Tessa and I have come a long way, no doubt about that. On May 2nd, she turned 7. I forgot her birthday, but made it up to her today with extra carrots. Today did not go as well as I had hoped. There are two things bugging me. To some of you, this may seem a bit OCD or like I'm splitting hairs and to others I'm probably still missing the whole damn point. But this is where we're at.
Thing One That Is Bugging Me: When Tessa spooks I get frustrated. It comes on almost instantly. I know that it's related to fear, but I am not longer reacting in fear. Instead, every spook and every refusal to move forward makes me angry. It still brings up feelings of 'this horse will never be the right horse for me'. It still brings up tears. Yes, I know how to cope with it now. Yes, I give myself and Tessa grace for this and I get off if I need to. Sure, I often end up working it out and feeling positively at the end, but it keeps coming back up. Obviously I need to address something more. Or I need to have a horse that doesn't spook like she does.
Part of the problem is that it's not just a spook. A spook I can handle. Something where she jumps suddenly and then you just keep going. She doesn't do that very often. Her 'spook' is that she stops. DEAD. No matter what gait. And then is a rock. I can get her moving by changing her direction, but it's super frustrating when your goal is to ride forward and you can't. And though we work and work and work, we still get to that spot and she stops. Or she refuses to go in the 'scary area'.
Thing Two That Is Bugging Me has some similarities to Thing One. Thing Two is that I tried to walk Tessa down the driveway today. I gave myself the time and set out with good intentions and good energy. She would take one step and freeze. The only way I could get her unstuck was to turn her towards home. Then she would take one more step after our circle. We did this for an hour. We made it halfway down the driveway.
Yes, we had some good moments where she went through the gate quietly, but what is it that I'm doing wrong or differently that is keeping her from going down that driveway? I was not afraid AT ALL and was quiet in my body language. I know you guys can't really tell me 'cause you weren't there but man, it gets frustrating when you can't get your horse to walk down a driveway. I didn't get tense, angry or frustrated while trying to go down the driveway. I just stayed calm and focused and gave her tons of praise and carrots whenever she went forward.
So, it seems to me the answer is that I'm not a leader that Tessa trusts. But at this point, after two years and weekly lessons and thinking "I've got it now!" will I ever be? I'm not old (41) but I'm not getting any younger either. My confidence is not likely to ever be huge. Has it gotten better? Definitely. Do I feel like Tessa and I have a growing relationship? Sure. But how can I be a better leader when I don't think I'm feeling fear in these moments.