So, today, I had a pretty big “aha” moment. One that I’ve been doggedly pursuing for a long time. I’m pretty happy about it, so I’m going to ride out the bliss and describe it.
Today, yes, today my friends, I successfully drove my horse with my legs, into my hands and ended with a nice, soft response, for one or two strides, three or four times.
I know, can you hear the crowd cheering? I can.
“What’s the big deal?” you say. “Isn’t that what we are supposed to be striving to accomplish?”
EXACTLY. And after oh, I don’t know, fifteen years, I’ve finally pulled myself together enough to get it done…prettily.
Grab your popcorn, here comes the play by play.
So, I’m trotting along, nice and steady and loose. I decide to see just how still I can get my leg, while keeping my upper body in the best position possible. I like how that turns out. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel balanced.
So, I start really working on subtly driving my horse forward with my leg, not really adding speed, but adding what I’ve come to call “oompff”. I’ve been working hard enough on it, that I can start adding a variety of pressure and smaller movements and acknowledging my horse’s response in an appropriate manner. That, in and of it self is pretty huge in my world.
Now, I’m trotting along feeling like the leg position champion of the world, pretty poofy, just dying for someone to pop out of the mesquite and exclaim, “Oh my God, do you see her leg? It’s PERFECT!”. My horse is being a pretty good sport. And then I think, “Well, yeah, but what about your hands you dingbat?”
And this my friends is where everything tends to fall apart. Sometimes in a small way, sometimes hugely and gloriously. Sometimes it turns into his nose going all the way down, him falling on the forehand, and me not being able to fix it at all. Sometimes it turns into a weeble wobble unbalanced wreck that can’t even maintain a certain gait, let alone a certain speed with in that gait. But hey, I gotta keep trying right?
So, I pick up soft feel. My horse starts to root his nose. But, I persist, and in three or four strides he gives. I must have timed my release at least semi decently, because the next time the root only lasted two strides before the give. The third time, he gave almost instantly. The entire time I was experimenting, I managed to keep my leg still and steady enough that he stayed balanced in his speed, oompf, and line of travel. I actually felt him really reaching underneath him self and pushing with his hind end, and staying there when I asked him to give. WOW. By that third time all I could think was “OH, THAT’S what they’ve been talking about!”
I’ve been struggling with this concept directly for around four or five years. I’ve always felt like I had all of the ideas of what I needed, but not necessarily the strength or knowledge of what order to give the information to the horse. In other words, I was so confused and uneducated that I couldn’t really tell him what I wanted, because I didn’t know. Well, playing around today, I found the right order, the right words to explain to my horse what I was looking for. And he picked it up pretty darn quick.
I was talking with a friend recently about how sometimes, even though my personal schooling sessions don’t end in a negative fashion, I’m not always entirely sure I’ve made progress in the area I had intended to work on.
Today, it worked. It worked because I’ve finally built up the strength and muscle memory to tell my legs, “Hey, you do your job, okay? I’m going to focus most of my attention on my hands.” I’ve also been studying hand position like mad trying to create that same muscle memory there.
In short, I have worked my ass off on this little thing. And, FINALLY, I made some progress.
Luckily it is very hot and humid today. So, I couldn’t ride out my high and ruin my horse by drilling him into the ground on this new, super awesome thing that I figured out. I’ve made that mistake more than I would like to admit.
Denny Emerson wrote something recently about showing horses. I can’t remember the direct quote, but he said to be sure to enjoy your victories, because it probably won’t work out that way the next go. Well, this particular blog is me doing just that. This is me, reveling in the fact that today, I added a tiny, yet incredibly important bit of information to my skill set. It may not be that easy again for a long time. But I did it once, I can and will do it again, and again, and again….