the more I learn, the less I know

We had a great ride & lesson Wednesday night. I learned sooo much, my head was still spinning the next morning. I swear, the more I learn the less I know! Why is that?

The barn was busy as usual. We arrived to find our favorite tack fitter and friend Kathye, from Mounds. She checked how our tack was fitting our boys, and tried a new Billy Cook saddle on Nemo. Now that she has seen them in person and things fit well, we just need to make a final decision on the saddle. As you’ve likely read, we didn’t have much luck finding a used saddle locally. I know some folks get good saddle deals on ebay, but we don’t want to take the risk in this case. We reeeally need another saddle (and soon), it’s a necessity, not an extra.

We rode in the indoor arena, do to the string of crappy cold wet weather we’ve had. Warming the horses up was uneventful. It didn’t take long for me to warm-up either. Before hopping up on Koda, I slung my sweatshirt over the entrance banister. Nemo caught a glimpse of the odd black lump that wasn’t there before and found it kinda scary, but that didn’t last long. No obstacles or other riders in the arena for entertainment tonight, just the four of us working our gaits. Patty was please with how well Koda was listening. I agree, altho he was sluggish he was moving right off my leg at the trot. From what I saw, Brad and Nemo’s ride went well as usual.

With my first pending lope on Koda, Patty suggested I split my reins for more control. Not a big deal, I used to ride split reined. There is more positioning to be aware of, along with the added control. I mentioned to her that I may need her to help tell me if I’m on the wrong lead. It’s something I don’t think I ever got good at. Koda & Nemo are trained with a high (to me) outside leg roll cue, and a kiss. She also suggested a slightly shorter outside rein and to cue going into a bend, to help them get the correct lead. Pretty common. And so, we loped. First we loped to the right. Holy rocky horse, I thought I was on the wrong lead. I know it’s been a while, but it felt like an odd lope. Turns out I was on the correct lead (case in point). Patty said it probably felt awkward because Koda was going sooo slow, and the sand is really deep in her indoor. We tried again, and it was better. I choose to start loping in a half circle, and got reminded to turn Koda sooner if he wasn’t turning on his own. It’s important with the young ones. Oh ya, forgot that part - it comes back really quick when you almost run into a wall. We continued on, and I felt put together enough to go around the arena. It was fun!

Then we tried the left lead…and it all went down hill from there. You may recall one of the videos I posted where Patty mentions that Koda is very right sided, well she wasn’t kidding. He kept breaking his stride. Patty said (several times) I had to get after him or it’s going to get worse. We stopped, backed up, and got reminded to not pull on his face when backing up. Old habits die hard. I’ve figured out that Patty uses a lot more leg in her training then my previous trainer. I’m used to working the bit side-to-side on the horses I’ve ridden into collection, forward and back, along with leg pressure. You can’t do this with a young horse. It’s second nature, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it until she said something. Koda would start to listen, and then back to a broken stride…we started, we stopped, we backed, we started, we stopped, over and over. Patty offered to jump on him and show me how hard I needed to get after him, but I was determined. Things just got worse, eventually all I got was a trot. We were frustrated, both Koda and I. At that point it was all eyes on Aurora and Koda, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to out stubborn him and get a lope to the left. Man did I feel like an uncoordinated idiot. That’s a lot to put together all at once when things aren't going your way. Must have been hard for Patty to watch. She is so kind and never raised her voice, or made me feel bad. That’s a refreshing change. Patty truly wants the horse and rider to become partners, and that is why she includes owner training in her program. Brad thanked me later in the vehicle, he said by watching us he better understood some things. I’m glad my struggling was good for something. I eventually realized whatever I was doing wasn’t going to work. I was getting nowhere, tired, and it was long overdue that Koda did what was being asked. He wasn’t going to give me an inch. He was being naughty, and I let him get away with it. Patty got on him, and all she said was “Wow, I can feel his sluggish colty frustration. I’m glad you got off. The next thing coming would have been a buck”. Great. I’m glad I got off too. They have never offered to buck, and we want to keep it that way. Apparently that can manifest itself too. She showed me how she wants me to get after him. If the back-up doesn’t work, then a harder kick with more heel than I was using, and then if needed transferring short reins into the left hand and swatting his butt with the end of the reins, and lastly making him work for a break. It didn’t take but one kick, and one swat, and he stopped breaking his stride at the lope and held his trot for her. That's a good thing about Koda, he will test you but understands the correction. He is a smart boy, it usually only takes once. Koda was a sweaty guy when all was said and done.

