Friday, July 8, 2016

It is Always the Rider

As I look back on my blog posts to review our struggles and triumphs, I have come to realize a couple of truths:

 #1 Anything I've asked Ben to do, he's figured out how to do. It might take longer than the average bear, but he's done it. He has never said NO, I CAN'T.
#2 No matter how long it takes for us to do something, it is always under my influence to either make-or-break it. That means all of our successes, AND all of our shortcomings.

A few days ago, actually the day after my last blog post, I went out to ride. I have had fitness on my mind - mainly because I signed us up for this show at the end of the month, and I want to make sure we're both in the best shape possible to make it through the weekend. I've also been examining (over and over and over) my routine with Ben, mainly stuck on this Day 1 ride and how to make it less-awful.

I felt like I was really getting somewhere with that last ride. And I do think it helped a ton. But you know what? There were still issues on Day 2. Day 1's ride did not make Day 2 any better. In fact, Ben was a slug on day 2. It was if all he had to say was "wow, this is super easy, thanks for lightening my workload!" As much as it helped us, it also backfired a bit. I put too muck stock in it.

I was carrying a lot of the load in our relationship. I was the one constantly being pulled on, jerked on, stopped on - coming away drenched in sweat and happy when I got a mediocre response that I took to be his best effort. Things came to a head for me when I asked for some canter and while he did it, he kept dropping into a trot. I realized then how chaotic our canters are - I am so consumed in doing a million things to try to keep him going that I can't actually work on the damn canter. In the space of what was probably a second or two, so many of my rides, struggles, etc flashed through my head. I lost it. Not in a ragey kind of way, but in a deeper way. I realized right then that things had to change, and change immediately. We have been at this for literally years, and why are we still struggling with the same damn thing? No more.

No, I did not beat my horse in a fit of anger - there was no anger - there was clarity. In that moment, I knew I had to expect more of him - and to do that, I had to ride. Really ride. Throw all the mental BS out the window and get to the task at hand. Talk about being truly centered. It was not fluffy. It was not harsh. It was just very black and white - zero gray area.

And so we cantered. And cantered. I didn't care how ugly or pacey it was, where his head was. I just sat there and expected him to keep going and to carry me. Do not change gaits. He dropped, and rather than asking him to come back down and try again, nope, right back up into the canter from where he was. He kicked out. He bucked. I sat and asked. Sort it out, you can do it. Figure out where your legs are. He had to own it. No excuses for either of us.

And what do you know, he figured it out. He CAN canter without dropping to a trot after a lap or a circle. I was preventing him from realizing that. He had no idea it could be done, because I never supported him in trying to do it. I was blocking him. It was me, the rider.

Our relationship changed that day - for the better. It took me realizing I had to take responsibility for US.  It has been a week since this moment, and I can tell you that we have, for certain, turned a corner. I can actually work on the canter. I can collect it, extend it. I can do counter canter loops. I can just...canter.

I cannot change who Ben is- I cannot go in and edit his genetic code and make him an elastic moving warmblood with springs for hooves. No, I cannot do that, obviously. But what I can do, is influence the body he has, to make it fitter, more elastic, and better moving. Ben CAN. We're on a different page of our book, together.

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