Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Progress Comes One Ride at a Time

I had a really uplifting ride last night, and it was just in the nick of time.  I have been feeling slightly overwhelmed at having the horses at two different barns lately.  I feel like I never have quite enough time during the week, and that someone is always getting skipped over or ignored too much.  So last night I decided to scoot my butt out of work as quickly as possible, and get over to ride Delilah after being a lazy putz all weekend. 

I decided to work in the paddock area again, like Kelsey had suggested after our last lesson.  It had been about a week since I had last worked her, and once again, I could STILL feel progress.  It is amazing how much lighter and more relaxed she is becoming.  Before I knew it, we were trotting around with LIGHT contact, and a forward but RHYTHMIC pace...unbelievable. 

So then, of course, I got a little big for my britches, and decided to proceed out to the big field where we were having so many issues at our last lesson.  Of course, within five minutes, things started to go south.  I was trying to self-examine the situation - am I creating this through MY nervousness or tension?  Is Delilah just excited?  So it got a little ugly for a few minutes - some of the old running, burying in the bridle, heavy contact stuff started to come back.  I found myself becoming a passenger, quickly, and when I realized it, I sat back, took hold with my seat, gave her a FIRM half-halt, and focused on controlling my posting to regulate her speed.  Then I realized I wasn't really breathing, so I made myself do that, seeing as how it is slightly essential....

At that point, I could feel all the old tension, literally coursing from her to me and back again.  So I decided to try something I had seen Kelsey doing at the end of her training rides.  She lets the reins slide through her fingers and has her going around on a long loose rein in what she calls a "stretchy trot".  Now remember, five minutes before, I was rubbing fingers raw with the half halt because of how hard she was chugging around. So letting the reins go loose in a giant open field - not exactly my comfort zone.  So I started slow - loose light rein, relaxed trot, steering with my legs only, no direction from the reins whatsoever.  When I realized how amazingly responsive she has become to steering with seat and leg, I quickly found it easier to let the reins slip more and more, til her head was stretched out, and I felt her back swinging freely beneath me.  We trotted around like this for ten minutes, relaxed, breathing, with no tension whatsoever.  And I decided to end with that big success for the day - we will work on more technical things at our lesson on Thursday.

I keep expecting the progress to plateau, or disappear, or to hit some sort of roadblock.  In the past, there has always been something.  To see this steady progression, literally EVERY time, is absolutely amazing.  It is refreshing to see her turning into such an amazing horse.  To an extent, I have always believed in her potential, but for the most part, I knew that I could never get her there alone.  We have too much history built up of mistrust, miscommunication, inconsistency, and just plain doubt.  Delilah needed a calm, firm, consistent influence, and we have truly found that in Kelsey.  She loves the mare, and really believes in her, and isn't afraid of her at all. 

Best of all, I untacked last night and found her dropping her head into my chest for a good scratch.  To see these little signs of personality coming out is beyond exciting.  Even better yet - she dipped her head further, and let me scratch between her ears, over and over again.  I feel like she is blossoming into a completely different horse, and she continues to become more personable with every passing day.  Below is a picture of her being loved on by all the kids from the summer Horse Camp - PRICELESS!!!

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