March 31, 2012

Shedding and Head Wounds

My husband likes to joke that horses are really bad at surviving.  He often says things like “I can’t imagine any horse ever being able to survive without human intervention.”  Though we’ve had the discussion about feral vs. domesticated horses before, on the whole, he’s right.  A flight animal doesn’t need reasoning skills or a high level of intelligence.  They just…flee.  Or use their massively powerful hind legs and weapon-like hooves to kick the crap out of their pasturemates…which is why I didn’t have a lesson on Thursday.

But before I get to that, how about some shiny pony pictures?  The summer coat may not be in yet, but a good portion of the winter coat is now gone, including all of the guard hairs, which makes him look much more svelte.

Cute pony head!

Dear barnmates who've never seen a Welsh Cob shed before: I'm so sorry.

So shiny, need sunglasses.

Now back to my story.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t Connor.  I was running a bit late tacking him up because he’s finally started shedding in earnest and I got carried away in my own happy little copper-colored hair blizzard, but it didn’t end up mattering as something came up and my trainer couldn't make my lesson, so instead of my lesson, I continued shedding out my wooly mammoth and rode on my own.

This ride was more of the same as the past few, except that the “bad times” were much shorter than normal, and I got a really good connection out of him for quite a while at both the walk and the trot.  I also managed to get that connection back after my trainer and assistant trainer walked past the arena with Connor’s two pasturemates, which is a big improvement.  As I told her after my ride, this whole thing is still the two of us learning how to talk to each other, and for that reason, it’s really important to have these training rides in which I can have the ring and my brain to myself and just play with things: “He’s fussy, what does a half halt on the outside rein do here?  Nothing?  Okay, let’s try playing with the bit on the inside with just my fingers.  That was a little better, now how about coming through the elbow?  Good reaction there.  And what happens if I keep my elbow back on the outside arm like I should have been doing but forgot?  Instant straightening, perfect!”

In the end, I’m the only person riding this horse, and it’s these trial-and-error games that will cement our communication and working relationship.  The difference between practice rides and lessons is that with my trainer, there’s a lot less error and we get to the point much quicker, but it also requires me to listen and think so hard that there’s no room for self-exploration.  Both are needed to get where we want to go.

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