I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder.” It’s a pretty basic concept, but it’s so easily forgotten when you are in the middle of the problem with pressure weighing down on you to solve it. It’s easy to get frustrated with horses sometimes; they seem to have a knack for doing an exercise perfectly one day and the next day having it all blow up in your face. The easy way out is to get emotional and either give up or try to overpower the horse. In my personal experience, these two options usually don’t work out very well. So I’ve taken to working smarter to solve my riding problems.
Miles has always been a grumpy, slightly lazy horse. Most of the time I don’t mind it, because super quiet also goes along with this personality combination and that trait is what’s most important to me. However, when your #1 issue is going forward and opening up the stride, this attitude becomes annoying and very, very frustrating. I’ve tried letting it go and not making a big deal about it (which generally results in no change of pace), I’ve tried some negative reinforcement (my mileage with this varies, depending on the technique), but bar none the best solution is out-smarting my horse.
He’s grumpy about galloping around the ring. So sometimes I ride and we never take a single canter step. I work on other ways of moving off my leg such as collecting and extending the walk and trot, or leg yielding, turns on haunches and turns on the forehand. These are all good things to work on without arguing about our hot button topic (galloping). It reinforces Miles’ response to my leg, and forces me to be more cognizant of each and every step.
Other days I never set foot in an arena and instead we hit the trails, usually doing some walk, trot and canter in the jump field. This works remarkably well, and a hack around the field never fails to get Miles moving forward. Yesterday the Best Horse Husband Ever came to the barn from work to walk with us back to the jump field for our first excursion there on our own. Miles was very brave walking there all on his own and nothing bothered him. We even worked on getting him through a ditch with running water (I had to get off and lead him through, and it took a bit of coaxing), but he did it! Then we did a little bit of work in the field and Miles was HOT. But I handled it well, and dealing with him like this is great for my confidence in being able to, ya know, ride my own horse.
All in all, I’m really liking this whole “ride smarter” plan… it’s working well for us so far!