Who me? Trying to eat grass?!
In this crazy roller-coaster that is training a young horse (one week she's as smooth as silk and I'm on top of the world, the next week she's a rodeo bronc and I'm rolling in the dust), any visible improvement is a mixed blessing. Sure, you're thrilled that you've finally worked through that rough spot and In this crazy roller-coaster that is training a young horse (one week she's as smooth as silk and I'm on top of the world, the next week she's a rodeo bronc and I'm rolling in the dust), any visible improvement is a mixed blessing. Sure, I'm always thrilled that we've finally worked through that rough spot and that there's something new (like not getting bucked off on the scary - oops I mean "left" - side of the arena) that we can enjoy doing together. It's what's kept me going for 2 and a half years and what will hopefully keep me going for many more. But I also have in the back of my mind a little voice which reminds me that after each summit we reach will necessarily come a valley which in some cases seems to be much deeper and longer than it has any reason to be.
Of course, it works the other way as well, so when we're having a really bad streak I'm always bouyed up by the certainty that things have to get worse before they get better. It's easy to get frustrated when your horse seemingly "unlearns" something they were doing perfectly well a week ago, but over time I've learned to recognize the "worse" phase as a sign of good things to come.
John Lyons, a trainer whose literature has helped Starbuck and I immensely, has described the typical equine learning cycle as "Bad --- Good --- Worse --- Better --- Not So Bad --- Learned !" and I've found this to be pretty much true. On the spooking thing (any spook which causes Starbuck to go somewhere I don't want her to is immediately followed by circles in place and quickly returning back where we started) we seem to have gotten through the "Good" and the "Worse" phases and so if this holds true, right now we're on the "Better" phase. Of course, there could always be another "Worse" phase lurking ahead but honestly we've had such a good week that I'm letting myself be optimistic.
We had lessons on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and even though she had plenty of energy and I could feel that she was worried about the many monsters lurking just outside the arena, she had very few spooks and made an obvious effort to listen to me and keep herself under control. We've been working on a cloverleaf pattern over low jumps and I was able to do it several times on a loose rein, and I'm mostly able to rate her speed at a canter with my seat. On Friday evening, she didn't spook even once, and on one go we did the exercise even better than some of the lesson horses. And the photos are from a short trail ride we took after our lesson this morning - at one point we had to ride down a deserted country road in between two rows of houses with loads of dogs barking on either side, and all of a sudden there were like 5 cars coming from both directions and even some guy riding his bike with a miniature doberman running beside him on a leash. And we survived! There was definitely a spook and a little cantering in place, but I got her under control in a matter of seconds and absolutely nothing happened. Tomorrow I plan to take her out again to see what new improbable convergence of scary things we can find.
But essentially, roller coaster or no, I'm really excited that we have finally reached a point where I am actually enjoying riding her every single time.