When I was with The Instructor, I actually got to canter 3 times. I didn't really do anything. GM did it all with The Instructor yelling encouragement to her. When Gem and I started our relationship last May, it was like I was starting from scratch. My goal for the end of the summer was to canter once and go on a trail ride. I shared these goals with LA and with STA. Both thought that they were attainable.
I worked hard last summer getting to know Gem and getting used to Gem's size. I worked hard at getting into the routine at the stables and making friends. I switched from my English saddle to a Western saddle and I worked hard at getting used to the difference. However, the end of summer was approaching and I didn't feel like I was getting ahead with my riding.
I felt frustrated that I couldn't communicate what I needed from Gem. I had seen someone ride him with finesse. He was graceful and his transitions were smooth; I knew what he was capable of. I just couldn't find the right "buttons" on Gem; my inexperience was getting the better of me. LA sensed my frustrations.
She made three comments over the summer that have stuck with me.
Patience. To succeed you need to be patient.
Even if you think you are not progressing, you are.
Gem has improved because of you.
It was the end of August. We were having our lesson outside in the front paddock this particular evening. Jean had been loping the last few sessions and was having a good run during our lesson. I was very happy for her. LA told me I was going to lope next. My heart started to pound. LA told me what to do, but Gem would not lope. His trot would get bigger and bigger, but he would not lope. I tried and tried. I broke out in a sweat. My legs were getting tired. The bouncing was rattling my teeth! LA's daughter had been warming up her horse up at the other end of the paddock. LA asked her to help me by showing Gem what was needed. Her daughter rode in front of me and started to lope. After some encouragement, Gem followed suit. I was flying! I had no idea how to steer, but I was loping!!! It was wonderful.
Later on in the lesson, LA opened the gate leading out to the front pasture. STA had joined our lesson and was first out of the gate. She led Jean and I out of the front paddock. My heart started racing again. Too much space! TOO MUCH SPACE!!! OMG!! I had 1,000 butterflies in my stomach. STA reminded me to breathe and the three of us walked around this small pasture twice. I had reached my goals. I had loped and gone on a short trail ride!!! I was elated. I actually hugged LA when I dismounted.
The last few months, LA and I have been focusing on my balance. My balance has improved, along with my confidence. It was now time to try to learn to lope. But, my loping cues continued to be misread and only got him into a very fast extended trot. It was exhausting.
After a few tiring lessons, LA had me ride a school horse. She wanted me to "feel" what loping was and how to cue. The school horse seemed minuscule compared to Gem. :-) After a couple of attempts, I was loping!!! It was wonderful. I am actually not too bad with sitting in the saddle, but my legs are not solid and I really need to work on steering!
I often think about the three comments that LA made to me. Learning to be patient has been a challenge, particularly when Gem is being an obstinate "teenager" or when I am disappointed in myself. But, I do make sure I finish each riding session with him on a positive note. Every time I think I am taking two steps back with my lessons, I remind myself that repetition and correction is actually progress. LA's comment about Gem improving because of me is way up on my list of some of the nicest things ever said to me. Her comment makes me feel good because that indicates to me that she has seen a connection between Gem and I.
Some of the other boarders make smiley comments and jokes about my inability to get my guy moving. I don't mind. I am older than most of the adults at the stables and have a lot fewer hours in the saddle. Yes, they are light years ahead of me as far as competence and skill goes. But they were, at one time, where I am now. I have come to realize that when you are involved with a horse there are no deadlines; there are goals to work towards, but no hard deadlines to reach them. One day it just clicks. Gem and I are on a journey. We are two beings that, right now, communicate differently. We are looking for a common language, because sometimes you need to ask for directions to be able to reach the destination. :-) I know he is trying and I think he knows I am, too. I am hoping to be able to lope confidently in the front paddock this summer. Yep, I want to be able to outrun the mosquitoes and flies. Giddy up!!
What was I thinking....?