Ezhno’s come so far! He’s gone from out of shape trail horse/pasture puff to semi-functional hunter under saddle, and now he’s at the point where I feel confident that we could hold our own at a schooling show this winter (though we would probably drop down in the ribbons as soon as the judge called for a canter). All in all, his progress has been nothing short of remarkable—he’s doing so well that I often forget he’s only been working in the arena for six weeks.
It’s that fast progress that’s making our recent struggle so demoralizing. I’ve always known I bought a green horse, but so far he’s been such a competent learner that any problems I’ve encountered have been quickly resolved. But now that Ezhno’s built up some muscle and gotten a bit of education under his belt, I’ve started to ride him on a shorter rein… and he’s not taking to the new level of contact very well. In fact, he’s fighting back against it—vigorously, with very few apologies for his belligerently stubborn behavior.
Our last few rides have been physically draining for both of us. He has to use his back and hindquarters in ways he’s never been asked to before and I’ve been getting a full body workout from closing my hand against him while driving him forward with my legs. Progress is slow—a millisecond of give here, a millisecond there—and all that’s kept me going has been constant internal reminders that this is a huge chunk of his fundamental training and that the horse I’m going to have when we’re on the other side of this conflict is going to be worth every blister that I’m getting now.
I’ve been clinging to positive thoughts without much proof that a payoff was coming…
And then yesterday, for two and a half steps, everything came together. His canter was organized, his body was engaged, and he completely softened into my hand. It didn’t last long, but it was a huge step in the right direction, and even though I’m still frustrated I’m also obscenely proud of him.
So here’s to two and a half steps—and, with any luck, three more today. 🙂