I’ve had another two sessions with JM and they were wonderful but I’m going to gloss over the whole “sit up and ride your horse dammit” thing and focus in on one thing that JM said that I keep repeating to myself.
She warmed Kat up for me in our most recent lesson and asked for a lot of submission. Kat dragged out a few behaviors that I haven’t seen for about a month, like rearing and stopping when confused, but Jaclyn was patient in her requests and impeccable in her releases and Kat began to understand. I got on to feel the difference and we put the mare away while she was still working well.
Then I got on Jr for my second lesson. He’s pretty much the antithesis of Kat. She’s flighty and sensitive and he’s just a lug who moves at a glacial pace. But he’s pretty, so that’s fun too. I was struggling to demand the same sorts of things from him as I was able to get from Kat (aka bend please now gosh darn it) and JM says, “Kate, I know you can ride better than this. I’m stepping up the bar. Raise the bar, and the horse will rise to the occasion. I want you to teach like this. I want you to ride like this. Live like this. Push them harder, and they’ll rise up.”
I had this lesson Saturday and I thought about it Sunday as I asked Kat for more patience and tact than I’ve ever requested from her. I thought about it as I schooled changes on Tango, and reflected on how far he’s come. I thought about it when I taught lessons to a variety of students ranging from up-downs to jumping in earnest. I thought about it this morning as I taught an adult who is new to riding and I started to expect a little more from her than ever before (this resulted in an “I really hate you right now.” which I will accept tactfully). I thought about it when I jumped Tango this afternoon. I thought about it while I drove to watch the kids I nanny for. And I sat in my driveway before coming inside, wondering why this has caught me so firmly in the chest.
Here's the thing: I really want to be great. And when I say that, I realize you might think I'm talking about competitive success, or making a lot of money or something. When I say that what I'm thinking about is the moments I know I've reached a student. The moments I've thought, "this horse really understands what I'm asking now." The moments I've watched kids grin like crazy: trotting for the first time and laughing at the bouncing - jumping 2'6" and coming down with the biggest smile in the world because that's the longest the kid's ever spent in the air - galloping up a hill and feeling like a bird - coming out of the ring and knowing they just rode their best - even when I make stupid jokes and get more of a laugh than I deserve. I want to be a trainer my clients remember and my horses perk their ears up for.
And part of that is competitive success, yes. But only because that competitive success reflects a deeper correctness in training. I want to have more tools to offer my clients, more feelages to offer my horses.
I think that this stuck in my chest because in many ways, I am comfortable right now. When JM reached into my heart and said, "demand more of yourself," with a tone that firmly expressed how much she believes I'm capable of more, it knocked me out of my comfort and back into a hunger. I think that's the restless chewing over these sentences - I'm trying to figure out what I'm hungry for, what places I can reach further, how I can work harder and apply myself more vigorously.