Sunday, August 22, 2010
One of the best things about owning horses is the learning curve--particularly when all my real experience in the last five years has been on-the-job.
We are actually quite lucky. As terrifying as Lena's first colic was, we all survived and are now all tuned into the warning signs. It could have been so much worse--a dramatic end to our horse-owning career before it even got started. I've heard stories like that and am grateful ours did not end that way for many more reasons than Lena has spots.
And as frustrated as I get with myself learning to ride Bar, the big brown horse has taught me so much about communication--how to be subtle and soft, learning how to ask, and being able to recognize the try. He is often more forgiving than I expect, giving me the opportunity to try something, be wrong, then move through it.
Learning to ride has been hard. I've taken some lessons on both Bar and Lena, and I've done a lot of reading and watching of videos, trying to make up for a woeful lack of riding and training knowledge. Mostly, it seems like the less I know the more I'm willing to work with the horses to see what's effective. Since that is different things with different horses, the learning seems to be constant. Ike once told me that is the mark of a good trainer, which I aspire to be in my own hunt-and-peck kind of way.
I also continue to poke away at my own abilities--feeling (and noting how it feels) when I'm in balance, trying to be light with my hands and cues, not wiggling too much in the saddle, etc. I can at least feel when I'm settled and right nine times out of ten these days. I can't always correct it instantaneously when I'm not, mind you, but I can feel it. The quiet bareback riding Bar and I have done seems to have helped a lot with my seat. Not relying on stirrups for balance, just settling into his rhythm--rocking as it is--seems to have given my spine and rear end some previously missing muscle memory.
Lessons, of course, are an ideal way to go about this process. The problem, though, is not only the cost, it's also meshing with the trainer. If you're not comfortable with the trainer, the motivation to find the cash is limited. Unfortunately, my favorite trainers are four hours away, which is a bit far. One of the reasons for our trip to Slide in October is to get Ike and Cheri's insight--as well as a much-needed horse-vacation for all of us. My brain seems to work well getting information, working through it on my own for awhile, then going back to build on it some more. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I'm both terrified and excited about the road that awaits us, not just at Slide but also as we roll onwards with our horses. I guess that describes much of my life over the last five years pretty well. It seems to be working, though--pushing me to keep learning and keep teaching, so it can't be all bad.