One of my students, Jeanne, has opened my eyes to blogging opportunities. She pointed out the other day during a lesson, that what we were working on would be a good blog subject. I stared blankly at her, missing the point. And she explained that some of the littlest of subjects, things that I take for granted and do 500 times every day, are things that people are trying to learn. She gave the example that sometimes it is a complete mystery to her on how to get on and start the ride. How do you decide if your horse is focused and ready to pick up the trot? How do you decide that he needs to stay in the indoor arena and not go straight outside, how do you decide to NOT longe the horse before you get on?
I appreciated her pointing out these subjects, because she is right. There is a lot to talk about in this very subject of “How to Begin”
They say that horses are the best teachers, and I have quite a few over the last 30 years to help me learn this lesson very well. In order to survive and thrive, I always gather information before I even swing a leg over a horse. I have a mental snapshot of what the last 5 days on the horse’s workout sheet looks like. Monday = dressage, Tuesday = light dressage and hills, Wednesday = hack in XC and jump school. Which puts me on a very relaxed and happy horse. This is a horse who is on time at school, paper is on the table and freshly sharpened pencil is at the ready, eager eyes are up and focused at the chalkboard.
Which is very different from:
Saturday = off, Sunday = off because I was teaching Sunday Jump, Monday = got shod, Tuesday = ?
So right away you know that this horse has had three days off, and might be frisky. But, along with the workout schedule of the horse, I’m also taking into consideration the horse’s personality. Is it the 4 year old cocky Connemara who throws spitballs at the teacher? Or is it the 10 year old TB who will start out the season at prelim and likes to smell the flowers on his way out to the arenas. Those are two very different horses, and how you start the ride can be the difference between success or frustration.
And if that isn’t enough, I’m always taking in information about the atmosphere of the day. Is the farrier there and making noise, is my ride near dinnertime and that shortens the attention span of the horse? How many other horses are being ridden and in which arenas? Is it raining or is it sunny? This sounds like a complex group of questions to ask, but it only takes a moment to suss up what you need vs. what the environment is throwing at you.
And now we get to the point where Jeanne would say: “Great, so you decide you know where the demons are and in which corners of the arena, but how do you decide to conquer them?”
My go to plan for creating a fruitful and productive ride are thusly:
- Expand the “arena” only when warranted.
- Canter at least 3x per lead.
- Ride in sets
- Finish with relaxation work.
And if you are wanting more explanation on those 4 items… tune in to the next blog.