Turn off the Cruise Control

So Ike and I had our weekly lesson yesterday and the take away message for the day: turn off the cruise control and be present with every stride, i.e., get better timing for and be more frequent with my half halts.  Aaargghh!  Those darn half halts will be the end of me, but I do realize that they are what Ike needs to learn to become more balanced and use his topline.  I need to learn how to teach Ike the concept of a half halt.  There are days he does seems to do well with the concept and other days, like yesterday, he steamrolls along, singing, “La, la, la, I can’t hear you.”

Ms. C and I have many discussions about half halts and how I need to execute them.  Subtle finger squeezes are not always the answer when riding a steamroller.  Full body half halts are still commonplace.  I assume that we will eventually move beyond them, but that day seems so very, very far away.  Ms. C always tells me to try the quiet, invisible half halt first, but if Ike ignores it, then I have the right to be a little louder with my request to get the intended response.  Of course that means that we are well into the turn before Ike responds rather than getting the response before we turn or feed off onto a circle.

And I must confess, that once we get going, my mind will wander.  I will gaze at the trees or at the horses in their paddocks until I hear, “where was your half halt?”  Umm, well, ah, I then have no good excuse and must admit my digression.  Ms. C then talks me through what I should have done which is always much different from what I actually did.  Cruise control is great for trail rides, but not for training a four-year old horse dressage concepts.  Her explanations involve half halts every 2-3 strides.  Oh.  Sometimes I’m lucky to do one successfully before the mind wanders and I worry about the sweat dripping in my eyes or trying to sit the trot.

Yesterday we practiced square turns at the trot and attempted them at the canter.  This exercise really made me focus and stay on task…the fear of running into the fence kept me motivated to execute the turns rather than crush the fence.  If we were scored on successful turns at the trot, we’d have been given a 55% at the most.  I’m too late with my half halt to make the proper turn.  Ike can’t bear the blame for my error, but he can take the heat for lack of listening when I do give the correct aids.  I guess equine four-year olds aren’t that different than human four-year olds.  They are starting to develop their own identity and will challenge authority from time to time.  Hopefully Ike’s challenges won’t go much beyond the current level.  I don’t think I could handle a 1,200 pound tantrum.

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