First, something that made sense. In my last post I talked about how my hands were moving forward and that keeping them in one place felt like I was pulling back slightly. Well, it turns out that the feeling was what I’m supposed to be feeling. I had forgotten about an article published in USDF Connection a couple of months back about contact, but an article in the issue I got yesterday reiterated some of it. The article was by Hilary M. Clayton, the leading equine biomechanics expert. She did a study that showed that even in the trot, the horses head moves and changes the pressure on the reins in time with his diagonal pairs of legs – just what I had felt at my lesson and what I hadn’t been responding to before that lesson.
Now for me becoming frustrated for no good reason. Maryann and I decided to have our lesson down in the hunt field. It was a particularly windy day, and PJ was an angel. We started right out on the hill and I got PJ to go really nicely both up and down the hill at trot and canter (up but not down) going to the right. Then we changed directions. But even after a walk break, PJ was tired. I could not get him off my hands or pushing enough with his inside hind, which meant I could not get a canter depart. I tried and tried, getting more and more frustrated. The next time around past Barbara she told me to stop. She said PJ was curling his neck and coming way behind the vertical, which meant that his neck was tired. She thought it best that we quit for today because all of the hill work in tall grass makes the horses tired, and just trying to push him would teach him a bad habit because he was so tired that he couldn’t do what I asked. I felt really bad because I had pushed him hoping that the next time up the hill he would get the canter depart. When he didn’t, I went around again and tried again, etc, etc thinking that if I just got my timing down better he would do it.
What has this taught me? My horse is such a pleaser that I need to listen to him better. He’s not trying to not pick up the canter. He either doesn’t know what I’m asking or can’t do it. I can’t take my frustrations at myself out on him.