Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2014 > Daily Dispatch #169

June 20, 2014: Lessons Learned: Focus is everything

Tonight’s lesson learned was not directly, but rather was indirectly related to focus. It began with me giving Beth an assist in setting up jumps and poles, moving stands, and holding the tape measure, so that she could figure out the distance between obstacles.

Then there was the interlude between saddling up and the actual lesson. During this interlude, I generally walk Rosie around and we check out what’s different inside and outside the arena. We headed to the arena, first going past the pig pen. No problem here. The problem was in the arena area proper.

Today there were two things to fret about. The first was the sprinkler monster, which was situated behind the fence, at the far side of the arena. The water was jetting out in two streams, dampening the arena dirt.

Rosie saw the sprinkler as we approached it and immediately stopped dead in her tracks. I stood next to her and looked at her eyes, which were bulging, and her nostrils, which were flaring. I asked her to take a few steps closer then had her turn away. She was, I knew, about ready to explode.

I then walked her to the other end of the arena, where we encountered the two barrel monsters. They were blue, with white stars painted on the sides. Raudi saw them and again stopped dead in her tracks. I looked at her eyes, which were somewhat bulgy, and her nostrils, which were somewhat flared. I rightly deduced that she was not as apprehensive about this very familiar monster, which was why I walked her towards the barrel and said “touch!” which was what she did. I then banged on it with my crop. Unafraid, she stood still. I continued to do as I’d been doing, and gave her neck scratches.

We proceeded back in the direction of the sprinkler. Rosie’s response was the same as previously. I decided to get on her, and just ignore it for a bit. However, she did not ignore it. I sensed that this was going to be a lesson in which we got nowhere, so I asked Beth if she might turn it off, to which she agreed.

Once off, I walked Rosie in the direction of the sprinkler, occasionally doing circles. I sensed that she presumed that the sprinkler was again going to go on, meaning that she needed to stay on her guard. Huh. Fun evening ahead, I said to no one in particular.

There were six of us total in this lesson. Raudi remained unfocused for the first five-ten minutes. She bobbled some at the trot, and was looking everywhere but straight ahead. This made me wonder if she was lame. Then, just as I was about to call it good, she pulled herself together and got down to work. Unreal. It was as if she’d figured out that it was now time to get serious about the task at hand.

We worked as a group on our sitting and posting trot, and at the same time did some gymnastic exercises, some of which included raising alternate arms and posting first with a dropped outside, and then dropped inside stirrup. Then, we worked on going over poles and a low cross jump. This went extremely well.

Our orders were that we were next to go over a series of four overturned cavalettis and two cross jumps, all set an equal distance apart. This at first went well, with Rosie going over the poles and jumps two times in succession.

Then, suddenly, Rosie refused to go over the poles, veering to the side when we approached them. I did as Beth said, and used my legs and held onto her mane; however, this was for naught. I, under Beth’s instruction, persisted, and finally we had a clean round.

Beth then wisely suggested that we instead try and do something different – this was to lead straight down the arena and go over a red and white cross jump. We were then to do a big loop and take a second cross jump.

Raudi was reluctant to leave her buddies at the far side of the arena. But she did it, and cleared the jump. Coming back, she put on the gas and cantered fast, taking the jump with room to spare. We did this three more times, in much the same fashion.

It began raining, and Beth told us all that we were done. My new friend Maria asked Beth nicely if she could go again. Beth said yes, adding “I like it when riders request this!” So I asked the same question, and was also granted permission to do one more round. The last time around was our best.

After, I went up to Beth and told her about how Rosie had become increasingly more focused, to which she agreed. She then added that she had purposely had Rosie do the two jumps rather than continue with the ground poles and cross jumps because at this stage, it was a bit hard for her. My response was that I was in total agreement.

As Rosie and I left the arena, and walked past the pigs, I thought that it was quite wonderful to be riding a horse that in such a short time could become so focused.

Lessons learned: A wise idea to bring some treats with me into the arena, so that I might reward Rosie in the process of becoming familiar with the unfamiliar.

Realize that some things aren’t a total matter of focus. Rosie began refusing to go over the poles and cross jumps because she was not yet ready mentally or physically, to do this.

Quit while you are ahead. But also, keep going for a bit if you sense that things are really on the upswing.

Afterwards, praise your horse for doing a good job by scratching it on the withers
Getting off, loosening the girth, and going for a walk.

Next: 170. 6/21/14: Yard Sale-ing