Wednesday evening lesson report - My husband Sergio came along with me to take pictures and video, as you can see above. It was interesting afterward to hear his point of view, especially since he doesn't know (or care) much about horses. "She seemed like she was not of this world" was his strangely poetic reply when I asked him what he thought of us.
Here's the mise en scene: after a couple of weeks of summer-like temperatures and blazing sun, yesterday we had clouds, a fresh sea breeze and a slight chill in the air. All the animals (including humans) at the stable seemed to be frisky - the dogs were chasing each other around and barking at the kids, the kids were running back and forth yelling at each other and swinging plastic bags and other fun noisy objects at the horses. And of course, the horses responded accordingly. Even the old lesson horses were acting up, like a normally lazy pony who spooked and dumped his rider, then promptly started galloping around the arena with his leg stuck through one of his reins. Or the 18 year old mare whose heat cycle was apparently too much for her and decided to try to tempt one of the school geldings into some impromtu nookie. Add that to the fact that two little girls were jumping grids at the end of the arena and every so often they would lose control and one of their horses would come cantering through our lesson.
Starbuck was also a little footsore from her trim on Tuesday, I got to the stable late so I rushed tacking her up and when I finally had her ready to go every square meter of the arena was full so I had to longe her in the scrubby grassy part where she pays way more attention to trying to snatch a bite to eat than she does to my instructions.
You know how all those Natural Horsemanship folks talk about setting your young horse up for success? Well this was a perfect example of what NOT to do. But on the other hand, we're now at a point where I can't give her the day off just because I'm not absolutely sure she won't dump me. So I mounted up (from the off side and with hardly any circling at all, thank you very much) and started our warm up.
Right off the bat she was fidgety, tense and distracted - her head was swinging all over the place, up, down, left, right, back at me, ... if there was something even slightly visible she wanted to check it out, and two times out of three it turned out to be something she found scary. So we warmed up with a fair amount of contact instead of on the buckle, but we finally got her loosened up enough to join the rest of the class. We started trotting on a circle with the rest of the students, but she spooked often enough that Marina put us on the inside track to work on transitions. I still find it really challenging to stay one step ahead of her and find different things to ask her to do constantly so she stays focused on me but I guess this is just something I'll get better at as I gain more experience.
At any rate, I tried my best to keep her occupied with limited success and she spooked a few of times but for once I was relaxed, balanced and with it enough to use my one-rein stop on her and get us both settled down and back to work. As anxious a person as I am, it's so hard to focus on releasing tension and relaxing my muscles and deep breathing when I want to focus on "WHY WON'T SHE GO SLOWER!!!" but I'm slowly learning to do so.
So this is why my husband referred to her as "not of this world" - she was in a universe of her own the whole time where everything was really interesting and scary at the same time. He said he had expected her to be more focused but also understood that just like a normal ADD teenager she has good days and bad. But what was most revealing was when I asked him if he had been afraid for me when she spooked (he's always worried I'm going to fall off and break something) and he said that as a matter of fact I seemed so sure of myself and confident the whole time that he hadn't worried about it at all.
So in the end Wednesday's lesson wasn't so much about Starbuck's progress but my own. And it's about damn time! I get so wrapped up working towards shaping her into my dream horse that I tend to forget that I've got a long way to go before I'm her dream rider.