Confidence has made all the difference in my riding. With confidence comes leadership, and with leadership comes higher expectations, and with higher expectations comes noticeable improvements in performance. I can feel the change in our energy as I ask Rocky for higher quality and hold him to the standard and appreciate him when he achieves it. This is the “be particular without being critical” Parellism.
That I can envision a performance standard and recognize when we’re getting closer to it or achieving it…that’s perhaps the biggest improvement in my horsemanship since I last blogged.
Fixing the steering
Today I had an “intervention lesson” at my request — a quick shout-out to Erin with “my steering is broken, help!” resulted in half an hour of focused instruction and many, many 180s and 360s as River and I figured out where my hands legs weight eyes stick reins need to be and where her flexion and impulsion needed to be when I ask her to turn. And I got it. Now it’s simply a matter of practice to train my muscle memory.
Keeping to the pattern
When Rocky plays “what are you going to do if I think about spooking at that tarp? at the pigs? at the shrubbery? at the man fixing the roof?” I just keep asking him to do what I’m asking him to do. “Yes, there’s a man on the roof, let’s keep this figure 8 around the trees going,” and Lo! Rocky figured out it’s less effort for him to look where he’s going and do the thing than it is to keep pretending to spook at things and then having his weight, feet, and balance in the wrong places during the pattern.
I’ve also experienced some breakthroughs in keeping to the pattern until Rocky actually relaxes. Not just until he gets it and starts offering the pattern on his own, but until he does so with relaxation. Creating patterns around the ranch using the natural features of terrain and structures makes the change more obvious, as the arena is both small and safe, so the line between relaxed and bored gets blurry.
Just this once, just for today
I noticed that I was stopping myself from going out to “do horse stuff” with the dangerous thought “You aren’t going to make this a regular, consistent, recurring activity because reasons, so it’s pointless to attempt to do it now.” So I made a New Year’s Resolution to try a new mantra of “just this once, just for today” and see what dreadful things happened to my horses from not having a regular, consistent, recurring activity.
As you probably have already guessed, nothing dreadful has happened, but our partnerships have grown and the relationships are solid. We’ve had less time together than usual in the past four months but what time we’ve had has been positive, provocative, and progressive.