It's funny that I published my blog about last Sundays ride this morning and then went out and struggled to hold that thought.
I lunged Tessa before getting on since I hadn't been out since Sunday. She seemed fine and mostly relaxed, so I decided to get on.
I am a Facebook Fan of Mark Rashid's page Considering The Horse and he posted this status this morning:
Offering a horse productive guidance before or during times when a horse becomes distracted (or worried) can be a fairly easy way to not only get a troubled situation under control, but also build trust and confidence in both horse and rider. It is a matter of the rider staying focused on what they would like to achieve and helping the horse get there, instead of focusing on the horse's worried or distracted behavior and trying to stop it.
So my goal for the day was the same as on Sunday. Ride Tessa all the way around the arena on a loose rein. Go deep into EVERY corner and stay on the rail. Since it was so easy on Sunday, I had a good mind set. We set off down the long side. Halfway down, she stopped. I asked her to go forward. Nothing. Sideways. Nothing. I took a hold of one rein and moved her head around. She spun quickly around and skittered to the side. We did a small circle and went back to the rail. Same thing. Again and again and again.
I felt anger rising inside of me. My body felt tense and I grabbed the inside rein and pulled her head to my knee, kicking with my inside leg. She fell into a tight circle. I released and sent her forward. Her head shot up. She stopped. She ducked her inside shoulder and scooted away. I wish I could say that I remained calm and relaxed, but I didn't. I was frustrated and angry. My one goal had been to ride down the long side and we couldn't even do that. Sure, stay focused on what you want to achieve and help the horse get there but she wouldn't go forward! I was mad at Mark Rashid. I was mad at Tessa. Mostly I was mad at myself and how I couldn't ride my horse and I wanted to MAKE HER DO THIS THING.
One of the blessings about getting older is self realization. It didn't take more than thirty seconds for all of this to go down. I felt that anger and frustration in my body and I made the call right there. Get off the horse. I was not going to destroy what I've been working on by letting that frustration come out in tense, angry riding.
However, I have actually managed to learn some things lately. I was not going to let Tessa finish the conversation. I had not achieved my goal and it was important that I achieve my goal, no matter how long it took. So, out came the lunge line. On the lunge line, she could spin and duck and bolt and I could quietly push her forward. If she fell in with her shoulder, I would wave the whip at her shoulder. At the scary spot, I pushed her through. She went through bucking the first time, at a crazed gallop. The second time it was just galloping. The third time it was a frantic canter. The fourth and fifth times it was a canter. And the sixth time it was a trot, with a dropped inside shoulder. By the tenth time she was trotting through with her head down and relaxed and I was praising her. We did this in every corner of the arena and down every long side (thank goodness we had the arena to ourselves). I was able to give her that relaxed leadership she was looking for. I stayed focused on what I wanted (for her to stay on the rail) and then allowed it to happen by creating energy from behind her and leaving an open space in front of her. Once she went through an area completely relaxed, we'd move on.
Twenty minutes later and she was going around the entire arena, both directions with no fuss. I could have stopped there, but my goal wasn't to lunge her it was to ride her.
So I got on and we walked around the arena on the rail. Perfect. We changed direction. Halfway around the arena, she pricked her ears and dropped her shoulder. I picked up the inside rein and asked her to move over with my inside leg. We did a small circle and started over, quietly and calmly. She sighed and walked on. We finished the entire lap around the arena on a loose rein. At which point, I rode her deep into the scary corner and stopped her. We sat there for a few minutes, until she licked her lips and sighed. I hopped off and smothered her with praise and kisses and called it a day.
Today was a good reminder to stay in the moment you're in, not the one you had last week and not the one you might have tomorrow. It was also a good reminder that there are many roads to the temple. I just needed to use a different road today.