I'm not sure if it's a personality thing, a cultural thing since I'm an American, or if it's because I'm ADD, but I'm usually motivated by achieving a specific something. I always have a goal or milestone or deadline in mind when I'm doing something. It's pretty hardwired at this point.
In today's lesson, I noticed something in the mirror. We were working on cantering through some ground poles, teaching Theo to shorten his stride and sit on his haunches. It was very difficult and he had a hard time understanding the exercise. It took a lot of reps to get the idea, and then she started to shorten up the distances so he had to lift his shoulders and sit just to make his strides fit. It was pretty awesome sensation when we finally got it. He was truly uphill, like I felt the front of my saddle lift when he sat. It was just for those four strides, but now I know he can do it. While discussing our work between sets, I had mi papi in a big, relaxed trot to stretch out. After the effort of his collected canter work, a working trot was clearly very easy. I glanced in the mirror to check my leg position and noticed something far more interesting: Theo's tail was swinging.
Fi was infamous for her happy, swinging tail when in work. It was so natural for her. Theo, on the other hand, doesn't usually swing his tail. He's usually braced in about five different places, resistant to the work. It made sense when we started, it was hard for him. He didn't have the muscle or balance to make working through his back easy. After 8 months of work, we've managed to develop enough strength that he can trot around the ring with a lovely swing through his body. With his massive tail, it's very noticeable. He was also quietly chewing his bit and carrying himself without much help from me. He was the picture of calm, relaxed power. Trainer A was all smiles. It wasn't an easy or even particularly pretty lesson (hello, skipping poles and breaking to trot due to screwed up foot work), but the end results were something we couldn't have even attempted just a short time ago.
It never occurred to me to have 'swinging tail' as a milestone, but that's what it felt like when I saw that glimpse in the mirror. An achievement that needed to be documented and celebrated, even if no one else gets why I'm excited about it.
It's a struggle to learn to enjoy the process, but I think I'm starting to get somewhere with it. I have a theory that it's part of maturing as a rider. When you're first getting started, your achievements are very concrete: learn to post, first canter, first jump. As you go there are competitive goals or more complicated movements. Over time, the achievements get smaller and harder to define. It's not about 'hey, I rode a shoulder in!', it's about feeling that split second where a half half actually does what it's supposed to do or having a horse experience a light bulb moment during an exercise.
I feel so grown up. Though the downside is that I have to make sure Theo's tail is always brushed out and looking nice. If I'm going to watch his tail in the mirrors, I don't want to see stray shavings.