I'm probably the only one that does that over teaching a horse a movement.
It's weird when you try to improve your riding off of clinics you audit, videos you watch, books you read. You don't have the instant feedback you get in a lesson or when you ride in a clinic. That lack of reinforcement makes it harder to stick to the plan when you're not sure. When under pressure, most riders fall back to what they know. It's safe, it's secure, and you're confident you can do it.
Even when you know you're doing it wrong.
I was reminded after my last post that using a pole to teach a change is inviting more problems in my flying changes. I defended myself, I'm human, but I thought about it. I didn't come up with Thoughtful Equestrian out of the blue. Should I use a pole to teach a change? I damn well know better. A trick from ages ago when I needed to put swaps on ponies quickly so they could be sold as jumpers isn't the way to teach my horse a change so I can get my bronze. Gods forbid I push past Third and need more than one change.
Fourth seems a stretch with this barbarian
I can defend myself with the fact that he has this weird pseudo-change that was installed before I met him and a pole prevents it. And that will always be there as something I need to manage and combat. He does this weird change of lead where he doesn't really break to the trot, but there's definitely an extra beat in the change like he touches the ground an extra time. But when I'm being honest, that was a cop out for the fact that I'm genuinely afraid of getting this wrong. Trainer A is good eyes on the ground and has put changes on a horse, but not for competition. I'm her first rider going Second, much less schooling Third. I need to go see Mary Howard again as soon as the roads are safe. Stupid New Hampshire weather. But in the meantime, I can try to play her voice in my head.
I saddled up on Saturday with the mantra that my horse already knows how to change. I just have to teach him the cue. He's done it plenty of times in the past, just not in any kind of predictable way. That's a pretty radical paradigm shift from where I was on Friday. On Friday I was scared I wouldn't be able to get the behavior, that he was too old (he just turned 15), that I didn't know how to ask properly, that he wouldn't know how to do it. I fell back to what I know because I was so scared of failing.
I made myself follow the plan I knew was correct, not what I was comfortable with. I developed the canter I wanted (aka very forward and almost hot), got him responsive off both legs, and then I asked for the change on a short diagonal. There was some flail, of course. He's a total greenie at this. But he changed once in both directions. No poles. No drama. Lots of smoke out of his ears but no disconnected changes. Including the elusive left to right.
Once I got the two changes and administered the appropriate amount of cookies, I went and did something else. They were super duper green, but he did them and that's all that matters at this point. No need to harp, just another thing he has to do now, the same as a turn on the haunches or a simple change. Nothing to stress over. He's well rewarded for the effort so it doesn't seem to overly bother him. I . . . almost think this is something that comes naturally to him? Maybe? He's certainly built for it.
And then we spent Sunday out on the trails because it was 42* in January and we'd earned a day off
He still thinks I've lost my damn mind, make no mistake, but he's willing to humor me for cookies.
Soooooo maybe I need to tell myself that my horse already has a change, it just needs work. Because that's a totally different frame of mind. I don't need to teach him how to do a flying change, I need to teach him how to respond to the cue for the flying change. And deal with the smoke coming out of his ears that I now want him to swap leads after a year of convincing him to knock that evasion off in the counter canter.
Maybe I need to do the exercises to improve his canter, get him hot off my leg, and set him up so that the change is super easy rather than getting carried away with making sure that I succeed with poles and props and theatrics. And sabotaging myself along the way.
Why are horses so hard?