Dog Days of Summer

I’m lacking a bit of inspiration in my riding at the moment, likely because I’ve been out of town three out of the last four weekends, and Trainers M and L are still on the road for another week – thus, it’s hard to have any sort of consistency in my schedule.  I’m hosting a huge group of friends at our family cottage this weekend, so this week has been devoted to menu planning and grocery shopping, as well as a few social things, so Schmoodle has been slightly neglected.

It’s been really hot all week to I had intended to just do a bareback hack-n-graze yesterday, but by the time I got to the barn it had burned off a bit, so I stuck the saddle on.

Mistake #1, I had no real plan beyond getting Schmoodle forward after our lacklustre performance in that area in our Saturday lesson. Honestly, the less said about this ride – our only ride of the week!! –  the better, as it did not accomplish anything good. For the sake of posterity, here is what sucked about it:

  1. No real progressive plan of well-thought-out exercises.
  2. When I did decide on an outcome – more forward – I tried to solve the problem I was having on Saturday, rather than riding the horse I had under me today.
  3. Halfway through, I changed my mind and decided to work on consistency in the bend and frame. Too bad I hadn’t set myself up to actually achieve that, through a progressive plan of well-thought-out exercises.
  4. When Schmoodle got stroppy and resistant (likely due to my POOR RIDE PLANNING), I increased the pressure rather than changing his mind. Dude. Fail. Especially as it was still pretty hot and he was likely just tired and fed up.

And the one big problem that reared its head: controlling my emotions. When Schmoodle gets yucky in the contact, refuses to hold the bend, or insists he’s never heard of a half-halt from the seat before, I take it personally. Rather than slowing my roll, taking a break and thinking of a better way to achieve what I want, I get more and more insistent, almost mad. This usually means a heavier contact and seat and more emphatic leg aids, which always, without fail, winds Schmoodle up and, even if I get the result I want, he is not relaxed about it. Then I feel like a sad, bad horse mom 😥

A couple of things I try to keep in mind, many of which I have gleaned from insightful Chronicle of the Horse Forums posters, but on which I obviously need to be concentrating more:

  1. If a bystander watching your ride is seeing a lot of dramatic flailing on your horse’s part, it’s not necessarily the end of the world, as it’s possible that he is just having a moment. But if this bystander would be seeing a lot of dramatic, flailing aids on your part – that is NEVER good. No matter what outcome your aids have, they should always look and feel tactful and sympathetic.
  2. There’s a difference between a horse saying, “Yes, ma’am!” and being afraid of you. I don’t ascribe to the theory that the horse should be more afraid of your consequences than of spooking at the jump or whatever. Stay your horse’s friend: a herd-leading, moral authority-wielding type of friend, but still – friend, not tyrant.

I showed my remorse (lol, no, I know horses don’t understand apologies) by giving Schmoodle an extra-long shower and an extra mint. And I let him hand graze, or more precisely, bareback graze, as really should have been my whole plan in the first place.

Sorry, silly man.

Sorry, silly man.

It’s all good, I know I haven’t ruined him, but still. Can’t wait to get back to our normal schedule next Tuesday.

Anyone else have these struggles with mental composure? Any handy tricks for those moments of madness?

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