It’s easy to get bogged down in the things that aren’t going well. The areas that seem to constantly need improvement. The pieces of the puzzle that elude you.
For me right now it’s the 20 m circle. It’s frustrating that I seem to be no farther along in my ability to perform this essential task even with all the effort I’m putting in to working on it.
Each ride I dedicate a portion to the circle at the walk, trot and canter in both directions. Some days it seems as though I’ll never get it right. Others I feel like we just might be inching towards figuring it out.
I ride this exercise way better when in a lesson. It is a combination of having a visual focal point, Trainer AB, to create my circle around as well as the reminders to slow the trot, use more inside leg, own the outside corner of his mouth etc….
When on my own at home I get flustered as we go around and everything feels like it is falling apart and I’m not sure which piece to put back together first to salvage it. Do I focus on re establishing the bend? Or getting him on the bit? Or push him back out on the larger circle? Or moving forward more?
The answer is all the above. Sigh. Why can’t I have a lesson every day?
Even with this portion of my riding education remaining a bit stagnant, there is still progress going on in other areas.
One of these caught me off guard yesterday. It had been 10 days since I last hopped on the Orange Butthead. I was out of town for five of those days and the five prior he was healing from a muzzle induced rub on the corner of his mouth that blew up to the size of a grapefruit. Thankfully upon my return home he was back to normal.
It was time to get back to riding and I set up the arena to include a set of three trot poles and two verticals. I got on, worked through some flat work, did some circuits of the 20 m (ish) circle and then popped him over the jumps. When I got back off it dawned on me that last winter there was no way I could have given him 10 days off and then expected any actual work to be accomplished. This ride back would have been a disaster. A ride to get through so we could get back to the good rides.
Now I can expect him to work no matter the length of time he has had off. And he steps up to the plate albeit with some sass. That folks is major progress. Maybe not progress that is shown by jumping higher, being rounder or moving up a level but progress nonetheless and progress that has been a long time coming. There was a time I thought he’d never be able to get extended time off without coming back and nearly killing me.
And really he hasn’t changed that much. He still threw his head around in the first trot. He still tried to canter. He still tried to cut the corners. But I have changed. I now have both the tools and the confidence to ignore him and make him stay on the rail, in the trot, and knock off his insanity. Now it takes only a single time around before he gets his head out of his butt and gets to work. I feel more in control of myself and therefore of him.