Let Me Teach You Something…

Reason and Matt today after our ride.

No matter which way I look at it, Reason isn’t going anywhere, period, without my full and utter commitment.  It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time.  It’s a lesson straight from the horses mouth (or back).  Don’t mount up unless you’re committed! 

It’s a really important reflection and lesson in horsemanship and tests the key skill of riding, the mental aspect.  Most equestrians will tell you, riding is mostly mental, despite being apparently very physical.  I have yet to master the mental part.  I just, for some reason which somewhat (who am I kidding, not somewhat, ALL) has to do with confidence (where did it go?), I cannot bring myself to understand why I just can’t buck up and get the job done.

Because my first thought is Reason’s body and maybe something hurting him, making him uncomfortable etc.  I have Matt hop on.  If Matt gets the same reaction (we’ve tested Reason this way quite frequently lately) then I know it may be Reason.  But if he gets a different reaction, I know it’s me.

I watch on as Reason goes forward without hesitance, walking, trotting eagerly and cantering.  Huh?!  I mean Reason and Matt have always gotten along, but up there in the saddle Matt isn’t as secure as me.  Like physically secure, to be clear.  He bounces around trying to post the trot and manages to put together some balance to ride Reason’s canter.  You would think Reason wouldn’t care for that type of riding…  But apparently, it doesn’t matter what it physically looks like, just what it mentally looks like.  It look’s so easy!   Reason pricks his ears forward and away they go, rocking along, no cares in the world. 

After Matt’s nice short little ride, I mount up again.  Time to put on the big girl breeches and ride.  As the moments go on, while I’m trying again to work with Reason, I realize I need to step up to the plate EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. no matter how big or little (I’ve always knew this, but have had a problem executing this lately).  If Reason slows when not asked, I have to be there without hesitance, fully committed, knowing exactly what I want, breathing confidence and selling my ability to Reason like the greatest equestrian sales man.  So I begin to get a little bit of a testy horse.  Matt says we look good, but I need to ask for more.  I get some head shaking and a little bit of brakes, so I do it.  I take my crop and crack him on his tush.  I get two huge bucks and then after the moment of “whoa buddy” wears off for Reason and I, we keep going.  The score is even. 

We trot and canter around well after that.  But the moment I’m not confident, the moment I’m not committed to what I want, the moment I don’t step up, the balance shifts and the score changes.  I have to find my confidence again.  I’m not sure if I’ll get anywhere without having it consistently, with Reason.  But I’m darned determined to get myself there.  I’m really in a state of limbo, wondering what I can do and wondering what I need to change to ride the best I can mentally.  Matt says I need to know what I want and mean business (confidence).  But part of me doesn’t want to demand, but ask and get a positive answer…  Maybe Reason is just shedding light on my weaknesses and is making me face them head on.  That’s a good thing.  Maybe I need to deal with what’s in front of me without wishing it was different..  I love Reason, I always want to do right by him.  I think doing right will be from change, from me. 

 

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Two Good Things in Two Good Days.

Out for a canter

I spoke too soon.  My last post was basically my thoughts and feelings on the lack of my riding.  I do think technically I can be a good rider.  I’ve conquered some of my body and am able to ride without some of those limitations (those independent components; hand, seat etc) that take time to get away from, but mentally if you aren’t in the game, your body isn’t either.  My mind has been out and about for a little while.  Hey, when did riding become so much work?  Remember when you were little and rode and bounced around without a care in the world?  Some part of me misses that.  I don’t miss bouncing around or sometimes even the no fear consciousness, but the carefree.  It’s healthy to have some fear perspective.. Right? 

It just so happened that after I wrote my post on Thursday, I had a great ride that evening.  I mentioned cantering in the field.  Matt said go ahead, do it.  Like seriously, you’re having to think about it?  So I did.  Reason and I cantered in the field.  It was easy, carefree and relaxed.  Reason has such a lovely canter.  It’s smooth, floaty and has multiple speeds.  His default speed is a lovely cadenced canter that makes you wish there was a nice jump right ahead.  And it makes you see the potential for Dressage and doing collected work.  A couple laps of trotting and some cantering around the field and Reason was already sweating.  Oy.  Well to give him the benefit of the doubt, he does have his winter coat and it was warm and sunny out.  Conditioning and fitting both of us up will be fun.  I’m out of shape too.  I don’t have the control over my body like I used to when I rode a lot.  I lack a strong core, for sure.

On Friday I went to go walking at a park with Matt, my mom and my mom’s Lab puppy Triskit.  This was the same park Reason was to have his first trail ride at.  The trail (there is only one for horses) is wide, flat and definitely beginner friendly.  Since it was a weekday, it was quieter.  A few walkers but nothing else.  I wanted to go for a ride on Saturday, but the day was spent at home doing yard work.  On Sunday we headed out for an evening ride.

