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Sunday, June 6, 2010


The dressage lesson after a ride is always disappointing. She's usually stiff and disobedient. It seems like all the pulling and disobedience I let her get away with at a ride always puts us back at least 1-2 weeks in our dressage training.

I try to delay our dressage lesson at least a week after a ride, and my trainer knows that at that first lesson to go easy, focus on walk/trot and generally find out what horse I have.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when I had the best lesson EVER on Friday. She was relaxed (even had the "hip wiggle"!), obedient and met me more than half way on everything I asked for and was very generous.

The difference from previous rides was that I focused on making the three days all about training. No longer did I allow her to do whatever she wanted as long as it generally conformed to the plan. I was riding for a bigger goal than that day's ride. I try to do this always, as my goal is the longevity of my horse (and us both having fun), but for some reason I could see more clearly at this year's Wild West how I must ride to achieve my long term goals - Tevis, other 100's and horse longevity.

I made no excuses for her behavior at Wild West. I focused on LEADERSHIP and took any misbehavior on her part as a failure in my leadership. This is a concept I brought away from the Amazing Grey's book by Baber. One of the reasons I show and I do endurance rides is to deepen our relationship, which in part is due to the strength of my leadership. Farley was more relaxed and better behaved at the ride because I insisted and because she was focused on that goal and therefore less worried about the fact I needed her to stand and pulse down outside of camp, or being competitive, or that we were riding in a group, or any of the other multitude of issues that we have both struggled with over the years, all due in part to the lack of my leadership at rides.

Endurance was supposed to be fun for both of us and a time to deepen our relationship and bond. Instead it was destroying part of the relationship, if you judged by how long it took our dressage to come back (dressage being a measure of trust and obedience). Oh sure, we both had FUN at rides, but it was coming at a price.

By improving my leadership, I'm not saying I was a tyrant, I just held her to a higher standard that I knew she could achieve, and then when she was there, I gave a little and let her stand beside me (metaphorically). She was still competitive, still opinionated, still everything I love about this horse, but I provided more of the direction.

Maybe in the future, I can go back to my last leadership style at rides, but for now, I think we both benefit from me having more "say".

tangent: Kathy mentioned during the ride (in general) that it was not productive to get angry at a horse. I admitted that I had a temper and struggled with keeping cool while very frustrated. And that I'm very very grateful that Farley has a "reset" button and still lets me say "let's start over" as many times as needed. Through her, I'm becoming a better person. While I've never done anything that would be considered "abuse" to Farley, the point is that I do lose my temper and that is unacceptable. Especially with Farley, who seems like she can read every thought, I hold myself to a higher standard - it's not enough that I don't act on my temper (mostly), I need to not lose my temper mentally either (not sure if I'm making sense....) In fact I have a whole unpublished post on one such incident, that I STILL haven't published from months ago on the subject. How can I be a good leader if I can't be consistent? Oh sure, we will both make mistakes and most of the time, she covers me and I'll cover her, but it's not fair to her to always wonder whether THIS will be time the time where she pushes me over the edge of frustration and the lines of communication close.

When I started this blog I had 205 miles, all in one day 50's. Now I have 780 miles, which includes a 100 and multi days. I would like to think I am more open to suggestion now, and more likely to stop and consider whether I need to change. I would also like to think that I'm more honest and open about my struggles. I really really really don't want to turn into one of those people that always knows best and can't take a suggestion and goes through like blundering into other people, always complaining and wondering WHY everyone around them doesn't "get" it. (and we all know those kind of people!).

Maybe it's time to publish that post.

Farley update: Everything looks well. Farley was relaxed and very very sound at the dressage lesson - in the nice soft footing. We took it easy and with this successful (and easy) day, I feel good about leaving for Alabama and leaving behind a sound and happy horse. Because of my trip she'll get another week off (2 weeks total) and then we will start heat training! No need to do any more conditioning, but with the cool weather during WW, I need some good hot trail rides in the next 4-5 weeks.

I REALLY need to stop obsessing over every little ouchiness and worrying that I've done something major to soft tissues. It IS just possible for a little uneveness to be just that - a little minor soreness that is perfectly innocent, is a learning opportunity, but in the end, no damage done.


  1. But how do you keep from getting mad? I'm usually really laid back and "whatever" (and that's probably what I should be working on - raising my standards for myself and Dixie). But sometimes the damn horse makes me mad, and I hate it.

    At least I've figured out that I get mad when I feel helpless. I'm always looking for new ways to convince the horse do to X behavior, so I won't run out of tools and feel helpless and get mad... but I should also work on my reactions. So what type of situations make you mad at Farley, and what are you going to do about them?

  2. You ask the really tough questions!

    I think my response is going to nessistate a response a whole lot bigger than a comment so I'll do it in it's own post this week. I'm in Alabama so theoritically I have plenty
    of hotel/airport/plane time to write posts yes?

  3. Well if you have any sense, you won't go outside unless you have to, so yeah! Plenty of time. ;)


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