Wow! What a breakthrough day today with Linda! As many of you know, I’ve recently jumped headfirst out of my comfort zone (at least that’s how it feels!) into the study of the elusive fourth Savvy, Finesse.
My wonderful partner and teacher, a grey Arabian mare named Damo, charts as an extreme Right-Brain Extrovert … just a tad more extreme than me! This can either go really well or really poorly, depending on the day and my own level of personal development.
For the last four weeks with Linda, we have been playing with Stage 1 and 2. Now we’ve also been away on tour and lots of other stuff, so we haven’t had that much consistency, but I’m petrified of contact, and my mare has some fairly intense feelings about the bit as well – surprise, surprise! So we’ve been plugging on, building confidence and trust as I build better posture and better hands, attempting to avoid her usual tendencies with the bit, which were teeth grinding and, well, taking off with me! We had a minor setback where she actually began to refuse to bridle. However, aside from that, we have steadily been making progress and learning together every day.
On the flip side, Linda has also been really pushing me to be a better leader in FreeStyle. My tendency is to float somewhere between having a plan and being a passenger. So Linda has begun coaching me on getting a “light seat forward canter” which of course REALLY tests my leadership as Damo gets very impulsive and starts to think about running off. Then when I lose that mental connection, she also begins to get really spooky, making her pretty challenging to ride. So I’ve been playing lots of approach and retreat and going back to patterns like the Figure 8 and Bullseye to get her mind back to me and our impulsion organized again every time we go for a fast canter. Again, I’ve been slowly making progress and its been getting better and better … but slowly!
So as you’re reading this, you may be wondering how these two trains of thoughts intersect… well, so did I – UNTIL TODAY! Today, I told Linda that I thought I was ready to play with the flying change piece of the forward canter, and she said she would help me through it. So Damo and I got a really nice forward canter going on the Question Box Pattern. Then I changed the flexion and the weight in my stirrups and headed onto the other circle. Up came her adrenaline, she changed in front and not behind, spooked fairly violently at the mounting block, and I could feel I was on a bit of a runaway. I half-yelled to Linda asking what to do, and she basically said, “ignore it, shorten your reins, and have a stronger focus!”
I did what she asked and we got on the correct lead and came around the circle again. I shortened my reins and was able to ask Damo to have correct flexion on the circle and act like a partner. Then we came through the box again and I changed my focus, changed her flexion, weighted my stirrup, and we got a perfect change! It was my first flying change (on purpose, without micromanaging) that felt soft, in control, and just plain FUN!
The coolest thing to me, though, was the moment before that. When my Right-Brain Extrovert had her energy, life and adrenaline up in the past, I have always had to slow things down, reverting to patterns and getting her confidence back by breaking it down that way. Today I was able to shorten the reins, take more leadership, and re-direct her! In the past, she would have felt completely blocked in Zone 1, and by doing that I would have made the problem WORSE for sure!
For me, that moment completely solidified me on how amazing Stage 1 and 2 of the Game of Contact really is for horses. My mare felt like a different horse today, and without this incredible breakthrough of Linda’s Game of Contact I don’t think we ever would have gotten to this place. I now have a completely different tool available to use in my Freestyle riding because Damo no longer feels like the bit is a barrier. I can hold hands with her and offer her more leadership that way. Now I just have to keep playing with getting that feeling in Finesse too! Can’t wait to continue the journey, and thanks so much for your help today Linda!!