Tuesday, January 30, 2024

I hope that in the year to come you make mistakes

...Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something." -Neil Gaiman

Goggles and I had a dressage lesson with NDT last Wednesday. I wasn't sure if he was ready for a full lesson, but I figured what they hey, he is 5 now, she gives nice long walk breaks, and I could always stop early if he was done or overwhelmed. He loaded the best he ever has and we were on our way over to the GY's. NDT was a bit funny, I get the idea most of the folks she coaches are a bit more precious about their surroundings than I was. There was some screwing around with the sprinkler at the start of our ride and there were horses in paddocks on both sides. She protected us in the part of the ring away from the sprinkler until they were done messing with it. Meh. But the flip side was she was watching for his tension to go away. Now, I'm pretty sure the tension wasn't from the sprinkler, but it was an interesting metric to have. We walked until his walk was relaxed and swinging. Then we trotted and we trotted until his eye softened and he focused on me, not the surrounding horses. I don't think this approach would have worked even two months ago, he would have still needed his million walk-trot transitions because the tension would have manifested in quickness. But he actually wasn't running away with me at the trot, but he was tense through his back and neck. 

She had me counter bend him a little bit on the part of the circle where he wanted to fall out. She said bending interferes with turning. This helped keep me from pulling on my inside rein and letting him fall through his outside shoulder, which was pretty neat. When he reached down she actually had me lengthen my reins to him some. The alternative I had developed was leaning, so this was safer in case he tripped/did other unexpected things. Then shorten them right back up. When he popped up out of the contact, hands wide to keep an even contact. 

We did a little bit of canter, mostly her just watching us at this point, then we took a walk break. We added in some one loop serpentines and changes of rein with circles thrown in as well. He was still verrrrryyy focused on what was happening with horses around him (which in his defense wasn't just standing still, Mr. GY took his gelding into the pasture and was going for a hand gallop at this point). She said that was fine in the beginning, but he needed to focus on his job. I thought back to the show where he was actually incredibly focused on me. Hm. So the jumps gave him something to think about. So we need to make dressage enough of a something to think about that he stops sight seeing. She and I both thought that was an interesting. Her immediate suggestion was ground poles scattered around to keep him engaged, but said she'd think on it more. 

During our ring figures, we focused on big bends through his neck and body to get him to release the base of his neck. She said in 6 months my goal can be those three loop serpentines that we worked on with Ben with true bend through the first two, then left bend through two, then right bend through two, then counter bend through two. I was tempted to give up to the right before I got him truly bending and allowing me to ride his left shoulder at the same time, but she kept me honest and held me to it. 

Goggles and one of his FOUR mares he shares a fenceline with and LOVES

We then worked a bit more on the canter. He realllly wanted to throw his left shoulder out on part of the circle. NDT was confused until I let her in on the secret that that was the side of the circle we used to spin out on and exit the arena when I was trying to do right lead canter back in the spring. Then he was diving in on the next part. She again held us to the strong outside aids on the falling out part, but then wanted me to immediately shift and lift with the right rein, boot with the inside leg, and if he was still ignoring that, shove the right seat bone to the outside. She said that aid was "a bit rude" but he was being "a bit rude" in ignoring my lighter aids. We were pretty much out of Goggles at that point, so we didn't play too much with it, but I'm excited to work on that at home. 

She summarized our lesson by saying he was a lot of fun and extremely athletic, we just needed to channel his attention. Not bad feedback to hear! He spent about two minutes in one of Ms. GY's stalls and managed to knock a fan off the wall in that time. He backed away from it snorting, but returned about 0.2 seconds later to nose the other one. He definitely has a bit of that chaotic tendency in him. 

He loaded up SO WELL to go home. Ms. GY led him on and he just paused once and then walked smoothly on and let me close the butt bar. GOOD BOY! 

Monday we went adventuring again, this time to Majestic Oaks. His adventure pal was in the trailer already when he got on, and he loaded right up. 

Both boys enjoying their preferred hay- alfalfa for his seasoned traveling companion and orchard for Goggles

He mostly stood like an adult horse to get tacked up, and then warmed up politely too. He wanted to porpoise a bit when we cantered, but came back to earth pretty easily. 

We started jumping some of the entry fences after sniffing the particularly spooky logs between bushes. I was dismayed to find that the goal posts have shifted again. No longer is over/under/through the marker for a 100% grade. Now he needs to keep his back soft over the jumps (he was jumping so stiff legged behind that he scraped some bark off a natural tree jump), and he is not allowed to drag down and play afterwards. And because it isn't fair to let him play for ten strides and THEN tell him to cut it out, I must do it the stride he starts. Oh boy. No one ever said baby horses are easy though, so we worked on putting it all together. I said "I can't" to JT enough that even I was getting sick of hearing myself whining, but eventually we got there. 

It really helped when JT said "ride him like he is trained". Oh. Well then. If I ride him that way, he responds. Over the past year, we have created a horse that actually does understand leg and seat and voice and hand and behaves like he is trained (mostly). Huh. Set an expectation and he rises to meet it.

He was a star at the banks. He went quietly down the bank like it was just a tiny step down, which it was. We did the slightly bigger one too and he casually stepped off that. Good boy! Ditches were NBD too. Water he stopped at a bit, but his fellow baby horse had gone ahead and then said absofuckinglutely NOT, so it might have been better if we'd just walked up to it ourselves. But he didn't jump into his trailer buddy who was the brave leader when he did enter, so that's major progress from just a few months ago when the water moving around his legs was shocking. 

Overall two very successful outings. Even though he spent a lot of time staring into the distance at majestic, he also moseyed around on the buckle and didn't spook at anything. Well that's not actually 100% true, he spooked at something when I had just taken his bridle off and he very nearly ran me over. So that was fun. But fortunately I was being a good pony clubber and had his reins around his neck still, so he didn't get free for a frolic. Other than that though... He's just so much braver and more rideable each time we go, it makes me so delighted to think about even as I struggle with feeling like I can't actually ride him. 


  1. "Ride him like he's trained" is honestly great advice!!

    1. It changed so much about the way I was riding in just one sentence!

  2. love your opening quote! sounds like two very great sessions with the bebe horse! i'm so excited for when we can eventually get out into some xc fields, but ground conditions right now are... not great lol. also really appreciate NDT's focus on relaxation as a goal. that's something i really want to focus on with Doozy too...

    1. Thanks! I was struggling with titles and decided to take a new approach for a bit. The relaxation is hard, I have honestly never thought about teaching it. I'm excited to keep up lessons with her and see how we keep developing it.