My Lesson Notes and Plans
I take notes on each lesson I teach. I always have, mostly because being a writer, things stick in my brain better if I also write them down. After my TBI taking notes is a must for me to keep my riders on the right track. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t remember what we worked on during their last ride.
That being said I normally go into a lesson with some sort of plan in mind. Maybe I don’t have the specific exercises worked out that I want to do yet. I know what we worked on last time. So I can move forward from that in the next lesson.
Or should I say, sometimes I can! Sometimes the best-laid plans go out of the window as soon as the rider throws their leg over the horses back.
Ruby Did Not Want To Work On July 4th, Evidently, She Thought It Was A National Holiday For Horses Too!
That was Ruby yesterday. I will start by saying it was super hot and humid out yesterday. Not comfortable for horse or rider. The flies were bothering the horses pretty bad. There were a lot of factors to play into why this ride from the very beginning was not going to be what we had hoped!
Being the red headed mare she is, Ruby decided she wasn’t feeling it yesterday. She was harder than usual to move forward. As well as reverting back to her little trick of yanking on one side of the bit. Mind you, we have not rid her of that habit completely. The last few rides though she was way better about it. It seems like she was getting the point that she wasn’t going to get away with it.
We came up with a spiraling exercise to help her move her body off the inside leg. As well as to soften her neck and jaw. In order to get a nice bend to the inside. This is what we do every time she does her little bit thing. We have been consistent about it. It seems that she is putting two and two together!
Well, yesterday was a different story. Ruby was hot and fly-bitten, and it seemed she couldn’t care less about what we had in mind.
Change Of Plans
My plan had been to do a quick and easy warm up on the flat. Then just to pop her over a bunch of small cross rails. I even had the student in the previous lesson setting the jumps for me! I thought I had the best-laid plans for yesterdays lesson!
Boy, was I wrong! Ruby made it clear from the beginning that we were “walking the red headed mare line” with her yesterday. She wasn’t interested in working at all. The worst part was it seemed like she was on the defensive. She was just waiting for her opportunity to get into a fight with Christina.
She was doing all kinds of baby stuff she hasn’t done in a long time. Mostly just grabbing the bit hard on one side and not steering. She literally wouldn’t turn right once and had to end up practically hitting the ring fence before she decided to listen.
No Easy Popping Over Jumps Lesson For Ruby Yesterday!
So, that being said, my fun jumping lesson went out the window and we were back to having to work on flatwork again. In a situation like yesterdays, there would have been no point in trying to go ahead with my plans. You can plan all you want with horses. Just don’t count on your plans always working out.
Yesterday, Ruby was grumpy, heavy in the hand and not wanting to bed. She was telling me in her own way that I needed to change my plan for the day. I could see it from the very beginning.
We switched gears and went back to flatwork. Doing trot and canter transitions, spiraling in and out on a circle. Anything we could do to keep her attention and keep that nice soft give on the inside.
There was a time a few months ago when she didn’t understand any of that. Unfortunately for Ruby, she is past that point now. So when she doesn’t go the way we expect her to we have to insist on it.
Again, insisting on it with a mare is different than with a gelding. With a gelding, you can be more assertive. Sort of have a “come to Jesus” discussion. Tell them to get over themselves and get back to work.
“Walking The Mare Line”
Mares don’t work that way. With a mare, you have to insist on what you want. Without allowing yourself to get overly aggressive about asking. If you get frustrated your body will get tense. This tension is something your horse can feel through your hands and your seat. Getting tense will make things worse.
With a mare, you have to be patient. Keep putting on whatever pressure you need to get what you want. Then being ready to release the pressure immediately when she does want you asked her too.
A Dance Of Pressure And Release
Riding all horses is a dance of pressure and release. With a mare, it is one that has to be taken more delicately. You are not going to get tense and think to yourself “I’m going to make you do what I want now”. Instead, you have to be chilled out, just keep the pressure on, like you have all day to wait. Don’t increase the pressure as you go. You only should match the pressure your horse is giving you. Then immediately release it when they do what you want. It’s like calmly saying ” I know you know how to do this. So I’m going to keep insisting until you do and then reward you. I have all day to work on it, take as long as you want!”
This quiet, assertive demeanor will get you a lot further with horses. Definitely, it will with a sensitive mare who is having a bad day and looking for a fight!
I Teach My Riders, My Horses Teach Me!
I teach riding lessons to my students. The horses teach me horsemanship lessons as I teach the riders. I can speak the horse’s language by being aware of their body language. After years of teaching, I relay this to my riders to help them start to understand. We have to learn to speak the horse’s language before we can expect them to understand ours. It is essential for us as riders to understand this.
Horses are not born wanting to be ridden by us. Everything about us training them to be ridden goes against what generations of natural instinct have taught them. When you think about it, it is pretty amazing all the things we can do with them. When we learn to speak their language they will try to understand ours.
Listen To The Horses!
The moral of the story is. The horses are the best teachers. It doesn’t matter how much planning you do before your ride. You can set up all the jumps in the world. You can have a game plan in your mind for how your ride will go. The horses tell us what they need though. If we just pay attention.
She Was Telling Us What She Needed That Day!
Could we have jumped Ruby yesterday as planned? Probably! Would it have been good? Probably not! Most likely she wouldn’t have been good at all. She is young and still learning to jump. Most likely, she would have just plugged her way along. Yanked on one side of the bit. Then launched herself like a rocket over the jumps.
That would not have been productive at all! It would have just frustrated the horse and rider, causing tension and frustration. Instead, we listened to what the horse was telling us. In the end, it was a great and productive lesson. Even though it started out a little rough!
This is not giving in or letting the horse get away with anything. They have no clue what we have in mind when we take them out in the ring! By listening to the horse and changing the plan, it allowed us to continue to progress.
A tense lesson where horse and rider fight the whole time would only be a setback.
Best Laid Plans And Horses Don’t Always Go Together!
Moral of the story is, you can forget your best-laid plans with horses. If you want to be successful with horses you have to listen to the horse. Sometimes(maybe even often) this might mean changing your plans!