Sunday, May 16, 2010

School of Work, School of Life

Dar accepted my gentle French-link snaffle bit and soon forgot about it as our groundwork continued. Weather permitting, we've been teaching him to move away from pressure on his sides, laying the proper foundation for leg aids. Though he had been ridden in his former life, it was always from the face, never from the seat or leg.

As always, we work to keep Dar present and attentive. As always, we work on Whoa, since that is where his daydreaming is most apparent. I've come to think of him as a cargo barge: it takes those ships miles to come to a stop. The call to port comes from the captain's bridge, winds its way down to the engine room, and then the brakes are applied. Dar always seems a bit surprised when he arrives at halt.

All of this has gone well. I've been so captivated by seeing my young horse beginning school, so thrilled to see his learning take hold, so relieved to see it working that I've written about it from that positive place. I've completely overlooked the difficult work that it can be and how that can be intimidating to someone who has never seen it.

Dar came to me with a poor, poor attitude. Early work with him last fall saw him responding resentfully, with pinned ears and a sullen demeanor. He turned to bucking as a way to threaten and escape at the same time. Balking or rushing were his preferred methods of evasion. His attitude created a question in the back of my mind, one that I kept wrapped at all times in a soft puff of hope. An unhappy, negative-minded horse bucking under pinned ears at the end of a longe line will make an impression on someone who is not completely confident. Someone like me.

I've written about Dar's remarkable return to good health and goal weight. I've written about working to bond with him, even as Scout demanded so much of my attention while she recovered from surgery. Since early March, I've been writing about how Dar's training is going, and I think it looks like it has been easy. And it has been easy. Only, I realized yesterday that I've said very little about how Dar's attitude is changing. Training a horse means training everything. Stand in cross ties. Lower your head. Come through gates quietly. Whoa. Pick up your feet. Don't think about biting. Stay in your own space. Change your attitude.

Change your attitude. Yesterday, Dar was ready to learn about steering. It was hard work for him. He made great progress. He made more progress than I did. I need to work on being quicker on releasing when he responds to the rein aid. I had a chance to take some pictures while E was working with him. In them, Dar faces his attitude as much as he faces the new task being asked of him. He is winning that battle.

School of work, school of life. After training, we turned Dar out with Scout. His second testosterone test came back negative. Time to introduce him to Red Death.


OTTB-Little Big Red said...

Just found your blog and can totally relate. I'm a re-rider who had extensive riding, training and showing experience in my youth.

Now, after 25 years off, it's an exciting journey to rebuild the confidence.

Muddy K said...

Thanks so much for visiting. I appreciate hearing your thoughts. And you're right. Exciting is one word for it. I mean, it really can be exciting, but I need work hanging on to those moments. I speak doubt much more fluently!