Friday, March 16, 2012

Feeling the try and trying to feel

Bar really wishes I would stop steering him like a bus
Calabar is a trying horse, and not in the way it sounds. (Though sometimes that, too.)  He is usually trying very hard to do what is asked, even when it does not make any sense in his universe. Learning to recognize that try and reward him enough to move on to the next thing is the first step, followed closely by learning what the right thing actually feels like, and--as all of this wasn't enough for my pea-brain--knowing when to give him a break before he gets bored. Or frustrated. Either is no bueno and catching it before is way better than after. Way. Better.

To do that sometimes requires letting go of "he needs to do this all perfectly first" and also "well, he can't do that until we master this." Those voices are so irritating, aren't they?

Case in point is our current work on the turn and the trot, fundamentally getting him to use his hind end and respond to more subtle cues from the reins. It is not easy for either one of us, but he's working with me and listening. It's important, however, to get out of my own head and give him a break, not keep drilling him over and over on the same thing.

So when we've done several rounds in both directions and he knows he's done it right, we do something else. Sometimes we wander around over obstacles at a walk, on a loose rein and sometimes I let him canter. It's rarely a perfect uphill canter, but he's happy, his ears are up and he's relaxed.

I was feeling guilty about the above--letting him canter willy nilly however he felt like it, giving him a mental break before we get something perfect--and then I read this guest post by Katie Hill on Retired Racehorse. Her ten tips are golden, and not just because many of them are things Bar taught me along our journey. They make sense! They are easy to do! I don't need to buy side reins (which would likely have been an unmitigated disaster with two klutzes on either end of them.)

There are so many more things for Bar and me to learn, but we are muddling through better than I dared hope in some of my darker moments. In fact, we even may be doing a little better than muddling through.

I'll leave you with a great bit of word knowledge from Katie as an added bonus--describes both my horses quite well, actually.
"(According to the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins the origin of the word shenanigans is likely the Irish sionnachuighim — “I play the fox” or “I play tricks” – inspired by an Irish Thoroughbred, perhaps?)"


Anonymous said...

I think that you've stuck with it and really want to get there makes all the difference. It's fun to read about how things go and where you're getting to!

lmel said...

I've done the same with Harley--when he does something correctly, I let him "goof off" and relax. I think it's good for his head. Sounds like you're doing a good job with Bar. For me, it's a work in progress for both of us--teaching Harley what he has never learned, and re-learning what I once knew!

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

What a great post.

Knowing when to quit is so important!

Val wishes I would stop the auto(mobile) steering style as well - my default method when I stop concentrating or tense up. More like a bicycle, less like a car was what my trainer taught me.

I have been toying with the idea of cantering Val, now that our saddle seems sorted out. (we've done it on the beach, but not in the confines of the arena)

My fears of imperfect canter departs has held me back. Perfect or not, we'd both probably enjoy it. :)