Today’s word of the day is DISTRACTED, defined as being unable to concentrate because one’s mind is preoccupied. That is how Luc felt for the majority of my latest ride. There was no real reason for it other than the fact that he got two new girls in his paddock – which, for the record, has been a mixed herd for many, many months. And new isn’t even the right word. Both of the new mares in his paddock were actually in with this same group of horses over the winter and spring, but spent the summer elsewhere. So he already knows them, and they had the herd dynamics re-figured out in a matter of minutes. Luc, by the way, is at the top of the pecking order, but he’s the good kind of herd boss because the only thing he ever really does is pin his ears, giving an occasional nip when his subordinates get out of line. For the most part, he tends to just allow them to do as they wish, even going so far as to share his food with them.
So while I tried to get him to focus on me while working him in the sand ring, which coincidentally is right beside his paddock, he was fixated on what the rest of his herd was doing. What they were doing was standing around and grazing like the great bunch they are. His being distracted did work to my advantage in one area though. He’s much more forward when he’s focused on other things beside the fact that I am sitting atop him desperately trying to get him to do some actual work. That made continuing to practice only using a slight amount of leg pressure to get him moving much easier. He was quite happy to move forward, even more so when it was in the direction of his herd.
Where it presented a problem was in getting him round. He was much less inclined to lower his head and round through his back, instead doing his best giraffe impersonation in what I can only imagine was an attempt to keep the herd in sight at all times. This is not a desirable way to ride, and has quashed any ideas I might ever have had of saddling up a giraffe. Not that I ever really had any desire to ride a giraffe.
After a few discussions, one even involving the go stick, I did get his attention back on me, and managed to keep it. Once that had been sorted out, I set about getting to work on my actual goal for this ride – cantering forward, while at the same time being round. I know, quite the impossible task. Or at least, Luc was pretty sure it was. I would ask for round and would instead get the slowest canter on the planet, no matter how much leg I had on (so much for that ‘light’ pressure I was supposed to be using). Asking him to move forward resulted in him turning into that incredibly rare grey giraffe again.
Just when I thought we would never get it together, I asked for forward and softness and he gave it to me! It might only have been a few strides, and it might have only happened that once, but it happened! So I took it. I congratulated him and myself on a job well done and called it a day.
What I have learned in the past few months back in the saddle is that mastering anything takes time, and it’s the small victories that keep us motivated. It may not have been the best canter Luc is capable of (I have seen some lovely movement out of him when my sister rides), but it was the best canter I have been able to get out of him, and that left me feeling pretty proud. And motivated. Because I know we can continue to get better the more we work together. Maybe next time I ride it will be on a horse and not a giraffe. Hey, a girl can hope, right?