I had an early morning lesson today before work. The air was crisp and clear with that fresh, almost washed smell to it. Fall.... ahhhh... one of the best times to ride. No bugs and nice cool weather.
That nice cool weather brings something else .... wacky horses.
It started in the cross ties while I was tacking up. Pacing and prancing. Wrenching his head around sure that a monster was bound to jump out of the hay room. Eyes wide. Yeah.... this was going to be fun.
To add to the fun... a large tree branch had come down in the arena. Now you and I know that the tree branch most likely will not sprout wings and come flying towards us throwing rocks but Golly was sure it would.
At this point I knew that the lesson was not going to be our best. So how do you take what is sure not to be your best and make the best of it?
Don't Fight It
I had a couple of options at this point. I could get on and spend the next thirty minutes trying for relaxation while I prayed for him not to kill me or I could take the smart and safe method. I took the smart and safe method and lunged him first.
Its not wimpy to lunge your horse first. You don't want a horse that requires lunging for every ride but sometimes he's just nuts and he needs an opportunity to find relaxation without worrying about you on his back -- and you worrying about coming OFF his back.
If you Lunge, Lunge with Purpose
Today Golly was afraid of the big evil branch in the corner of the arena. So after we got some relaxation in the "safe" areas of the arena, we moved closer to the branch and worked there until he sighed and realized it wasn't going to eat him. Lunging is not just chasing your horse in circles to tire him out. Its a great time to start the work you plan on doing under saddle. Work on transitions and bend. Keep on the circle and then lunge him down a straight line. Mix it up and do all of this near the scary part of the arena so he has something to think about besides the big scary item.
Let Go of Frustrations
Sure its frustrating to pay your instructor expecting that you are going to achieve big and bold things and then your lesson is five steps back from where you were last week. Its easy to get frustrated with yourself and your horse. Okay.... I give myself permission to be frustrated with myself (even though I probably shouldn't) but its not okay to be frustrated with your horse. He really DOES think that that branch is going to eat him. Its not his fault that he was born a prey animal and that you didn't take the time to ride him in the last week and now you want him to bend and contort and hey... be light on your feet too! Take the day for what it is and do the best you can for that day.
Get What you Can From the Lesson
Once you sigh and realize that today is not the day you are going to recognized by the Olympic scouts, get what you can from the lesson. Today I realized that he is not going to relax and stretch his neck unless I relax my hand and LET him. Its hard when you have a bundle of nerves under you threatening to explode to react by RELEASING the rein but once I did, he relaxed and found the space. I learned a few other good tips... but that is for another post!