Schooling is a complicated beast.
On one hand, you need to have a schedule, a plan.
On the other, you need to be flexible and adapt to your horse.
Today was a complicated day in of itself. I knew I wanted to have a pretty hard work day as I felt like I’d been slacking lately. We’ve been doing a lot of hacks and bareback rides the past few weeks. Luckily, Beau has two other riders that work him hard as well, but I have to keep up too!
My plan was to work on bending and rating, as in extending and collecting the gaits. This way I had a loose idea of what I wanted to do, but I could choose my specific exercises depending on how he felt.
We got sidetracked. Of course.
When we got in the arena, two of my friends were just finishing up riding and left right after I picked up the trot. This is, of course, Beau and my’s weakness.
He gets spooky and hyper (no, don’t leave me friends!!) and I get nervous because I overthink what would happen if I fell off without anyone with me. We play off each other and get nervous and tight. Then it’s very hard to get a good ride, or any working ride at all, really.
So, our plan changed from bending and rating to using bending and rating to keep both of us focused and forward.
Step 1: Work on the far side of the arena.
Specifically, away from the spooky arena door where the horses leave.
- Walk: work on bending, using leg yields and playing with the reins to keep him focused (literally jiggling them). I don’t use that a lot, but it helps him focus and me relax.
- Trot: work on transitions for rushing using 5 steps walk and 7-14 steps trot, increasing more trot steps as he relaxed. Work on consistency by pushing him forward when he sucked back and half halting when he rushed.
- Canter: push him forward and actually get him to go one way, try to hold him back the other. Because logic.
Step 2: Switch to the near side of the arena.
- Walk: get him to go forward. Because he’s a big-A horse who is a jerk when he decides to just stop. Also, I have little legs!
- Trot: Hey, hey, we’re going forward now! Work on bending and pushing him forward. Half halts and MORE LEG!
- Canter: Bend and go forward. Bend and go forward. We did it – yay!
So, did we accomplish what I wanted? Yeah, we did.
Did we accomplish it the way I had in my mind? No.
Schooling will leave you glowing with happiness (ex: jumping like a boss, nailing lead changes, etc.), crying with frustration (the bucking bronco, the gross eq, or the FALL), or just feeling average (most days, let’s be honest).
The reality of it is – it’s going to be different everyday. Sometimes it’s going to be awesome, sometimes it’s not.
Expecting perfection every ride will lead to heartbreaks and headaches, but staying flexible and adaptive will allow you to get the most from your horse AND your ride. Remember schooling is for making mistakes. There’s no judgment for a bad ride. Everybody has them!