You can’t. You cannot acheive all of your riding goals and the perfect partnership between horse and rider all at once. Baby steps.
This is something I have come to terms with recently in my riding. My regular show season is over for the year, and that means back tracking, strengthening basic skills and taking the next steps. I tend to like to try and micro manage my life and the weekly events in my schedule down to the last detail. This is a blessing and a curse when it comes to riding. While it is great to always go into the arena with a game plan, there are too many factors that I have to consider as I start my rides. The first one being I am on a living, breathing animal with a mind of it’s own. Not everything can go according to plan every time. Plans need to change and adapt with the horse I have that day. I have to tell myself it is okay not to be perfect. Just think about your riding goals last month, or last week. Sometimes you will move backwards, but it is usually because you have excelled in another area and now you need to incorporate both of the skills together again. Always think of it that way and you will realize you are only moving forward.
I have been working on a lot of collection and lateral movements lately in my flat rides. While this has worked out fine for Gracie, I have needed to now start concentrating again on being soft and keeping my leg on. As my coach put it; it is just as important to work on the forward gaits as it is the collected gaits. This simple tweek in my riding resulted in a lovely lesson so far this week. When I stayed soft and kept my leg on it enabled her to carry herself through the course, and she relaxed down and forward all through her neck and back. The lateral work we had been doing paired with the softness and staying back with my upper body is how I could send her down the lines and get her back again for the next tight turn or rollback.
Riley is a bit behind from Gracie this week, and I have had to break things down even more for him in our rides. I fell into the trap of too much collection work with him, and as we know, when he doesn’t want to do something he will begin to shut down. Another few tweeks and we had an excellent second lesson this week. The second lesson I concentrating on keeping my leg on through the turns as I asked him to be straight and even started turning a bit sooner to keep him from bulging out in the turn.
Another thing my coach has said numerous times is this is supposed to be fun. Yes we are supposed to be having fun when we are riding, but we also need to let our horses have fun too. If we ask too much too soon, or over school one exercise then riding becomes a dreaded activity in their every day lives. We owe our horses more than that.