An hour long truck ride sitting next to a fuming husband who isn’t speaking to you at the moment gives you some time to think. And think I did.
What’s amazing to me about the human psyche is the constant and subconscious shift in baseline expectations that occurs in the back ground. Without some serious effort and perhaps a blog chronicling the path from A to B, it is easy to feel stuck or even a back wards slide that doesn’t truly exist.
On the truck ride home from the lesson, I pondered my own changes in “normal”. I started to ride with Trainer AB on May 31, 2019 and this was January 25, 2020, basically eight months later. With an average of 3 lessons a month that comes to 24 lessons and at 45 minutes a lesson that equals 18 hours of instruction. Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things given that over 5,000 hours passed during those months. But I ramble.
That very first lesson, I pulled in shaking visibly with nerves. Eeyore had taken an hour to load at home with the aid of the Hubby and he unloaded anxious and sweaty. I barely held it together to get on him, he barely held it together to stand at the mounting block. We made it a time or two around the arena with several melt downs on both our parts before Trainer had me dismount so she could try him out. She had a lot of good insights before I got back on and tried again. We did a few ground poles at the trot which he leapt over and galloped away from.
My most recent lesson? He self loaded in his own fashion with just me and a lunge line (no more dressage whip needed yay!), traveled relaxed and unloaded with a sigh of regret of his life choices that led him to this farm on this gorgeous winter day. We warmed up on our own then got right to work on the 20 m circle working on increasing his roundness, rhythm and bend before turning to the jump course you all saw on many video clips earlier this week.
And while I left feeling a tad frustrated at still needing told to sit up and not let him drag me down and while he still got a bit rushy and we did have a run out, well thinking on it good and hard we have come a damn long way.
As we neared home and the Hubby started talking to me again I put together a mental list of all the behaviors I now take for granted that were once major training issues:
– Trailer loading, relaxed travel, unloading calmly
– Standing mostly quiet at the trailer to be tacked. He still throws anything he can get his mouth on but that is who he is. This also includes standing still when being bridled and not running away as he did our first outing.
– Entering a new arena without having a nervous break down or screaming for other horses. I don’t recall the last screaming fit he had which used to be the soundtrack to all our rides at home or away.
– Warming up calmly. The warm up used to be half the lesson and I needed the help. Now? I’m expected to warm up w/t/c on my own with input only when something comes up. The instruction is saved for the “real” work.
– Ground poles get trotted or cantered over without a fuss. No more rushing and no more leaping over them. Also in this is his ability to go through standards that have no poles. That used to blow his mind completely and he would jump through the standards regardless.
Sure, all those things are basic skills any riding horse should have, but Eeyore wasn’t capable of those simple feats back in May. We have silently moved past those and on to other exercises/skills. It’s so easy to think about what we still aren’t doing right or what flaws in my position still need addressed because my brain has shifted the baseline expectations as we have progressed together as a team. I don’t stress about loading in the trailer because it is now an expectation that he will get on the darn thing when I ask without needing to recruit an army battalion to help me. I no longer slip his halter off beside the trailer in an open space with butterflies in my stomach because I expect him to stand still and take the bit.
It’s an interesting mechanism of thought processing. What used to be an issue is now barely a thought. The hope is that in another 8 months, sitting up and staying in 2 point longer after a jump will also become second nature, barely thoughts and Ill get to be frustrated about something new.