For one she is such a fabulous rider. Its fun to see how good a dressage horse he can be under a great rider. She pulls the potential from each horse that she rides. Its also been fun to watch her find the fun in Golly. I will always think of him as a bulldozer doing ballet but he is good honest guy who tries hard and you have to love him for the effort he puts out. She has found good things in him too that I didn't appreciate -- like that his back is loosy goosy and he offers it to you without fighting. That he loves the sitting trot when its done correctly.
Because I've had the chance to see and appreciate how well he does at the walk and trot work and how much he actually enjoys it, its made me question why I am continuing to push him to canter. Why can't I just appreciate him for who he is and what he does well? At what point do you realize that your horse has gone as far as he can on the scale? It happens to every horse at some point -- whether its at Second Level or Prix St. Georges -- their rider will eventually decide they have reached their potential and to push them past it is not a good idea. They may be able to go just a bit further but at what expense? Will it damage them physically? Will the mental stress make them unwilling and grumpy mounts?
I'd hate to think that Golly has reached his potential at just the Intro Level but after watching my instructor and him doing their trot and walk work with so much joy and ability and in previous lessons watching him struggle so hard with the canter both mentally and physically, maybe he has. I just wonder if its fair to him to expect more than his bulldozer body can give, especially since he is so willing and tries so hard.
So I've been sort of contemplating this and thinking that perhaps we need to focus on making the walk and trot the very best it can be (there is ALWAYS more to perfect there). And perhaps trying out some other activities with him..... perhaps jousting?! (Wow... that would be an interesting activity.) Just loving and appreciating him for who he is and what he can offer. If I want to work on the canter, there are other horses I can ride to get that training and experience.
And then..... there was tonight. I got home from work a little early and with just about an hour of sunlight, I hurried to the barn to feed and squeeze in a ride before the sun set. He was a little stiff to start but quickly offered his loosey goosey back and eased into the connection. He felt nice and even had a bit of energy and lightness under me.
I couldn't help it. After just fifteen minutes of riding I asked for the canter and not only did he swing into it lightly but offered to continue it without my typical begging. It was light and easy and wasn't any big deal. It felt like he cantered all the time with ease. We tried the other side and he not only caught the lead (its the side he rarely catches the correct lead) but it was light and easy again.
Maybe its not time to give up. This dressage thing is hard on the emotions!
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