We arrived about 4:30 and the weather was perfect.  The sun was shinning, the sky only held a few minor remnants of past clouds and the temperature was short-sleeve worthy.  Reason came off the trailer sweaty.  Although he was riding with his faithful companion Errika, I think overall he’s a nervous traveler.  I let him have the whole back area of the trailer, but I think next time I may buckle him in the center between the dividers as that may make him feel more secure and safe.  He unloaded like a champ and once at location, he was calm, but curious.  I walked Reason around before tying him to try to help him cool down.  I waited and spent a little more time grooming to let him dry.  Once he was cooled down and had dried some, I began tacking up.  We headed to the trail and I opted to stay on foot and lead him down the road to the actual trail.  He was still calm, but curious.  Errika was a great, great help for Reason as she doesn’t normally bat an eyelash at anything.  She helped him understand that the weird new sights, sounds and smells are nothing to be worried about.  Just a casual walk in the park.  I mounted up on the trail, after offering the horses some water at the trough. 

The first real interesting encounter happened at this point.  A couple people were at the lake’s edge (the trail goes around a lovely small lake).  Reason could hear them, but barely make out them through the trees and brush.  His head went up and he went on alert trying to make sense of the noises.  He didn’t spook, but did a small but quick turn and looked on again.  It took him a couple more looks before he was prepared to move on.  I mounted up and off we went. 

Our next encounter was a child.  Reason is not too sure about kids, at a distance.  This particular little kid was fumbling on behind his mom, who was holding another child.  Reason thought that was weird, but we continued on and once we got closer, he relaxed a bit, although still intrigued.  The next site was only about 5 minutes later.  We came across a man pushing a stroller.  Strollers are especially interesting.  We asked the nice man if he could stop so we could pass.  I find it’s always best to make some verbal contact with the non-horsey public on the trail because they simply do not always know what to do or even know what they are doing could be scary to a horse.  The man seemed to wonder why he needed to stop at first.  But once Matt, explained we have a young horse or isn’t sure about strollers, he happily obliged.  Reason kept his ears on the stroller after we passed, wondering if at any point it might come sneaking back up behind him, but realized it was again, not threatening and proceeded on. 

The trail was beautiful and serene. 

On the last part of the trail we came across yet another little kid, who could have been no more than 2.  He was running towards us, picking up a stick and throwing it, with his mom tailing behind trying to herd him back towards the stroller.  Reason actually wasn’t worried about this.  I guess he had decided kids weren’t so bad after all.  We got up to where the little kid and his parents were.  The little boy wanted to pet the horses, so we stopped and he got to say hi to Errika.  The little boy cried out to the horses as we said our goodbye’s and headed back towards the trailer. 

Once back at the trailer both horses enjoyed some treats and kisses before loading up and heading home.  Reason had second thoughts about leaving the park, hopped on the trailer quickly thereafter.  Once in it was a smooth ride home. 

I have to say that Reason was a really good guy throughout the whole day.  It’s a lot to ask a horse who’s never been out to deal with all the events that go along with it.  He handled everything really well.  On top of that I felt it really helped his confidence and to just enjoy being ridden. 

    

He’s A Good Horse.

Reason on Tuesday

Everything Reason is and is not presently, is a reflection of me.  It’s true.  I’m lacking in my ability as a rider right now.  Well maybe just maybe because I worry about Reason going back to the unhappy place he was only a few months ago.  I just do too much worrying.  Now going off shortly to a very relevant but different direction here… Matt (my fiance) is the yin to my yang and the yang to my yin.   He told me last night, I’m not committing to what I want.  I’m not giving Reason the right direction.  Thank you amateur, doesn’t-even-really-ride, Yoda.  He is the best at pointing things out and giving me a really good perspective that sometimes I lack.  I knew that I’m holding back.  Because if I wasn’t I’d already be cantering Reason around the pasture…  But he points things out that makes you remember riding is supposed to be fun and it’s really not that hard to do.

On Tuesday evening, I had a mediocre ride on Reason.  It depends on how you look at it though.  Reason was really good, he carried me around as we quietly walked on the buckle.  A small, simple but really nice thing!  But the trot work, well that’s what made it mediocre.  I’m not committing.  I don’t give Reason enough direction as of late.  And just as with the lunging to the right, I have to find my hidden confidence and the rider I used to be..  

Yesterday evening I got on Reason and when we warmed up and got to trotting, I did have some good stuff in there.  At times Reason was in front of my leg, instead of being really behind it.  But still…  The whole focus will be and IS on getting him in front of my leg and I will not stop until he willingly, happily, confidently travels in front of my leg consistently, by default.  Matt, believe it or not, coached me through some off my sticky times.  Times where I lacked Reason’s respect and he dictated speed.  Times where Reason tested me and I needed help to rise up to the test. 
Horses ARE our greatest teachers.  If I can get through this, we will be going great.

