I’ve written about this before, but things have changed.
I wrote this, specifically, five-ish years ago:
Where does it cross the line, though, into irreparability? Is there room for compromise, for example?
‘It’ = getting the horse doing what he’s meant to do. Is there room for compromise? How do I adjust, allowing for the present moment situation? How do I take into account all the variables, whilst also trying to ride the exercise as expected?
What happened was: we were trotting around from H, to jump over a double. The horse picks up the canter upon landing after the first fence, takes one stride, and then we go around to K — on the correct lead! — to the fence at X. Okay.
Connell just wanted to canter the whole thing. But we weren’t meant to, we were meant to stay in trot over the first fence. That was the exercise.
What were my options?
A] Let him canter.
B] Stay in trot.
1] If I choose A, then I am allowing him to dominate me.
2] If I choose B, then I am staying in charge.
3] If I choose A, then maybe he is happier?
4] If I choose B, then we get in a fight.
[A] 1+3 may possibly add up to make me happier, too. Except for the thing about letting him walk all over me, which is how many of The Horse Books would view that option.
[B] 2+4 = a challenge to my riding, in that I actually use my riding, which would be the essence of 2 in a positive way, and thereby avoid 4.
I think I would have done much, much better at high school algebra if it had horses in it.
The other variables were: He was hot, physically warm, when I went to tack him up? Long day in pony camp, maybe? He is also black, or ‘black’, I don’t fully grasp equine genetics as applied to coat colour — look, he is black for all intents and purposes, so that = gets hotter. He was also grumpy, maybe due to the hotness.
Me? I was in terrific form. We hadn’t a lesson on Saturday, so I was psyched to be back; I had an utterly restful bank holiday weekend, and I couldn’t wait to go. I didn’t have any of the usual haven’t-jumped-in-a-week fear. I was so, so happy to be up at the yard. I was thrilled to see Connell. I was ready to go and go and go.
Result: a power struggle.
I remember my very first power struggle, with Argo, also to do with fences. I don’t think I blogged about it? I don’t think I did, it was too much, too painful, too much ‘what is wrong with me as a person’ territory, much less as a rider. We were jumping, he was fizzy, I got scared, I scolded him roundly, telling him off, and I felt awful afterwards, so guilty. There was this lesson, too — and what it all boils down to to is: how do I use my riding?
I used my riding the other night to keep Connell in trot, as expected. We didn’t get many goes at the full combination, and I like to think that if we had gotten a third, I would have asked to allow him to canter. Because it just didn’t go well in [B] 2+4 mode.
So, another option would be:
C] Ask to change the parameters, i.e. compromise.
Resulting in [C] 2+3. I stay in charge by expressing an alternative to the plan, and we are both happy.
Neither of us were happy fighting. We got there in the end, but it wasn’t elegant, and it wasn’t fun, and we are capable of both. My riding is more than the mechanics of it, it’s also my brain, and my heart.
Did I say things have changed? I have changed. When I was cheesed off at Rebel five years ago, it took me ages to get over it. He let me down in front of everyone! I let myself down! OMG I am so crap! And on and on.
Tuesday night? We got there in the end, as I said, neither elegantly nor happily, but ah, sure, it was only one hour. I indulged in a bit of I should have just asked to canter on the way home in the car, but in the main? I didn’t *not* love Connell because we didn’t do so well — meaning, really, I didn’t *not* love myself.
In learning how to ride, I have learned how to be gentler with myself, whilst at the same time being more assertive. What a paradox! There’s something about boundaries in here, and just letting stuff go. Something about open mind, open heart, flexibility, and no blame. I felt as well in myself when I put Con away as when I went to get him out, and if he was annoyed with me, eh, he got over it when I took his tack off, because he knew he was done for the day. In that moment, the power struggle was over, behind us, done, and there would be another day, and we’d see how we’d go. I decided to take what was valuable from that hour, and let the rest go. That’s a formula that will never go out of style.