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We Are Flying Solo

January 2, 2014

Are You Riding Your Horse Or Just Reacting To Him?

Well, everyone has ambitious lists for 2014 and lovely summaries of the past year & I have enjoyed reading each one (although I am going to admit that The Owls Approve is my favourite, pure awesome) -- I hope that horses stay sound & safe & riders get to achieve even more than they thought!


I'm not one for goal lists, which is not to say that I am goal-less, but perhaps since my brain has never acquiesced to operating in a linear fashion, it doesn't understand partaking in that process.  My heart still burns for the T3DE jog strip & a little part of me was hoping I could qualify Encore for Southern Eighths in May, but I know that is both fiscally impossible & an unfair level of sudden pressure for my horse.  I know, as part of the event staff, we want people to ENTER ENTER ENTER, & every inch of me wants to fill out that form, but I can't do it alone, I need my partner to be ready too!

There are no guarantees that we will even be able to compete at all this year, as all of my money has fallen into a sinkhole named Flying Solo Farm.  Any of you who have hung around here long enough know that I do not event for the competition, but it IS the only way you get to run a correctly designed, marked, & wonderful cross country course.  Why do you think we put up with all the other craziness, duh?!!

Appalachian mountain high.
I'll Take My Favourite Rides

I hope that we can make it out a little, as I'd like Encore to get some more formal Training Level experience, but honestly, I take just as much delight (well, more, due to lowered stress level!) & education from getting out to lessons & the trail fitness adventures of BFF & I.  Schooling, miles of trots & canters through the woods, fine-tuning skills, those are all things I will be able to do, & for FREE since I can ride out the back gate (all that searching pays off!).

The Big Goal

There is one thing that I want to drill into my body & mind (what's left of it) this year, however.  It may seem small, but the past years of watching & listening oh so carefully have shown me that it defines the effective, thinking rider:

I want to become significantly more aware & more consistent of riding the HORSE & riding the gait/movement/line I want & not riding the horse's behaviour.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...
I've improved over time, but I still fall into that trap we all know when your horse spooks or resists or has a 'moment' & you react.  You might kick him or yell at him or smack him with the whip. 

When instead, an effective rider just. keeps. riding.  She does not change her request, her position, or her goal.  She informed the horse, "We are going to trot a 20 metre circle, connected, & forward, & in the shape of an actual circle."  And that's it, she RIDES the circle.

The horse may throw his head or wiggle or be excited or get distracted or do all those things that horses do, but he will come back to find the same set of aids creating the same space & energy for him to move in. 

THAT is what I want to achieve for Encore more often.  It is a big little thing because it is a huge mental challenge to remain that patient & focused & non-reactive (even when I'm not on the horse).

It's even harder when it's 98 degrees & 4500% humidity.

So I suppose that is my goal for 2014:  to ride my horse(s), as simple (and as difficult) as that.


  1. Well put... I think I do this 70% of the time but having the words emphasizing it... very helpful!

  2. Love this post. I think a lot of us are reactive ( it's natural) when we should "just keep swimming. "

  3. It is human nature -- we get frustrated, especially when in a situation that is common for me: working alone with limited resources.

    One important tool I have learned: if it's dissolving, drop the reins, hack it out, get a decent halt, get OFF.

  4. Riding is hard at the best of times. Good luck with your goal and your new farm this year ;)

  5. Great goal! I've been working on that myself this year, but I didn't have quite the words for it that you do!

  6. Thanks, T!

    And thanks, Jess, I was trying to find a better way to say, "Don't call your horse very bad names in front of the judge's car," but on second thought, maybe that would have made a better post!

  7. A very timely post as I was on my little paint mare the other day and realized that instead of riding, I was "passengering" as my old coach used to call it...I was trying to expose her to new things on the trail and waiting for her to react to them, rather than just riding her forward and pretending that I didn't expect her to spook at any moment. It's all in the attitude right? Who was the dressage guru who wrote the book about riding a test and visualizing one word/image throughout (like supple, or elegant or relaxed)? Having horses with certain TB moments you have to know how to simply ride through a rough moment with a smile on your face saying "I never did mind about the little things".

  8. Hey, thanks for sending me over to Owl's blog - she's awesome! Always glad to add someone fun to the list.

    As far as your goal, I think that's great. As usual you have put into words something I've never really thought about. I have always tried to "mute" my reactions to horse behavior (especially when they're scaring me, as I don't wish to further alarm the beast), but hadn't thought about it vis-a-vis training goals. Consistency is always good with them, of course, but I like the way you put it.

  9. I'm going to draw a banner next that says "I won the interwebz." :) Thanks!

    I think a tie in to this topic is confidence. My old trainer used to tell me that I was a very defensive rider, that my lack of confidence was the only thing holding me back. That defensive riding led me to be a very reactive rider. So, yeah, creating a calm space for him to do what I'm asking and not anticipating a spook or a buck enables him to actually succeed (and slowly build up my confidence).

  10. Heehee, Beka always makes me laugh!

    It definitely goes hand in hand with confidence -- not only in yourself, but in your method. Dang horses always know when we anticipate!