As with any sport, in equestrian some days are absolutely fabulous while others are not so great. Sometimes you just cannot get in sync with your horse. Maybe he or she is a little frisky and acting out, or maybe you are having an off day yourself. Regardless of the reason, some riding days are just bad. So what do you do when you having a bad ride? Do you blame your horse? Or, do you find the root of the problem and work to fix it? How the rider responds to the difficult days paves the way for the fabulous ones. Bad days are inevitable, we all have them – I had one of those days yesterday – but working through them is what gives us good days. The days in which we feel the synchronicity with our horses. When things just click.
Like I said, I had a bad ride yesterday. I was working on keeping a consistent pace while schooling over a small single jump. I basically had to canter a large circle with a jump in the middle of it. It was awful. Chance was either too fast or breaking to a trot; we were completely disconnected. Finally, I managed a couple of decent jumps off the right lead, and my trainer had me repeat the same exercise over another jump off of the left lead. We were way too fast, and his step just kept building. We were both frustrated, and he was getting wound up. At one point, I bypassed the turn to the jump and continued on the long rail trying to get him to stop – which is exactly what I had done the day he bucked me off… Needless to say, I was a little panicked. Luckily, I was able to stop him and my trainer told me that I needed to keep him on the circle no matter what. I felt that I had lost him at that point. So, I trotted him for a few minutes on the same circle but bypassing the jump, trying to get us both to relax and achieve a connection again. Once I felt I had him back, I picked up the canter and went over the jump softly and quietly. Yet, when I kept going and tried it a second time he got a little worked up so I just started trotting it. I trotted in a couple of times – halting on the backside – and we ended on a fairly decent note. Keeping him on the circle gave him boundaries, so he gave in and quieted a bit. My biggest problem (that really started everything) was that I kept getting too forward and pulling, rather than finding the tack and using my seat to slow him down while keeping a soft feel of his face.
Today, my trainer had me repeat the same exercise and – not to be cocky – we rocked it!! I really focused on staying tall, and finding the saddle. As simple as that is, it made all the difference. Chance was great, and we never lost our connection. I have a terrible habit of allowing myself to lean forward on him while in a half seat; since he is such a large horse, I do not feel myself doing it. Also, he has seemed to be a little heavy in the bridle lately which has been causing me to anticipate him speeding up. However, simply adjusting my position enabled me to keep his pace under control; so I am thinking that he is not wanting to pull, but just finally allowing a connection in the bridle. He has never been a fan of being on the bit, but perhaps he finally coming around. Overall, today was a great day.
So often when I have poor rides on Chance, I think of ways to fix him. Today, however, I worked on fixing me. I think we all get to a point in our riding careers in which we think we should not make such simple mistakes as leaning too far forward, so we tend to blame our horses. Blaming Chance never gets me anywhere. Yes, I have been riding a very long time and probably should not make such simple mistakes. But I am not perfect. Through admitting that, I am able to fix my riding and help my horse to do his best. As riders and trainers, we are leaders for our horses. They are counting on us to guide them and teach them. They must listen, yes, but we must also be giving them good, clear commands. Leaning forward and pulling is a terrible command. Working on my bad habit should really help pave the way for Chance’s and my success. Yesterday I had a bad ride. Working through it is what made today’s ride pretty fabulous.