Adaptability from the horse, and rider adaptability come hand in hand. Simply ride the horse you have that day, not the one you had yesterday or the day before.
Today the bay one was just wild! He was just not comparable to the horse I had had the past few weeks, and riding this horse in the lesson proved to be a bit more challenging this time around.
Instead of floating the reins and taking a half seat to the small jumps I was needing to spread my hands a bit wider apart and focuss on keeping him straight in the approach to the jumps; he was just not being as easy going about everything.
The goal for the green hunter horse is to teach him how to be adaptable. The way we as riders and trainers achieve this is practice, and of course allowing the horse to make mistakes so they can figure out how to get themselves out of them. Perfection can’t be expected all the time. When you are taking your horse down a measured 6 stride line, and you are a little long to the in of the line, the best thing for your horse would be to sit back and get them to wait as you continue cantering out of the line. If you cause your horse to get a little deep to the out of the line, great, teach them to use their hindends to get themselves out and over the jump. They slam down the rail when they try to jump out of the deep? Even better, now they will jump a little better next time as they attempt to not make the same mistake and take a rail out.
Now, if the goal for your green horse is to make them adaptable to any situation, then it makes sense that you as the rider must also be very adaptable yourself. You are riding a thousand pounds of unpredictable animal; the chances are that not everything will go as planned and routine every time. Yes, the rider must be able to train their eye to see a distance, move up or wait to the distance, and stay on the straight track to the middle of the jump – but they must also be able to do this no matter what horse you are riding that day. On a warm summer day you may have an easy going horse who needs to be ridden forward with more leg. On a windy cold day you may have a fresh horse who needs to be asked to wait and collect their step. And of course the horse you have that day can be subject to change at any time too! Your forward horse may listen to your aids and back off, leaving you to recognize that and soften your riding to allow them to go quietly through their course again and not be constanly restricted. In all, the rider must listen to their horse and ride the horse they have under them.
With the bay horse being forward in our jumping lesson I had to know when to bring him back and school him, and when to then relax and let him continue until the next correction was necessary. Usually I would bring him back to a quiet walk for a few steps if he picked up the wrong lead after the jump, and then ask him for the proper lead again. (Simple lead changes with quiet downward transitions to walk are asked of him until our canter transitions are balanced and precise.) Today, downward transitions were also used when he rushed and became unbalanced on the landing sides. Circles before continuing on track to the jumps were also used today when he was no longer straight in the approach to the jump. When he was listening to my aids, I changed pace and softened my ride to reward him and let him continue.
With all the corrections needed while riding my energetic horse today, the hardest part was knowing when to stop correcting and let it flow on – but that’s just more practice had for me and my adjustability as a rider.
What are you and your horse each working on to become more adaptable in your riding? What kind of horse have you been riding this week?