This goofy horse has lived with me for only two weeks now - I'm certain I will get to know her much better as time goes on. But I have this vague discussion of learning how horses think, about applying fundamental principles to many horses brewing in my head, and so I'm going to write at length here and see if anything comes out.
First: you can apply a great many anthropomorphic discussions to any horse you ride. Let me do that for a moment. Kat is: opinionated, difficult, stubborn, self-assertive, argumentative, and touchy. She is also: funny, whimsical, playful, farcical, and entertaining. I enjoy riding Kat because I sense a keen intelligence and conversation in everything we do, I rarely feel legitimately unsafe despite her antics, and something in her personality keeps me laughing. Do these words help me to identify the things that she doesn't understand? No. But they do highlight two sides of my mental attitude towards her behavior.
From a training (somewhat less anthropomorphic) standpoint: she doesn't truly understand/accept the leg & rein aids. She guesses right most of the time but since she doesn't really, truly, fundamentally understand, she reacts with combative flight responses some of the time. This means she is not habituated to the sensation of the leg against her body, she has not habituated to a light, steady contact. This means that sometimes when I place my leg on her to ask her to move forward, she leaps forward, and sometimes she backs up. Sometimes when I close my fingers on the reins she will stop, and sometimes she will accelerate. My job is not to scold her for this, because it is my belief that she doesn't understand. My job is to perform about ten million transitions with her until she allows my leg to rest quietly against her (she's habituated to my leg) and that an increase in pressure results in a calm yet immediate forward transition.
This will take time. This will require that I pay careful attention to the consistency with which I apply my aids. Kat having the training she does, she has a vague understanding of a lot of things. And she's smart enough to put things together very quickly. And test me. This is also going to require me taking more lessons than usual in order to prevent Kat from training me.
Which means that even if we've been schooling the walk/trot transition for a while and I shift my weight to prepare to trot & she trots, we have to go back to the walk. She isn't allowed to guess, she must learn to wait for the aid. And that way the aid will be the same every time. And this consistency will allow her to relax into her work, mostly because her world will become predictable and reliable.
|I just wanted to highlight these moments from the video above.|
My mental attitude and consistency will be hugely challenged by her. I often let horses get away with their anticipation, and allow small inconsistencies to creep into my riding. But Kat is highly perturbed by these changes, for whatever reason.
Second: Kat is teaching me so much and I'm so grateful to her for that. She's reminding me that I must be painstaking and careful, she's reminding me to ride both by the seat of my pants and from deep thought. My ride-a-buck is also improving dramatically.
Third, and unrelated to this rant: I took three students to Fox N Horn's show at Thorson's Arena this weekend and we had a phenomenal time.
Everyone was polite, the courses were well-laid out, and there wasn't a tremendous amount of traffic. The warm-up ring was large.
My kids placed in almost every class they rode in (even against a LOT of other horses) and I'm pretty sure they all learned something. I'm really happy with how it went and we'll definitely be attending the next one.