What a difference a day can make...
I’d had a busy weekend studying and was feeling mentally tired, so when I saw that Pip was taking Louise and her horse Beau out for a hack I asked if I might join them, as that seemed a far more appealing prospect than the menage. Pip was leading on her bike and I was at the back on Bronson. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day, but things were not going quite to plan. Pip has taught me that I must always keep a horse’s length between Bronson and the horse in front. Not because she is worried about the horses in front kicking out, but rather because the horse behind can damage the tendons of the horse in front! When you consider how far forward a horse reaches his legs, especially in extended trot, this makes perfect sense.
I was asking Bronson to work correctly and at the same time was trying to stop him from getting too close to Beau. This was proving difficult, as he felt like he wanted to rush ahead, and in the end I found I was getting rather heavy on the rein. This is highly unusual. Pip has always taught me that I must only have a contact on the rein when I am asking for something, but as the ride went on I was asking him to slow down a lot! I was doing half halts, breathing out and using my body as a pendulum, all the things I have been taught, and whilst we were maintaining our safe distance it was proving a challenge and Bronson was clearly not happy.
As we arrived back at the yard and Pip stopped to open the gate she looked at Bronson and me and said “What are you asking for?”. I explained that I was asking him to work in an outline and not rush ahead. “Well it looks like you’ve been asking for too much and in the wrong way, he’s really frustrated!”. I reflected back over our hack, what I’d been doing and how Bronson had been behaving. I knew I was missing something and after we’d hosed the horses off and cleaned our tack I went over to chat with Pip. I explained that he had felt like he wanted to rush ahead the entire hack, that I’d been doing half halts but he wasn’t listening and that the hack had felt like a struggle. This is not Pippsway! Pip explained that I’d lacked the fun, the enjoyment and the joy that should be there on a hack, especially on such a beautiful day! I’d been asking for all the right things but in the wrong way, with the wrong energy. I’d been too intense, like an uptight boss! “How much pressure did you have on the rein?” she asked and went on to explain that a half halt should merely be a closing of the fingers on the rein, it really is that subtle. I’d been using far too much pressure and Pip explained that me getting stronger on the rein had just made him uptight and so he’d gotten stronger in his response! She also said that I needed to be absolutely sure that there was no contact in between the half halts. “You can’t have contact and then half halt on top of the contact. You need to be sure that you have a slack rein first”. She said that I had been too full on and the atmosphere between Bronson and I had been fraught. “Yes, you need to ask for all those things, but it is how you ask that is important”. Also it was because of my intense energy that Bronson had been running away from me!
I felt so bad. Bronson had been a saint when I considered how he had been feeling and how I had been behaving. “Can we do it again tomorrow?” I asked. Thankfully Louise and Pip were both up for it so we agreed to meet again this morning. I arrived at the yard with the sole intention of having an enjoyable time with Bronson. We headed out and I made sure I had a slack rein. Again, he was wanting to get too close to Beau but I made sure that I was feeling happy, relaxed, was enjoying the sunshine and the fact that we were out together. I gave half halts with the mere closing of my fingers, used my breathing and my body as a pendulum and kept making sure there was no tension in my reins. What a difference! He even did his little blowy thing that he does when he is happy and, whilst it took a great deal of concentration on my part, we maintained our safe distance without any tension.
It was such a wonderful feeling and arriving back at the yard knowing he had enjoyed himself too felt fabulous. What a difference a day can make!