What did I want? What did I need?
I WANTED to ride in a clinic yesterday on "Canter departs, lead changes, speed control, and fluid transitions" with Kerry Kuhn. My barn was hosting the clinic and even though I hesitated to spend the fee, I know we could use some help in these (and oh so many more) areas. Specifically I wanted more control over speed at the lope for the Western Pleasure.
I NEEDED to hear this honest horseman tell me we had many other things to work on if we want to get the loping right, and then give me some tools to get us on our way.
Mr. Kuhn works under the "Practical Horsemanship" banner. You can listen to his explanation in THIS VIDEO.
We spend most of the day working on ground work, the kind that helps enforce the handler as the fair and respectful leader and the horse as the relaxed, willing follower. We've done some of this work before, but it's been a while. I happily had the least-spooky and softest horse in the group, which is something I couldn't help being proud of after so many years of having the "crazy" one.
My demonstration of our too-fast lope failed miserably when my Bug loped off smoothly and calmly. He did get amped up at one point, but for the most part he was really good and didn't take a wrong step all day. I confused him quite a bit asking for some quick turnarounds that defied all the pivot training I've been working on, but he never got upset, just kept trying to do what I was asking. I was pleasantly surprised at his endurance, both mentally and physically.
At the end of the day, Mr. Kuhn said this to me: "You have way too nice a horse here to still be working at the kindergarten level. He has so much more to offer you in here
and you just need to ask him for it. He'll give it to you."
What I then realized is the plateau we've been traveling along has opened into a wide valley of opportunity that I didn't even see coming. I had to try hard not to cry then. I know it would have been okay if I did, but I am such an emotional cryer that if I would have let myself go I would have appeared to have lost my marbles, so I spared the group from the outburst. Ain't nobody got time for that.
I've been stagnant. I don't ride enough and when I do ride I haven't been riding long enough and I don't have motivation or goals. I need to get back the confidence I lost. How did I lose it? I don't know but I suppose the back injury had a lot to do with it. It's at a manageable level now, but when I fell of in October I realized how weak my balance had become and it spooked me. PLUS Junior started stumbling more when he was out of work so that makes me worry about him taking us both down. Bad balance in horse and rider is not a good combo. AND my work schedule has not been helpful since January. Excuses, excuses. I know.
So now what? Mr. Kuhn read my horse like a giant billboard and reminded me to "ride the horse I have." The bottom line is that I haven't been asking Junior to work hard enough. I've been babying us both since the lay-off and it's got to stop if I want to reach my goals this year. Philosophically speaking, I need to ask so much of him that a slow lope is the easiest thing I ask him to do. THAT is his rest and his reward. Training wise, I need to keep him on his toes more. I need to make his mind work so hard that loping along the rail is like a nap to him. Ride ride ride. Lope lope lope. Keep his feet moving and keep his brain thinking. I know him so well, I just needed a reminder of what he's capable of. It's going to be a lot of work, but I finally WANT to do the work. I'm READY to do the work. It's what we need.