Friday 9 November 2018

Learning The Most

The recent 25 Questions survey that was circulating had one question that I really wanted to write further on:

What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?

My answer was Bridget. Because she's been the toughest horse I've ever dealt with, and yet, on paper, we've accomplished the most together.

I've had a post sitting in my drafts folder for months now, a general outline of all the lowlights that happened through the years - everything from straight up refusing to move to rearing and falling backwards on top of me to going through a phase of refusing jumps so hard she'd fall down. Let's not forget that dressage show where the judge complimented my riding, but followed that up by suggesting I find a slightly more 'honest' horse.
Still having fun, though.

To sum it up, Bridget's default answer to most things she perceives as new or potentially work related has always been "NO!" There was always a pretty fine line to negotiating that NO into a maybe, without it escalating into something undesirable.

My moral of that post was going to be that most good horses are very much made through training, and that a lot of the near misses and Very Bad Things were my responsibility for pushing her past her imaginary line drawn in the sand. That the very bad days were far outweighed by days of slow and steady progress and fun outing and adventures.

At the lake, looks like I must be taking a pic for you guys! :)

I keep refraining from pushing the 'publish' button on that post, because no matter how I word it, I worry that it reads as a list of all the bad things about Bridget and my relationship. When, in real life, I feel like we have a really great partnership and I'm beyond happy with her.

I think this was the weekend where she figured out sliding to a stop and bucking on downhill canters or after drop fences was a great way to lose me and I fell off about 2x a day. But again, we still had lots of fun too, this is part of a lovely uphill line the trainer kindly suggested we finish the day with :)

These days, I get frequent comments from my riding buddies about how lucky I am to own such a good horse, one that's always so easy. Don't get me wrong, I'd never argue that she's not good. She's great and she always has been. BUT people seem to equate quiet with 'easy' or 'good' or 'well behaved' and that's really a big assumption. It was just lucky that Bridget's happy place was to stand around quietly because that fits people's expectations of a good horse. Push her outside of that happy place, though, and...well...things used to get a bit 'real', lol

I was not riding nearly defensively enough off this bank lol, pretty sure I end up sitting in the bottom of the gully in a couple more strides ;)

She used to get so angry at being asked to canter

Saying NO to something, back in the day.

This used to be her trotting face, lol - she used to get really pissy about moving faster than a walk. 

Anyway, I like that the question above rephrases it all as something positive: a learning opportunity, a chance to be better, a gift of knowledge to take forward to new partnerships.

This journey with Bridget has definitely taught me so much.

-I've learned that sometimes you can push quite a bit past what should be possible on paper.
-She's not inclined to work any harder than absolutely necessary, so I've learned how to keep it interesting.
-She's not overly motivated to please anyone, so I've had to find ways of making things seem like her idea or or benefit to her.
-She has days where it's just not going to happen. So, I've had to learn to listen to that and be patient.
-She's not super athletic, so I've learned a ton about conditioning and strength building. 
-I've learned about equine biomechanics, about where to place her body exactly, so we can show her how to do everything from lateral work to cantering.
-Mentally, she's very quick to give up. So, I've had to learn to break things down into tiny pieces, and to be quick to reward.
-I've had to learn to be very, very consistent and fair.
-I've learned to be persistent, to not judge progress in a linear fashion.
-I've learned that despite all your best efforts, sometimes things just aren't meant to be. And that it's no one's fault.

So yes, I think Bridget is a horse that's made me a far better rider, trainer, and person. I'm just glad she came in a cute, small, not so athletic package - it was pretty hard to hold a grudge or ever get nervous.



  1. I think if horses were easy, we wouldn't enjoy them so much. One of the clinicians I ride with told me one day that horses teach us more about ourselves than they do about actual riding. Reflecting back on all the horses I have had an opportunity to ride, it's very true.

  2. I love reading about your adventures with B!

  3. Aw this is so cute tho - she’s definitely seemed like a horse who will make you work for the outcome but that it’s always worth it when you get there!

  4. It IS So hard to hold a grudge when they're so damned cute!