I’m brimming with confidence. My rides are non-eventful steps up the learning curve ladder. Remember the game Chutes and Ladders? Each leg yield like on a square in the board game progresses up the ladder to, let’s say a lovely bend in a corner. The sky is the limit, largely because of Mulligan’s wonderful attitude and enthusiasm for everything labeled Learning. I am believing I can raise his jumping level by year end. I’ve mastered our partnership and we can dance with the stars.
And suddenly we land on a square that sends us spiraling down a winding chute. Mulligan and I had an argument and I feared the honeymoon was over.
Key words in that last sentence. . . I feared. Interesting how fear can change a person from an insightful horsewoman to a 50-something amateur old bitty with brittle bones, a neophyte whose horse doesn’t love her anymore. I was certain I couldn’t train a plant to grow.
My fall from grace started around lead changes, Mulligan rejected my leg after a jump and moved into it rather than away from it. I increased the pressure and he bucked. HUH? What happened to the meticulous groundwork, the sensitization exercises, the flatwork building blocks of leg yielding and turns on the forehand, the strong foundation I thought were in place?
Now my supple well-prepared thoroughbred was grinding his teeth and we weren’t best friends in La-La land anymore. Furthering the proof of my launch from the pedestal I envisioned he had me on, he started rushing his fences, defiantly throwing his shoulder inward in the corners. Like a puppy whose tail I had accidently stepped on, I wasn’t his cool mommy anymore.
Here’s where the Voice of Reason rolls his eyes, and steps in with what I need to do:
Step One: STOP IT RIGHT NOW! Take a breath and let him take a breath. Collect your thoughts.
Step Two: OMG, GET REAL! Get your head out of your you-know-what and Pull Up the Big Girl Pants! Making a career out of beating yourself up is utterly useless. No one got murdered, no need for a lifetime sentence of guilt. In an era where journalists are getting beheaded by terrorists, no need to cut your own off because your ride is not going as planned. Get a perspective, Sistah!
Step Three: Resume training, taking each component separately. He’s a different horse right now, and an angry, confused horse cannot learn, so bring him back slowly to the point where he can. In this case, that’s a quiet halt after a fence or a simple change at the end of the line.
Good grief, it’s one thing to have humility, listen to your horse, have a sense of justice. It’s another thing entirely to self-deprecate yourself to worthless-human-being-ness.
Horses have taught me that every challenge, problem, weakness throws a magnifying glass on what I need to work on – that could be physical – like posture and conditioning; it could be mental – focus or knowledge; or it could be emotional – containment, praise, etc. That’s the beauty of the process, there are no failures because each challenge leads to an Aha moment, which leads to future success. Cool huh?
The Person who makes no mistakes is unlikely to make ANYTHING.
We all hear the cowboys say “reward the try” when training horses something new. How about rewarding your own try?