I'm tired of having my lessons rescheduled and bounced around. I'm tired of feeling like I need to question what I'm being told. I'm tired of not being ready and not realizing it until I'm already at the show. I'm definitely tired of feeling like I should hide at shows because I'm there with riders that aren't ready for what they're doing and it's embarrassing.
It's an awkward situation. I had a lesson this morning (7am because that was the only availability after my Saturday jumping lesson got cancelled) that wasn't at all positive. Theo was giving me the stink eye about flexing and going forward at the same time. It's our latest battle and one that will take awhile since he needs to develop a lot more muscle before it stops being a struggle. He currently drops behind my leg and then bucks when I use the whip to reinforce my leg. He'll flex, sure, but only if he can go slow. He'll go forward so long as he isn't connected and flexing. Combine the two and it's just too hard for him to deal with because he's a special little princess.
Very, very special
She wanted me to open my inside rein and guide his muzzle in. Not like a little bit, because yes, opening up my inside hand is a useful thing to do at times. She wanted it way open. I finally threw down and said no, I wouldn't, because I don't want him to break at the shoulder, I want him to break at the poll. I lose control of the neck when I open my inside rein like that. I have a very tiny target and I will never, ever get it with an open inside rein. He's way too good at evading. I have better results with a correction that's slightly indirect, then release, the way Mary told me to do it. And if he doesn't give, get after him but you have to release every time. No 'guiding', he flexes and stays there because he was told to, not because he's being 'guided'. Sure enough, after a couple of reps, he started to give. He was just being stubborn about it, trying to see if he could wear me out. It's his favorite trick. Once he started to give and chew, we were able to move on in the lesson. And suddenly she was instructing me to use that half halt to get the flex instead of the open rein. I think she was genuinely wrong and I'm just now figuring it out.
Theo and I are now pushing our ways through all of the struggles I probably should have had over the past two years. Submission to the bit, submission to the leg, impulsion, not bucking to get out of work, etc. The stuff he is most resistant on. No, do not tell me to slow the tempo right now, I want his hind legs to snap. I can always slow this horse down, now I need to teach him to pick up the tempo when I ask. I need both sides of the pendulum. He's pulling through my left rein, my left shoulder has failed, I need to try something else. But there's nothing else she can give me to try. Don't tell me to pick his head up, he'll retract his neck and brace. Downtown is his home, he only gets to come up when he's relaxed, hauling his head up isn't going to get him off his shoulders all by itself.
I don't like this. I don't like change, but I also don't like having two disparate views. And after bumping into Mary at the show where Theo was carting his leaser around, I watched her adult ammy warm up. She was prepared. She was very prepared for the level. Her horse was together and ready to go. Not perfect, the indoor was super scary! But definitely prepped and ready to go lay down a trip. Her student was confident in the work and you could tell it was bread and butter for them.
As my friend said last night, that's what showing is supposed to be. Not an exercise in survival. And she was pleased to hear that I was finally remembering that. Theo may be a half cart horse mutt (or a short angry goat as he was dubbed over beers, another story for another post), but he's a correct mover and perfectly capable of good scores at the lower levels. Good scores being upper 60's. If I'm not consistently getting upper 60's at Training, what the hell did I think I was doing at First? Don't blame the horse, the horse is fine. You just weren't ready.
Totally not ready and got a 57% to prove it
This is the same friend that tore into me about the spur rubs. It's important to have educated, honest horse friends. I wish she didn't live so far away, she'd come out and chase me with a lunge whip to inspire forward any day. That's a real horse friend.
The realization is settling in and I'm still shifting my viewpoint to this new reality. I haven't really figured out what to do. I don't want to change barns, Mary's barn is too fancy and far away so I'd still be trailering out for lessons. Most barns want you to be in a program with them. Theo is happy at his barn, with his shed and field and 24/7 turn out and pony to beat up. I may just need to take a break from my weekly lessons and training ride, take responsibility for my horse's training back. He'd still have his leaser, but be mostly my problem.
I really hate change. This may take awhile. But the process is getting started.