We talked about all this, and more. I learned a person can’t out stubborn a young horse. It doesn’t work. She asked me if I was scared to get after Koda. I’m not. She has asked me similar before, when I've seen her need to get after other horses. I understand the difference between abuse and getting respect for safety’s sake, sometimes it takes a stronger hand. Patty isn’t one of those “in their face” trainers. She is very in-tune with the horses, and uses the least amount of pressure at key times and builds from there – but, she means business. How do I know she’s not a rough trainer? The horses love her, you can tell. Watch their reaction when “those” type of trainers walk by a horse. What I don’t know is what to expect after, and then there is the timing and coordination of it all. Now I know, and I hope I can mean business too. Time will tell. Patty’s take is this “ what a person should be scared of is what will happen if you don’t get after him right away and squash the bad behavior before it grows”. Good point. With all that said, we might move Koda into a curb type bit and me into a ball spur. I opted to try one more time before upping things. After all, it was my first time loping a young horse. I can do better. If it doesn’t work next time, we’ll go to plan B. The bottom line is I need to be able to make him listen, or all the training will be for nothing. He doesn’t deserve that, and neither do I. I’ve been processing all this and hope I can put it together…so, that is what we’ll work on next.

We only have one week left, and our 90 days are up. As far as Brad, he continues to feel Nemo taking the occasional extra step at the lope. Patty is going to show him some techniques to keep Nemo reaching. Maybe I'll get to watch? Nemo is a willing learner, and wants no part of anyone getting after him. Koda and Nemo are completely different in how they learn. We pretty much knew that from the days (and days) we went to look at them before deciding they were right for us. We are thankful we found someone who understands all horses are individuals. I have the harder horse to train initially, but in the end I know he will be a rock star. We will likely do a couple more weeks of training, for all of our sakes.


fernvalley01 said...

I hear you on that! It is a learning curve for your whole life , just when you think you have it figured they give you something new to think about! SOunds to me like things are actually going very well

aurora said...

Thanks Fern, I appreciate that. I can only hope I keep learning about horses my entire life. Patty made sure I knew she still makes mistakes, and she's been riding for 50 years. She is such a sweatheart, we feel so lucky to have her for a trainer.

Terri said...

You sound so much like me!!!! I rode when I was a baby until I married and had to sell my horses. Went years without horses and missed it more than I can express.
Got kids raised and bought a hunter jumper. I have always ridden western and usually reiners. I converted Maggie to western, no big deal, only I taught her the old school way, the way I learned. We do fine, but riding has changed so over the years. She works off leg beautifully but at first I wanted to stay in her mouth all the time. If you have read any of my blog you know I took a dangerous fall and had multiple injuries.(not from Mags) Now any ride is a successful ride as long as I stay in the saddle. :-)

aurora said...

I agree Terri, I too want to stay in the saddle and consider that successful. What I'm learning is out of my comfort zone. I don't want to live in a "lesson horse, with someone barking my every move..." bubble - that, isn't living. It was a starting point, that wore itself out. I know this new path won't be easy, but then again anything worth doing isn't. I just hope I have the salt to do it?!!

JeniQ said...

Ohhh Aurora I completely understand the instinct to get into their faces! I was taught the old way too, and using harsh bits etc to get my way.

I've made a point to re-teach myself to stay out of my horses mouth completely. I've come a long way but still want to resort to brute strength and out stubborn when all else fails. I'll have an interesting post most likely today about this very subject.

aurora said...

I read your post Jeni, it was interesting. I've dropped reins in past lessons and tried to maintain whatever we were working with at the time (ground poles etc) for much of the same reasons. While it was fun, and definitely has value, I was always happy to pick the reins up again, and feel more secure.