, correct him—but then leave him alone to do his job—give him some responsibility to do the right thing. If you constantly micro-manage to prevent him from making a mistake, he is learning the wrong thing—learning to rely on the training wheels. Horses don’t need training wheels—they are very capable animals.
That’s my thought for the day. Soon we’ll be landing in Raleigh and I’ll be scrambling all weekend. More form the road later!
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