“We learn things when we are ready to.”
Learning how to ride and train a horse is full of little “aha!” moments. Suddenly, everything makes sense.
(Until the next day when it doesn’t, but like I said – full of them.)
Awhile back, I was having a conversation with another horse owner. We were discussing a woman who sometimes rode at the same time as us, but was clearly afraid of her horse. She really needed a trainer, as the horse was kind and willing, but with a timid rider he was largely free to do what he pleased. Thankfully that seemed to mostly involve tooling around behind the leg, but it was a situation that could go badly fast.
The woman seemed fairly open to advice, but at the same time didn’t actually put much of it into practice.
And so, this owner, shrugging and accepting there was little she could do to help, ended with “Well, we learn things when we are ready to.”
It’s blunt, it’s honest, and I love it.
Through my years of training Cho, this happens to me all of the time. And every time I can’t help but reflect on why it took me so long to really GET something. A lot of the time, I know that I knew these things. But while I “knew” them intellectually, on some level, I didn’t have the full comprehension or muscle memory to combine with the cerebral knowledge. I didn’t actually get how to make all of the pieces of my body work together for that piece of riding.
Sometimes it’s helped along by slightly different wording, or coming from someone other than your usual trainer. Sometimes it’s triggered by a specific exercise. Or an article you read. Or a training issue a friend is having. Or sometimes your horse performs a movement correctly for the first time (you didn’t actually know it was the first time before this happened, because you always thought you WERE doing it right…). And sometimes, perhaps we aren’t quite ready to accept what really needs to be done.
It’s like some teeny tiny missing piece to actually make your brain and body go “OH THAT IS WHAT WE ARE DOING.”
My most recent small epiphany happened on Wednesday night, and while what I learned is really nothing to write home about, (I can just feel my trainer rolling her eyes and thinking “I have been telling you this for seven years, Jessi.”) all of these little things add up to being a better equestrian. AND SO I AM GOING TO WRITE ABOUT IT.
A friend posted this article to facebook, and I read it, because someday I would like to jump my horse without
a) pointing her at it, grabbing mane, closing my eyes, and making terrified noises
b) Her jumping 2’6″ over a fucking ground pole BECAUSE THAT JUST BRINGS US RIGHT BACK TO A.
Sidenote: While Cho has done a bit of jumping in her life with various riders and is pretty good at the baby jumps, I have only jumped her over little logs and crossrails two times. The first time was experience a, and the second time (BOTH EFFING LOGS) was experience b.
So I read it and it was full of good information and exercises and I was like “well, this is so far from anything I feel comfortable with right now (we have cantered ground poles a fair bit but it always makes me hold my breath because I’m sure she’s going to either JUMP the damn thing or trip and fall on her face), but I will store this for later information.”
That evening I went to ride, and I set out 3 ground poles for trotting again since I’ve decided we will be doing more of those until it feels more natural and less tripping and/or finding somewhat ridiculous ways to pick our way through them.
To the right she was good, no tripping and finding a solid rhythm over the poles. She was consistent before, during, and after the poles. There was more impulsion but no increase or decrease in speed.
HOLD ON. THAT.
—Part of the article above discussed setting, and maintaining a rhythmic pace. This, before anything else, was key.
To the left, the first time around, I did not ride her to the poles as I had to the right. I kept steady contact, but I didn’t drive her with my leg when she backed off a little, and going over the poles ended up being awkward.
So I came back around, making sure to HOLD the rhythm and PUSH her those last few steps to the poles. I actually ACTIVELY rode her up to them -there was no option to do anything but stay between 2 legs 2 reins-, and she went through with the same rhythm, pace, just adding impulsion.
As it turns out, the key to non-scary poles work is to ride, and to not stop riding, because you are not a passenger. Profound, I know.