Thursday, October 2, 2008

Equitation Follow Up

I love posting these old photos from horse shows. Riders and horses are a thing of beauty when they are all gussied up. They remind me how much better I can ride with practice, information, and a good equitation instructor. I hadn't planned on taking lessons year round, because we get some nasty winters here in Northern Nevada. Even if I trailered my horse to an indoor arena, I probably wouldn't want to be driving on ice. Our first snowstorm of the season is predicted for Saturday, and the winds have already taken up residence.

As many of you know, my last equitation lesson was a discouraging disaster. I had made up my mind to end my arrangement with my current instructor after wrapping up a few loose ends. Some felt that I was making the right decision while others felt that my instructor probably just had a bad day and I should give him another chance.

We have our lessons scheduled for the same bat time, the same bat place every week, and I contemplated calling him to cancel. I was sick on Tuesday going into Wednesday, and quite frankly, I was afraid of experiencing another repeat of the previous week. I was also worried about my mare Lostine. She was quite disturbed by the whole experience and got aggressive toward my instructor.

Ultimately, I decided to follow through with the lesson, but bring my other horse, Bombay, who is much more easygoing under stress. I started off the lesson by letting my instructor know what I wanted. I also let him know that I will be ending the lessons soon. He said that he had people waiting for my time slot, so I didn't need to worry about him. I mainly was trying to set a tone to this lesson that would remind my instructor that he works for me, and not the other way around.

He must have done some thinking about our last lesson, because he returned to being the helpful, informative instructor he's always been in the past. He didn't yell or deliver a laundry list of everything I was doing wrong. He quietly and clearly told me how to do each maneuver, gave me plenty of quiet moments to work it out myself, and gave me feedback afterwards. I was sure to stop and ask a lot of questions, which he answered well.

Only once did I feel myself growing frustrated because of him. We were working on downward transitions, and he was insisting that I was "throwing the horse away again." I came to a stop and said, "No. This is what I am doing. I sit deep, tug each rein a little, pull back and hold, and then as soon as he stops I release my hold on the reins as his reward. You have told me to reward him by taking the pressure off."

He said, "That is right. That is what you want to do. The problem is that you are rewarding him before he has completely stopped. Also, it is not enough to just stop. He has to give in the face and maintain his frame. Don't reward him when he's sticking his nose out and tugging on the bit. Pay attention to his head set, not just the fact that his feet have stopped moving."

He then took me through this routine where I would halt Bombay from different paces, and he would tell me when to release my hold on his face. That was extremely helpful. It was only the difference of one or two seconds, but that is how subtle equitation can be. I'm discovering that a lot of the things I am doing are correct, but my timing is off.

On another note, he was really pleased with my riding at the lope. He said I had ten whole strides were my body position and balance were perfect, and my riding overall has improved 100% since that first lesson a few months ago. He reminded me of how I couldn't post on a slight incline when I first tried it, and how I couldn't keep the horse at a slow, consistent pace. I have definitely learned a lot. You never know how much there is to learn, or how much further you can go on a horsemanship journey unless you have a skilled horseman to teach you.

My instructor said something that enlightened me on why our last lesson went so badly. Apparently, he didn't have the greatest childhood and was raised by an evil stepmother. I know from working as a parenting educator that negative or abusive thoughts, words, and actions get passed along the generations. It takes a very strong person to nip it in the bud and replace all that mind garbage with positive thoughts, words, and actions. People who have been treated poorly, especially as children, begin to treat others as they were treated when they are under stress or having a bad day. It's an ingrained reaction. I have been fortunate enough to have never been yelled at or mistreated in any way by those who I choose to have in my life, so I found his treatment of me to be especially offensive. I'm sure that he was not even aware that his behavior toward his student had crossed the line until he was in a more relaxed state and could reflect on my angry cursing.

At any rate, bad lessons or good lessons, I still have to end my lessons sometime soon. In addition to weather getting in the way, we've had some unexpected expenses this past week and now I'm not even so sure I can afford more lessons and that used saddle I've been waiting to try out on my mare. More on that later. In the meantime, I did schedule next week's lesson with the agreement that I would call no later than the night before if I need to cancel.


Jenn said...

The horse in the photo has an INSANELY long tail! Egads! I can't even begin to imagine the maintenance it takes to keep that thing healthy, clean and tangle free.

