Monday, August 8, 2016

The Sweet Spot

Today's post brought to you by Cutie McCuteface, and his big doe eyes.

Today's short post is actually brought to you by me, and I'm not that cute. But I can create a blog post a hell of a lot better than Cute-face up there. If the keyboard remained intact long enough for him to paw out some words, he'd probably say something like "giz me dat cranberry OSM bar now plz mom" and that would be all. The boy takes after his mama and is a big fan of the OSM - cranberry to be precise, though he won't turn down the other flavours in a hurry. 

I digress.. what I actually wanted to share today was a little revelation that occurred to me during my ride some time last week. We've had a great winter on the whole, and I was almost beginning to take the intermittent warm spells during the day for granted, but this day was particularly cold - my grandma would have said it was bitter.

We were moseying around the arena, going through the w/t/c motions and I was focusing on riding squares instead of circles, and trying to psych myself into preparing for some serious schooling. Because we had a lesson the next day and I knew we'd be tested on our 'homework'.

No matter how much I wanted to, I just couldn't gather myself together to slog it out for forty minutes trying to perfect our shoulder in on the circle. You can't beat a dead horse so instead I opted to just brush over a few things quickly and save our legs for another day.

What a smart move that was. I asked for a couple of strides of leg yield, was unsatisfied with what Oscar offered me so told him to give me more, was then satisfied and let him have a quick stretch on a loose rein before tackling the shoulder in. That exercise was much the same, first request produced less than satisfactory results and so when I insisted he try a little harder, he obliged and earned a tonne of neck rubs.

Moving on when I was satisfied that he'd shown some effort proved to be a great move as he then put effort in from the get go on the other rein, and that got me thinking. I'm so focused on getting things perfect so that we can move forward come lesson time, that I wasn't really rewarding Oscar enough for his efforts. And effort is important, it's something you want to encourage and even train into your horse so that you can continue to move forward... long after that tricky movement is behind you. What good is an excellent shoulder in if my horse no longer finds training fun?

And so I promised to myself that I'll always try to find that "sweet spot" going forwards in our training; where the work is challenging but never difficult. I'll save the difficult and hard rides for lesson time, when there's another set of eyes and someone with knowledge and experience to help make the difficult stuff easier. I have no interest in making things hard to the point where my horse doesn't want to even try anymore. That's no fun for anybody.

Of course, I don't want to make things too easy either. The trick seems to be finding that sweet spot where you're improving, but at a rate that's comfortable for both parties. I still like to see that Oscar got the blood pumping, without heading back to the cross ties lathered in sweat.