Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ready to Learn

First, sorry about the spotty blogging.  I just haven't had the same amount of free time that I've had in the past and between the holidays, the winter colds and flu and just too much to do I haven't been riding super regularly.  Licorice continues to be a good boy.

It's finally officially official.  Tessa has a new owner.  She and her boy will be competing in their first pony club show on the 18th.  I'm so excited for both of them and so relieved that I was able to find her such a great home.

So, my trainer posted this article on her Facebook page http://dressagedifferent.com/2013/03/06/our-responsibility-to-dressage-trainers/.  This paragraph jumped out at me.

First and foremost you must come to the lesson ready to learn. You must listen with both ears and leave your ego on the mounting block. You will be surprised to find it is sometimes difficult to do. Coming to a lesson with a mind that is ready to learn, without preconceived notions of what should and should not happen, is essential to learning. 

I don't disagree with this at all.  In fact, what I want to talk about today is how I am TOO much this kind of student.  I have a negative ego when it comes to horses.  I have confidence that dips below the radar.  I have a hard time developing my 'feel' because I know that I don't know anything.  Beginner's mind is good for a lot of things, but beginner's mind mixed with fear makes for an owner who will un-train her horse.

Licorice came with bad ground manners.  I've been trying to work on them, but I flounder, not knowing if I want him to stop *here* or *there*.  I use 5lbs of force when I should use 15 and then none.  Or I use 15lbs of force and swim in my guilt of wondering if I even gave him a clear signal.

I took Licorice for a trail walk the other day.  I was too chicken to ride out by myself, so I led him.  Not my best plan.  By the time we were down the driveway, my heart was thumping out of my chest.  Licorice picked up on this and started getting tense and nervous.  Which meant his head went up to 19 hands and he froze.  Then he spun.  We managed to make it a little ways down the road anyway and then we started back.

I had to stop and circle him to keep him from barging over me with his shoulder.  He wasn't paying attention to me at all and I was doing a poor job of being a leader.  I get so concerned about being overly harsh with him that I allow behavior that is shit.  Which is funny because I don't do that with my own kid.  Yes, sometimes I look back and realize I could have been kinder and gentler with my child, but for the most part she respects me because she has VERY clear limits.  I KNOW I need to do this with my horse.

BUT I go back to being an empty vessel.  Which means that I am often AMAZING in a lesson.  You tell me to lift my wrist 1/2 inch and tilt my pelvis and pull my shoulders down and I will.  More trot?  Ok.  Half halt?  On it.  But left to my own devices, I'm like a robot waiting for instructions.

Most of this is just food for thought for me.  I need to find the balance between open mind and empty mind.  Sounds easy enough, but I need to practice this.  My goal for 2014 is to allow myself to make mistakes.  Even BIG MISTAKES with my horse.  I need to experience failure in order to build our success.

Also, I think my horse is cute.  Not related, but it's nice to be in love with my horse without any 'buts'.
My pony loves the goat.


  1. Congrats on selling Tessa! I know that is a huge weight off.

  2. Great that Tessa's all set! Good decision all around.

    It almost doesn't matter exactly what you want Licorice to do on the ground - just make up your mind and stick to it - there's no "correct", there's just how you want him to be. It's inconsistency that's the real bane of training - the horse can't learn anything if the answer you want keeps changing. Just decide, be as precise as you can, and it'll come together.

  3. regarding the walking trail walk and nerves/respect, you should watch some Monty Roberts videos about trailer loading and handling. Monty isnt always my cup of tea but he teaches some good basics about horse handling and how they should act. It's pretty remarkable actually.