Back to Work
After weeks of waiting today I was finally able to saddle up Achates! I think the both of us were reverberating with excitement over it. Achates was in full form, perking up his ears when he heard the jingling sound of the girth, and constantly turning around as I put the saddle on as if to say “Hurry up! Hurry up! I’m ready to go!”.
I think that his positive anticipation is a true testament to what building a relationship through your training can do. Having that emotional working bond with your horse goes a long way and opens up a line of communication that you wouldn’t get through intimidation.
I didn’t expect much today when I got on, my main concern was whether or not he was moving off correctly and soundly. Thankfully he was! I was pleasantly surprised to see that we pretty much picked up where we had left off. He came through and forward and was actually pushing into contact, success! There of course were issues in our timing, which will get better as we get back into our training schedule. There were also times when he would back off my leg and fall into old habits of sucking back and completely avoiding contact. When this happened I let him have his mouth and focused solely on going forward.
If there has been anything I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks, working with different horses, it’s that forward comes first. By this I don’t mean forcing your horse into the forward movement, but encouraging them. You can do this by rewarding your horse for what they actually give you. Do they move off from your leg? If they do, then great! If not then reinforce the aid with your stick. If it still doesn’t work then repeat the process and when they finally do what you want or even think about doing it make sure you let them know that they did the right thing.
I think sometimes when we’re training our horses we forget that the mental pressure that we exert on them can be just as forceful as the physical pressure their bodies go through. You wouldn’t expect a kid in first grade who’s learning their times tables to jump straight up to calculus. So why would you expect the same from your horse? You want to gradually build up their mental strength to handle your training as it becomes more intensive. Exerting too much pressure early on, in my opinion, can push you back in your training and build up a wall in the line of communication you have with your horse. Which in the long run could be harder to go back and fix. I think the best way to think about it exactly how my trainer tells me everyday “Ask often, expect little or nothing, and reward generously.” Keeping this philosophy in mind you can build a positive communicating relationship with your horse. One that I think over time will make them more responsive to you.
Keeping this encouraging thought process in mind I was also able to get a couple of spectacular seconds of true throughness from him. It was absolutely magical feeling him raise his back and round himself while maintaining his forward momentum. Even those these moments where fleeting and far in between the fact that he was able to retain them after being laid up was encouraging.
I’m really hoping that we can keep this positive momentum going as we get back into full training mode. More than anything I can’t wait to keep going on this journey with my warrior.