Saturday, November 15, 2014

Where we are

The jump to Second Level was pretty tough for Guinness and I, and I don't think that's a very big revelation. His confidence in the bridle and flexibility had a long way to go before he was ready to tackle the increased collection and bend required at the level. My communication skills, body awareness, and general feel needed to improve ten-fold, too.

The summer and fall have been quiet on the blog front mainly due to the repetitive nature and slow progress of our rides. For about 6 months, it seemed every ride with Guinness was a huge struggle. He resisted flexing. He resisted collecting. He resisted transitions. He even started resisting contact again.

In short, he was a difficult creature to coax into the work. Soundness was there, but the strength and mental fortitude was lacking. It was a completely new problem for me, and one that took a lot of thought and, honestly, strength to tackle.

At times, I considered his suitability for the work. I wondered if his brain just wasn't cut out for the exacting and repetitive nature of dressage. I thought maybe problem solving just wasn't in his tool box.
Still, we persevered. We trailered down to my trainer's farm once a month for extra rides under her eye, and worked hard at home every week. I rode tons of other horses with varying degrees of training to improve my feel and fill up my own tool box. I also took a serious look at my flexibility and physical shape and started to really put together a routine of stretches to help me better control my aids.

Very slowly, things got a little better.

Pig felt a little more flexible. He slowly stopped throwing constant fits. He started working confidently into the bridle almost every day. Collection started to feel real. He developed a trot I could sit. One day, the work just clicked for him. He had the strength to collect and push, and the mental fortitude to take a correction and keep trying. Every ride started to have positives. Suddenly the brambles were clearing from our path forward.

The biggest changes happened for me. My mindset of riding changed. I no longer see myself as a rider. Instead, I'm a trainer. My tool box is full of enough exercises and fixes that I no longer feel lost when my horse makes a mistake. That confidence is translating to my horse.

We're flying forward now, and I couldn't feel better about our progress.
Thanks to everyone for bearing with us for the last few months!

16 comments:

  1. I always find your posts about Pig useful and educational. I'm glad that things have clicked and that your confidence has grown from the harder times. It's good for me to be reminded that it just takes a lot of time and patience, but things usually work out.

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    1. Aw thanks! Nothing with this horse is ever easy (except trail rides and not falling off, I guess). It really makes me respect other people's training troubles.

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  2. Yay!! Glad you are making breakthroughs. I definitely understand about the slow, boring progress, but it looks like it will be next year before we hit the breakthrough. Hate winter. Anyways. Yay!

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    1. Training is such a slow march, isn't it?

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  3. Your struggles are exactly why so many people do not make it past First Level. The going gets tough - sometimes REALLY tough and it is so easy to 1) give up or 2) send the horse off to a trainer. People who make it through the 2nd and 3rd level purgatory come out really great riders. It requires you to be a THINKING rider. I totally get where you are coming from. Still in purgatory myself! haha we should have a drink over it.

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    1. We totally should! I've already had my share on my own! :)

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  4. sounds like you two are in a really incredible place in your training right now - must feel exciting! i think your points about confidence (both for horse AND rider) are so key - and Pig's confidence in you, and therefore himself, are a testament to your careful and methodical training. awesome!

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    1. I dunno if I would describe my training as careful and methodical, but I'm trying!

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  5. Way to stick it out, weather the storm and come out the other side with better skills and understanding of your horse and training approach + methods.
    I always love reading your posts as although I will never have half the skills you have you continuously inspire me to keep trying and the way you make breakthroughs with Guinness gives me the push to keep plugging away with my awkward irish animals (myself included lolz)

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    1. Aw yes! After all, that big orange horse up there is just a big hunk of awkward Irish. :)

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  6. I'm so glad to hear that you're finally seeing the progress you've worked so hard for!!

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  7. My lesson last tuesday made me question my own horses mental fortitude, its a struggle to move up but I'm glad to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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    1. There's light! Though, to be honest, it felt a little bit like following a will-o'-the-wisp there for awhile...

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