Energy and Expectations

I was in a piss poor mood this morning. My kids were on my nerves, I was sore from working out and I was just generally cranky. Thursday is always my day to ride, but I considered not even bothering because of my lousy attitude. But I am planning to do a show in April and I knew I needed to make the best out of every opportunity to ride, so I dropped my kids off and headed to the barn. I couldn’t handle any more disappointment or irritation, so I decided to scrap all my goals and just enjoy sitting on my horse.

Typically when I ride, I show up at the barn with an agenda. I’m a planner; I need clear goals and I feel very unsettled if I don’t have a plan. I also am impatient and get frustrated when my goals seem to take for-ev-er. I think this agenda and impatience has had a negative effect on Baron.

Today (when I had no agenda) we had the best ride we’ve had in a long time. He started out walking briskly but relaxed, the perfect working walk. He offered to trot and I let him, and it was a perfect working trot, exactly what I hope to get in the show ring. It was even tempo, slow but still energetic, and a joy to ride. Since he was so mellow I decided we would try cantering, and again, he was perfect. He gave me immediate transitions, no fast jog-trot before breaking into the canter. It was like he was reading my mind and knew exactly what would make me happy.

Why the difference? Maybe it was his mood, but I think my lack of pressure and expectation freed him up to give me what I want. I think my hyper-focused, aggressive, go-go-go, stick to the PLAN kind of energy is unsettling for him. I do get the feeling sometimes when I ride that he gets worked up because he senses me getting frustrated. I’m never mean to him and I never punish him, but I know that I have in-your-face kind of energy. That’s just my personality. (I hope that makes sense; these things are hard to explain.)  I can tell that he’s sweating and thinking and focusing on me, just trying to figure out what it is I’m asking him to do. I always praise him immediately when he’s done something correctly, but sometimes he’s already too worked up to relax.

From now on, I’m going to try and replicate the energy I had today. I was so proud of Baron today and I want him always to be that relaxed, soft and giving. Hopefully I’ve learned how to set him up for success.

One last thing: he did so well today that I wanted to reward him. I let him stop several times and I petted his neck and told him what a good, smart boy he is. After those perfect canter transitions, I hopped off and called it quits for the day. We only worked for maybe 20 minutes, but I want him to know that when he gets it right, I won’t drill him and work him into the ground. I think our work should be short, effective and enjoyable. No boredom or drill sergeant-ing! Back at the barn he got even more scratches than usual around his ears and poll and lots of extra cookies. It was one of those rides that makes all the expense and effort of horse ownership worth it!

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2 thoughts on “Energy and Expectations

  1. Jenn March 2, 2011 / 3:28 pm

    I’m one of those who has a couple of things I’d like to try to accomplish when I get in the saddle, but usually, I let my horse tell me what we’re going to work on, and if I listen, we have a much better ride. When I try to push MY agenda on HIM, I’m not respecting him and he becomes tense and not so responsive.

    I’ve noticed that with riders like yourself (agenda focused, get it done, make the goal), they tend to always be thinking about the NEXT thing instead of concentrating on the NOW. ie…we’re trotting now, but next I want to XYZ.” Guess what? You’re horse SENSES that and it can confuse him. When they get confused, they get tense and frustrated, when they are tense and frustrated, YOU get tense and frustrated, it’s a vicious cycle.

    Relax. Enjoy. Ride the ride, don’t make the ride.

  2. trainingbaron March 2, 2011 / 6:12 pm

    All of that is great advice, especially about letting your horse tell you what to work on! I will try that next time I ride.

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