Following Jen and Luc’s extremely successful first cross country outing, I decided to take what I learned during their lesson and put it into practice. And guess what – it actually worked!
I shouldn’t really be that surprised, as Sandi Patterson from Wesley Clover Parks has A TON of experience and her advice and support was spot on for Jen and Luc. Perhaps what I should be surprised at is that fact that I was able to implement said advice and see a difference. As it turns out, you really can learn a lot just by watching other people’s lessons. Hmm, maybe I should just start stalking the lesson kids in my area and sit in while they’re getting all this great instruction. Except I’m pretty sure it would be a little hard to explain to parents why I am following their kids around. And I’m really sure it would be even harder to explain to the police officer who inevitably gets called in to investigate.
But back to the point of this blog – the fact that I learned something and was able to implement it. What Sandi had Jen work on was simple. Give Luc a light squeeze and expect him to go forward. Easy concept, difficult execution. As some of you who have read my previous blogs may know, Luc is not the most energetic horse on the planet, nor is he inclined to move forward without a lot of persuasion. Sandi says on a scale of one to 10 it should only take a two or three to get the horse going. I’m pretty sure I was at 300, and still not moving forward, and turning more purple by the second. Step two in the teaching Luc to be more sensitive to the leg aids is to give a little cluck with your squeeze. Then if that still doesn’t work to give a squeeze, cluck and tap with the whip (aka the go stick). It only took Luc a few tries to grasp the concept with me, although in all fairness Jen had been working on it with him the day before.
The hardest part was giving a lot of praise immediately after to let Luc know he was doing the right thing. It wasn’t hard because I’m some kind of monster who doesn’t like to pat my horse. More that as soon as I would let Luc know he was a good boy, he would immediately want to stop, which was completely counterproductive. I stuck with it though and by the end of the ride it was working beautifully. It did take a lot of concentrated effort on my part to remember that nudging and kicking were no longer aloud. But it was well worth the effort. No more feeling of dead legs after my rides! Or at least that’s the hope anyways. Despite not needing as much leg to get Luc going, and more importantly to keep him going, I was pretty exhausted by the time I was done. My face was red, I was grossly sweaty and when I took off my helmet my hair looked like a matted mess. But I’m blaming all of that on the fact it was sweltering hot outside. So hot that Luc was even sweating too!
In the end it was a great ride with some real progress made, on both our ends. Luc learned to move forward from lighter pressure, and I learned that I am capable of working Luc continuously for 40 minutes – our longest ride yet – without needing to take any breaks. Yay me!