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We Are Flying Solo

January 5, 2010

Patience, Grasshopper

Riding & training are not always a linear, forward progression of learning. In fact, if they are, you should get off your horse & back away slowly because he is obviously not actually a horse & you may well have been sucked into a parallel universe.

Actual training goes like this:

Ok, horsey, this is what we need to do.

Oh, good try, horsey, you've almost got it!

Hullo, horsey, are you still paying attention? Just one more try...

Crap, bad horsey! That is not even close to what I wanted!

Hey! You suck -- why did you just give me the horsey version of the finger??!

OMG, why did I even try this?? I give up, we'd better just do something else because this was obviously a terrible idea.

Ok, it's been a week since we tried that new thing, let's try it just one time.

Oh, horsey, that was pretty close! Good horsey, I take it back, you don't suck!

Yay, horsey, that was it!

(And here, a wise horsewoman walks away, but most of us try one more time & then return to "Crap!" and repeat many times)

It's so hard to find that balance point between pushing too hard & getting greedy for success & waiting until your horse is really ready & understands what you are asking. Since it is freezing ass cold, I put on 47 layers of clothing & just did some long lining on Sunday.

As you know, Solo can get panicky longeing/lining due to his past but has come a long way. Well, he was having a "bad horsey" day & when I asked for a little canter, he soon cross cantered, freaked himself out, & spun around backing up wide-eyed.

I have perfected the art of cursing at your horse very nicely so that he doesn't know that you are cursing his hide.

But I took a deep breath, got him moving forward at the walk & trot again, tracked him left (non-panicky direction) and slowly & patiently worked him up to canter again there, then went back to the right & finally got a canter without stopping & spinning. And there we were finished.

As P says, "Get to the hard side through the easy side."

Ohhhhhhhhhhh, but it's hard to be that patient. Especially, when you KNOW it's a skill they have done before, but they are having a "regression" day. It is crucial to be able to take that VERY deep breath & muster all available calm & patience to work through the bad moments.

And it is not failure to end on an easy note or a try & have a go again another day. You can't win a physical battle with a horse & he doesn't understand your frustration & chances are he's even MORE frustrated then you.

The recipe for success calls for simple, yet very expensive ingredients:
  • Patience
  • Calm
  • Fairness
  • Patience
  • Patience
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Sympathy
  • Did I mention patience?
And always be prepared for Those Days. You know the ones, where your horse appears to have forgotten all progress & is quite simply & wildly ignorant of your requests? Yup, those.


  1. Oooh, yes, I can totally relate. I, too, do the pleasant-sounding cursing out of the pony. It's also super fun when you get to growl at them (I think this makes Salem not spook because he's too busy laughing at me).
    And training certainly tends to have a "one step forwards, two steps back" pace to it. I sometimes get frustrated and wish we were further along -- but, as long as we are making progress, I remind myself that we're doing alright.

  2. You left out crying. Sometimes with success I will cry.

    There I said it.

  3. You got that right...regression days, bad horsey days, return to 'crap' and repeat. Horses do teach us a lot about patience.

  4. I'm still trying to learn not to push for "one more time!!" and then we lose it, and then I'm frustrated that I didn't quit when we kinda got it. So glad to know I'm not alone!

  5. You are right, lh, some do cry. I am more prone to rage than tears personally, but I could see where it could easily be brought on! Jen, you are DEFINITELY NOT alone! There are many many many of us out here that thank our lucky stars that horses, while they never forget, are forgiving creatures and give us second (and third and fourth) chances!