Geez, could the last few weeks be any busier?!! :-) I aced my yearly audit and after next week's conference, my work life will return to normal. Yipee!
Time for a Jean and Stu update. When we last checked in with them, Stu had just finished his professional training. Last fall, Jean committed to riding him 3 or 4 times a week. Of course, I regularly indicated my availability so that she could ride with company, but it was rarely convenient for her. When I suggested she change her routine, she was quite firm about keeping to the schedule she had mapped out for herself. I sensed that she was pulling away from me and our usual riding buddies. She declined just about every invitation. No more hanging out, no more lessons, no more burgers and beers. It made me sad because she and I had been together on this horse journey from the start. I felt that I was no longer an important part of her riding experience. Yep, I was being dumped. :-)
Winter settled in, making it a bit more difficult to stick to the schedule Jean had set up for herself. In addition, she found that she was not a cold weather rider. :-) The visits with Stu dropped to once or twice a week. I would occasionally see her as I was leaving and she was arriving. Most of her work with Stu continued to be lunging. With the brutally cold temperatures, trail rides screeched to a halt and the number of people riding in the arena increased substantially, with weekends being the busiest. LA had to change the arena rules after there was a complaint about Stu being lunged in one half of the arena, while 4 or 5 riders were relegated to ride in the other half. The result was that no one was allowed to lunge if there were other riders in the arena.
The end of January, Jean and I happened to coordinate meeting at the barn to ride one Sunday after she got back from two weeks vacation. Stu was very fresh and skittish when she was riding him, even after a long-ish lunge session (she lunged before I got to the arena). Jean admitted to me that in the 3 months since his training, she had yet to get him up to a trot. To be honest, I was shocked, but as I watched her I could see that she was struggling and I could see that Stu was reacting to her struggle.
During our lunch that day, Jean said that she didn't feel connected to the barn and the riding crowd - she felt like an outsider. She felt lonely. She felt that the gods were against her because she could no longer lunge Stu. She wasn't feeling the love. She missed our time together. :-) Now, I could relate to how she felt; I felt the same way when I first started riding Gem. But, as I pointed out, her inflexible schedule didn't leave much room for socializing and riding with others. Lessons, which she chose not to participate in, create a bond with other riders socially and educationally. With regards to lunging, I told her that perhaps it was time to stop doing it every time she saddled Stu up.
As we sipped our second beer, she admitted that initially she didn't want anyone watching her ride Stu. She was shy and she wanted to ride Stu her way without comments or people judging her. I get that. But she now recognizes that being alone with Stu most of the time might not have been the right approach. When you are with others, you benefit from their energy and it pushes you do to things, to step out of your comfort zone. Jean wasn't being pushed to do anything in the current scenario. As much as she had a firm schedule to be at the barn, she did not have a firm routine on what was going to transpire once she was there. As a result, Stu was not regularly ridden. He was groomed a lot, he was lunged a lot, he was ridden some times.
Since Jean partnered up with Stu, I have always encouraged her to take advantage of LA's expertise through lessons. Initially, she didn't think lessons would be necessary as she thought her riding experience would be enough for Stu. When she realized that her skills were not enough, she had a professional work with Stu. Again, she thought that she could just pick up where the trainer left off. Personally, there was no way I was going to invest the time and money to have Gem in boot camp and then not have lessons with the trainer (LA) afterwards - in fact, LA made me commit to a couple of lessons after boot camp. I needed to know where the buttons were and be reminded on a regular basis so it stuck! :-) Sadly, Jean's decision to not have lessons from the trainer or LA after Stu completed his training has had a negative impact. She has not been able to maintain or build on what the trainer accomplished with Stu (confidence, walk, trot, canter).
Since our lunch in January Jean has adjusted her schedule so that we ride together on Sundays. Yay! And, she is back in lessons! Yay! We have had four lessons now and Jean and Stu are doing much better. Stu has adjusted to not being lunged, he now stands quietly at the mounting block and has gone from a wiggly-almost-ready-to-bolt horse to trotting the whole arena (gosh, Stu has a beautiful trot!). It's great to see her enthused, connected and with a smile on her face. And, of course, we go out for burgers and beers after lesson. :-) She's baaaackkkkk.....
Have a good week, everyone!