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August 20, 2014: Lessons Learned: Our Horses, Our Teachers

Lesson at Beth’s last night. Beforehand, I didn’t allow myself to be stressed about the cart accident. I also didn’t allow myself to be stressed about the fact that Vickie was late. This was because I knew that it would not bode well for Rosie and my performance. When Vickie did arrive, I reassured us both that Beth’s beginner lessons often start a bit later than the usual 6:30 p.m. time.

Got to Beth’s, pulled in the driveway, unloaded Rosie, tacked her up, and hustled over the arena, where the lesson had just begun. Cath, Blaine, and Brandon were trotting around in a small circle. I hopped on Rosie, and joined in.

No time to do our obligatory walk about the arena, nor was there time to do a warm-up ride. Should have been stressed about this too, but was not. Felt good to be on my horse and among friends.

I immediately sensed that Rosie was up for a lesson. Earlier, I’d ridden her to Grizzly Camp, and then she was extremely focused. Took the dogs and had a wonderful time. We finished with our usual canter back to the trail head.

We trotted in a circle, and then fell out of the line, moving in behind the last horse. Then we trotted the entire arena, Beth stopping action for a bit to scare away two errant moose. We then transitioned from doing equitation to jumping, starting by going one by one, in a large loop, over one set of ground poles, then over another, then around two cones, returning to our starting point after going over a cross jump. After this, it was just variations upon a theme, with Beth having us go over increasing more cross jumps, these being where the ground poles were.

The entire while, Rosie was forward, alert. We had just one refusal. This occurred at the second cross jump – a diagonal off the first cross jump. We approached it, and I looked down. I immediately knew that I’d erred, and said this to Beth, who nodded in agreement.

Near the end of the lesson, as we were going over the last of the cross jumps, a few things really clicked in my head. The first click was the thought that if we approach the jump correctly, and at a canter, Rosie will take it. She is an honest horse, and in this respect she is not one for playing with my head. The second click was that I have legs, and when approaching the jump, I should use them as an aid.

Squeezing signals to Rosie that she is to move forward. This is a negative reinforcer. I did this – Beth later said that this was a sign of good horsemanship, since Rosie could easily have veered to one side or the other.

After the lesson, it is customary for Beth to go up to each student, and provide them with overall feedback. Her commentary to me is always positive, even when things don’t go well. She always finds something good to say. This time, she said “you are teaching your horse and she is teaching you.” I agreed, but kept my commentary short because I did not want to hold up the next lesson.

Beth doesn’t fully know Rosie/Raudi and my full story. This will come in time. What I will someday tell her is that what we have here is a very unique and wonderful situation. I have sometimes felt bad because it’s taken me so long to get Raudi trained to the degree that she’s now trained, well realizing that she’d be doing what she’s now doing at age eleven, at age six or seven. However, I am instead now choosing to instead be pleased about the fact that she at 11 and I at my advanced age (ahem) are doing so well together.

A key word here is together. I did not, 10 years ago, go out and purchase a trained eleven year old trekking horse. Rather, I purchased an eight month old filly. And I have since taught her everything she knows. I began by teaching her to give her feet, which is the simplest of things. We progressed. I was the first one to back her and ride her any distance. I also rode her on two long trips. I have done a few clinics, and taken some lessons. However, I have not had anyone work with her independently of me. And I am never going to do this. If someone can’t tell me how a certain this is done, and allow me to do this, then they are not adept at what they’re doing.

Now we are jumping. Here we are both learning to further trust one another. I trust that she will go over the jump, and she trusts that I will, in my use of hands, seat, and legs, tell her that it’s safe to do so. How cool is that? Most importantly, we are continuing (as we always have) to enjoy being in one another’s company and having a very good time.

Next: 226. 8/21/14: State Fair: Re:cycle