I am glad you had a good lesson. Everything related to horses is all about the timing...not just equitation, but training, ground work, everything. A few seconds too soon or too late can mean the difference between brilliance and utter failure.

Katie said...

I'll still can't get over the length of those tails in your pictures! Serisouly I have never seen anything like that. I'm pretty sure theres nothing like that in New Zealand.

Its good to hear you had a good lesson! Sorry to hear that you have to give up! Hopefully you'll be able to start again sometime in the future!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I'm glad you went ahead with the lesson. From my perspective, it taught you a lot. You took control of the situation and it sounds like you had a productive lesson and learned a very key component. Everyone struggles with learning when to pick up, how much to pick up, when to hold on and when to release and the fact that you stopped and clearly explained to the instructor the problem, so that he could explain in more detail what he was looking for says a lot about how much you have learned. You have become more than just a rider and are on your way to becoming a horseman. Good for you!!
I hope everything is okay. Brrr-don't like the sounds of snow already. Not ready, not ready, not ready!!LOL

Andrea said...

I love horse show pictures too. I could watch horse shows all day long. I can look at horse pictures all day long. I swear it's a sick disease.

I am glad the lesson went better. I had a trainer like him. I finally got rid of him. He was either totally insulting me or not saying anything at all. Men can be jerks. I think they have more mood swings than woman. It sounds like you are really doing better!! I need some lessons like you!!

Lulu said...

I'm SO glad you didn't just throw in the towel!!! Like you, I tend to feel really "picked on" in a lesson type situation, so I really can relate. I need to get myself into some lessons again, since it has been YEARS!! ;) Of course, that will have to wait until next year. I'm stocking up on hay for the winter....ouch...

Molly said...

Wonderful job of meeting this issue head on. I always think that backing away from problems or even information is the best way to work through it. Consider it. Go back to it with a new perspective. Your possible winter away from lessons shouldn't hurt your abilities at all.

Katee said...

Way to go! This lessons sounds like it went much, much better. It seems like not only was your instructor having a better day, but you had a better day, too. It's great that when you got frustrated you were able to stop, explain yourself, and then get a good, solid, "that makes sense" answer from your trainer. Communication is a wonderful thing when it works well. I think you just did awesome!

Pat yourself on the back, girlfriend!

sidetracked said...

I like this article you wrote about. Many people think of equitation as just a pretty way of riding, but equitation is the correct and EFFECTIVE way of riding. Thanks for sharing your stories and hope your financial burdens lessen soon. I too am dealing with a lay off at work and money is tight.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Glad to hear this lesson went better than the last. It's too bad you can't continue with your lessons in the future, they seem to be really helpful in getting you to where you want to be.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm so glad for you that this recent lesson went better than the last one.
Of course, it was because you handled it so well and made your expectations known right away.

I'm not sure I totally agree with the instructors excuses, though. I had a very rough childhood and I make it point, as an adult, never to slip up and take stuff out on my family, friends or even strangers just because of how I was treated in my past.

In fact I think BECAUSE OF my past, I am more aware of how I react to situations and always make sure I don't fall into that 'excuse trap'.

I think it's even more important to do this if you choose to be in a profession where you are dealing with people on a daily basis, where your maturity and level headedness is so vitally important.

Personally I do not have any tolerance for someone who uses their past as a crutch to make excuses on why they treat others so badly.

It's no different than someone who beats their wife to a pulp, and then apologizes afterwards with lame excuses.
There are other ways to deal with frustration, anger, and depression.

Anyway, I'm just so glad that your lesson was much improved and I hope, no matter who you decide to go with in the future, that your lesson experiences are always positive and informative.

Take Care,

Laughing Orca Ranch said...


I just wanted to also say thanks for the wonderfully supportive and kind comments you left for me on my blog, concerning my son's injury.
It is much appreciated, my friend :)

Take Care,

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lisa - You're welcome. I'll be thinking of your son and sending healing vibes his way.

Just to clarify, my instructor didn't mention his bad childhood as an excuse for anything. He mentioned it in a conversation about something else, and those are just my reflections. I agree that a bad childhood should never be used as an excuse for bad behavior. Good for you to work past yours. That means you are one of the strong ones.