Monday, November 1, 2010

Knowing When To Quit

I know I've talked about consistency before, but it's an important topic and a surprisingly broad one. As riders, most of the time we concentrate on honing our skills so we can use them with reliable results. If our equine partners know that X always means something specific then they're more likely to remember to do that specific thing when we use X. It's simply the communication of ideas, just like a spoken language.

I've noticed, however, that it's possible to dwell on a "topic" too long. Horses, like people, can become bored and inattentive if a topic of discussion is carried past its usefulness. Straight lines become crooked, circles are no longer round, even shoulders-in will cease to engage the inside hind leg. While we, the riders, are busy working on perfecting an aid (or what-have-you) to a classically correct level the other member of our team is falling asleep at the switch, finding ways to avoid the difficulty we're inflicting on them, or looking for something else to occupy their minds.

Ideally, we don't want to get to the point where our partner is done with an exercise before we are, and is now engaged in an activity that is amusing only to them. We want to change the exercise when it has done its job--for example; improved the way the horse is going, or shown him a better way to balance himself.

The problem is that each horse is different. And while Eddie has been laid up I've been reacquainted with that fact. The solution is to pay close attention to the horse, and when he has demonstrated a consistency in the exercise you are doing, then it's time to change to something else--even if he's not perfect because you've probably gotten as much out of it as you're going to at this moment. Does that mean you can't revisit it? No of course not. Just do something else for a while. 

Like everything else one does with a horse, what they teach us is a life lesson. Now I just have to figure out what the aids are to teach teenagers to clean their rooms….

Horses are easier!


  1. I can relate to this. I recently rode my horse tired after a long day at work. My horse was frustrated as was I, but we had to keep on going to finish on a good note. I was nearly in tears. I certainly didn't know when to quit, but my horse taught me a good lesson. Be gentle and have patience. Keep it short and purposeful. But above all, have fun!

  2. Oh, Kim, I know what you mean! Most of the time riding puts sanity back in my world by forcing me to focus on the "here and now." But once in a while it's an insurmountable hump, and I have to work hard at not letting my horse think he's the one to blame for my mood.