Time to Drop the Excuses!

Today’s Tip: It’s easy to complain about what our horses do wrong, but if we just dig in and get to work on figuring out a solution, it really is possible to make quick progress. Read on to learn more about today’s epiphanies!

Classy and I had a great ride today, but we almost didn’t. I had some errands to run this morning, came home for lunch and (a little selfishly) a brief nap, and then decided to watch the Kentucky Derby and do homework. It was also very windy. Have I mentioned that I hate the wind? I was using that as part of my excuse to do other things rather than ride. The forecast told me that it was going to stay windy until after it got dark. I was feeling tempted to just skip it for the day. By the time the Derby was over, though, the wind had calmed down to a strong breeze and I forced myself off the couch and into the real world.

It was definitely worth it! Sure, he was a little goofy to start, but he soon realized the trees weren’t going to blow on top of him and he settled down a little. There were a couple of things that I really focused on today. One was that I have realized I mess around with my rein length…a lot. We’ll be going along and one of us adjusts something and I adjust my reins. Before we canter, I always shorten my reins. Obviously if I’m messing around with my reins that much, he can’t possibly be staying in a consistent frame. So today I tried to stop making excuses for adjusting my reins and started to work with what I had. I found a length I liked and then worked to keep in in the same frame. Most of the time it worked really well. It might take some adjusting to figure out exactly the right place that will work for both a regular walk, a flat walk, and a canter (we’re not really focusing much on the running walk right now). The canter in particular was a different frame than we’re used to, a little longer and lower than usual. The walk work, though, did feel much more consistent. I knew when he got too strung out, I knew when he was overflexed, and I also knew when he was right where he was supposed to be. We did have a moment of spooking over the turkeys where I did shorten my reins way up again, but as soon as his head came out of the sky and he settled back into his work, they went right back.

The other thing I focused on and stopped making excuses for why I couldn’t fix it was his tendency to rush downhill. Where I ride isn’t very flat and he hasn’t been balancing himself as well as I’d like, which causes him to rush. Today instead of “yelling” at him through my reins, I worked to see what I do to really fix the problem. During the steepest parts of the downhill slope and whenever he’d start to rush, I’d do a series of half halts and figured out a good sense of timing for where they needed to happen. I also had to be very strong with my inside leg, really to the point of doing a shoulder in. Getting him off-center and getting a real feel for what is going on with him was all that needed to happen. As soon as I stopped making excuses, it happened!

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