The up-side was that Reason and I did get somewhere.  And we did have a lovely time riding under the full moon.

Tuesday Post Ride

Fitting Together

The rain came on Monday as well as Tuesday.  The horses were spotted most of the day eating and hanging out in the shelter.  Probably Reason’s idea I’m sure.  He is not a fan of the rain.  Errika however would much rather be getting soaking, sopping wet, if it meant to graze and meander through the pasture, only occasionally stopping and positioning to protect herself from a sudden gust of windy rain.

Reason is enjoying the elements without a blanket for now.  I really get more concerned if there is a chance that the sun comes out and shines between the storm and heats up a horse under a blanket, than if the horse must weather some rain.  And it seems that Reason knows where he’d like to be during a storm and that is tucked under his shelter.  It’s actually pretty interesting watching Reason handle more of being a natural horse.  He’s a bit concerned at times, especially when he’s out in the rain and it’s dropping on him.  It must be a weird feeling considering his dislike for a single fly disturbing him in the summer.  Though, he seems so happy.

Reason on Monday

On Monday as it rained and I prepared for feeding time, Reason was having a ball.  He was trotting everywhere like he was dancing.  A passage here, oh maybe a little piaffe here, lovely extended trot there, it was quite a show.  Thankfully the dancing was kept to a trot, except for when Errika did her usual casual, “I’m going to trot off to mess with the young guy and humans,” and left Reason to go wander off to the other side of the pasture.  Reason went to catch up with her and threw some good bucks before making it to her side.  Oh Errika you do not need to do that.  She is such a little trickster.

On Tuesday Reason proceeded again with showing off his fancy side.  This time Errika saved her antics and there were no moments of scaring their mom in an attempted flee across the pasture.  Reason was also a little more experienced and understanding of the rain and I decided that a lunge in it was appropriate.  The ground was perfect, just soft enough atop the old grass, but not muddy or slick.  At first Reason was gently surging forward on the lunge and insisting that a canter was the only gait to work in.  I let him canter because I’m not going to discourage any forward movement on his terms right now, but at the same time he had to do it within my limits.  There is to be no pulling of course, we must work where I choose.  Reason stuck to his good manners on the line and once I thought it was the right time, I asked for a down-ward transition to a trot and eventually a walk.  We did walk to trot transitions when we were parallel from the gate and where Errika was standing, as he wanted to speed up there, and then trot to walk transitions as we were heading directly towards the gate.  This seemed to get Reason’s mind more in the game and also understand that under my direction I would be determining the pace now.

Reason was doing pretty well and so I moved on to try something else.  I walked him to the back side of the pasture, out of eye-shot from where Errika was and had him walk on the lunge there.  I want to get him more comfortable without Errika’s presence.  He needs to be confident in himself and also me, that we don’t need Errika as a crutch or comfort when it’s time to work.  He’s attached to her quite well.  I’ve ridden him out of eye-shot, but for short durations and I always ride him back towards where she is so he knows nothing is going to happen and she’s not leaving.  I want him to be more comfortable and trusting of me.  But I have yet to be initiated as that role in his life or in his herd for that matter.  So by small bits at a time, hopefully I can help in changing that.  Reason did great on the lunge at the other side of the pasture.  At times he would try to cut in on the circle as he would be going in the direction of where Errika was, but never did anything else.  After a little bit of trotting thrown in there, I called it a day.  I was very pleased with the results.  Before I was done I wanted to give Reason a nice facial massage.

At first Reason kept his head in the more alert position, waiting, though ever so patiently, for when we were going to walk back.  Once I began rubbing his face he began to relax.  His head slowly began to lower.  I felt this was a great step.  He was showing his comfort and trust in me…  I began to massage and slide my hands over his eyes and you could see the change in expression.  He was off alert so much and just enjoying himself.  I spent a good while standing with him there.  The rain bounced off my ball-cap and made a soft, relaxing sound as it hit the dry grass.  It was quiet and truly a really nice moment.

On Wednesday evening I lunged Reason again, hoping that this time I would be able to take a ride.  He was good on the lunge.  So I quickly tacked up and hopped on.  The sun was setting fast.  I walked and trotted Reason around in the center of the field.  The sun had set and the moon shined through the clear, starry sky.  It was a good feeling to ride Reason under the nights dark blanket, on the buckle.  Everything was relaxing.  Now to have gone from what was happening a couple months ago, to this, is very very happy to see and feel.  These moments are very important and special.