Friday, December 6, 2013

Learning to Work

Wednesdays lesson had a few themes.  The first was about bending and forward, two things I forget to focus on when it's just me and Licorice.  Plodding around with his head cocked at an angle is not the right way to warm up.  He must stay forward and I must not nag with my leg!

Then there was the outside rein, which I'm prone to just letting go of and Licorice is prone to just ignoring even if I am holding on to it.  Which means we did some really ugly circles with Licorice's head pointing to the middle of the circle while the rest of his body drifted out to the wall and my hands raised up and did something that looked like sign language.  Not pretty.

The overall theme of our lesson was about work.  Licorice isn't used to working like this.  I've now owned him two months.  One month we rode and had progress and learned stuff about each other.  Month two Licorice got sick.  Then he colicked.  Finally, at the beginning of Month Three, we are hoping to start work and keep going!

The kind of work Licorice is used to do is called 'Going Around The Rail' and 'Jump That'.  He does both of those with no problem.  He is a trotting machine.  Get him on the rail with no contact and he will trot (okay, it's almost a jog) forever.  Point him at a jump and he will keep his sad trot and heave himself over a jump.  Over.  And over.  Which is what makes him a great beginner/husband kind of horse.  He doesn't mind if you're up there flopping around, no rein contact, no leg contact.  In fact, he prefers it.  He spends most of his time looking around.

Oh, there's my buddy from outside.  Hey, are they watering horses out there?  Oooh, is that me in the mirror?  Hi Trainer, are you eating something?  Can I have a bite?  Oops, I'll catch you the next time I come around.  I'm trotting.  There's the goat!  I think I see a car driving in.  Hey, look at the baby horse.  How cute is that?

So Wednesday, when we started asking him to pay attention to me and work, Licorice was a bit confused.  We'd take two gorgeous steps of on the bit and then he'd lift his head up to look around and see what he missed.  Then he'd go back to work for another step.  Then he'd want to look around.

Being that I'm not the world's greatest rider, what was my first answer?  Yep, you got it.  Pull his head down.  I got away with that twice before my trainer stepped in and reminded me that I have legs and that if I would stop mindlessly thumping them against his sides to try and get more trot, I might actually have a chance at communicating with them.

Sometimes it's so hard to see improvement when you have to go back and make sure you're not asking with every stride and that you're riding back to front.  They seem like such basic things.  And yet I have to remind myself constantly.  Of course, my list is miles long and when I ride without my trainer I have huge internal external dialogue (yes, I totally talk under my breath) where I remind myself "Don't nag, don't give away the reins, ride back to front, head up, look through the ears, turn your shoulders and hips, not your head, use your core, shoulders back, look up, heels down, long legs."  The list is endless.

So while Licorice is working on not getting distracted by external things, my goal for myself is to be there with him.  To pick one or two things about myself to focus on and let everything else go.  If I'm working on not nagging with my leg, I'm going to focus on that.  And I will try to let go of the thousands of other things that we need to work on.  It's one of the things I love/hate about dressage.  It's a never ending journey and there's always something to work on.


  1. So exciting that you are getting back into work now! :)

    I am also really bad about nagging with my leg. It's on my winter to-stop list.

  2. :) We are all a work in progress and I think you are doing great!