|What are you talking about? Of course training me is a game of endurance. You like endurance sports, don't you?|
Over this summer, I’ve been learning to play the waiting game and realizing how much of training is passive. This horse of mine is a tense, nervous, ball of try. Ask him to bring his haunches in, and he’ll tie himself in knots trying to do what you asked. Ask for a halt, and he will sit right down and slam on the brakes. However, ask for something too hard or demand too high of a level of perfection, and he will shut down.
So, for the last two months the pressure has been off. We don’t need the shoulder-in to be perfect. We don’t need to leg yield straight. We don’t need to drill away at the abysmal medium trot issue. All I’ve demanded is a horse more calm, supple, and forward than the day before. Relaxation has been at the top of my mind for every ride. A tight poll or locked neck hasn’t been tolerated, but everything else has been treated as a “work in progress.”
Instead of becoming frustrated by how tight my horse is, when he was loose and relaxed the ride before, I take a deep breath and work to relax and loosen him. I’ve been able to notice when my own tightness is restricting his trot work, and instead work at the walk and canter for the majority of the ride.
The transition in my horse has been phenomenal. His flexibility has improved dramatically. His response to my aids has become sharper. His mouth is softer, and his confidence in the contact has grown. His tight/nervous issues have been disappearing: his head tilt at the shoulder-in is much less dramatic, his dropped shoulder is less of a block, and he’s even stopped baring his teeth constantly and even begun foaming a little bit.
Taking away the pressure has also resulted in bigger leaps in our training. We’re no longer barely creating a shoulder-in. It’s much easier to create, and often I’m just refining the bend or asking for more forward. The haunches-in look less like a leg yield with shoulders-on-the-wall, and more like a movement with true bend. Best of all? The more relaxed tenor of our rides means I am finally able to ask for complex movement strings without my horse dissolving into a puddle of nerves. Haunches-in to shoulder-in? We got this. Leg yield/shoulder-in? No big deal.
I’d ask “who is this horse,” but I think the better question is “who is this rider?”
|He's so fancy, I just need to learn to keep up.|