I did not get the chance to ride Link over the weekend unfortunately, and S (potential lessee) came out to ride Link again Monday. Her ideas and thoughts on training dressage definitely differ from mine, but I did not, at the time, feel I had the experience or knowledge to speak up on some of it. Plus, I usually have to mull things over initially (I guess mostly due to my lack of dressage experience) to see how or if it fits in with my overall ideas. For example, S mentioned that Link is quite crooked and that he needs to learn to be straight and thus she was going to work on straightening him out. She started by asking him to straighten out on the longeline, commenting after awhile that he "wouldn't do it". I looked at him and just noted confusion in his expression. He wasn't sure what she was asking. And of course he wouldn't do it, he needs to be relaxed to do it (to start), and he is not relaxed yet when he is confused and working with someone new. Furthermore, straightness occurs later on the training scale - after relaxation, suppleness, contact, and impulsion. It comes as a result of progression along the training scale and is not something that is forced. I told her that he seems stiff and asked her if he wouldn't just straighten out as he relaxed? She responded with a "yes", which made me wonder why she was working on the little things that are a result of his tension: not yet on the bit, being crooked, not fully tracking up consistently, etc?? Why would we not simply focus on relaxing Link? Seems to me like all the "problems" would disappear then as the root issue is solved. I posed the same dilemna to my instructor in my lesson today then and she agreed that I was correct and pointed out that there was already evidence of the smaller issues disappearing as Link's tension disappears within our sessions. Each session Link stays straighter for longer, reaches for the bit more often, tracks up more consistently - everything improves. So we do not have to work on straightness, being on the bit, or Link tracking up - directly. Instead, if we keep plugging away at relaxing him (and of course progression along the training scale), then we will see a general improvement everywhere else. So anyway... S has a lot of different ideas such as the one mentioned, however I do not think that her riding Link is going to hurt him nor that I will have to undo much (if anything) when I return. She did ask though if she could use spurs. When I replied no, she later asked me if I was against spurs? Again I replied no, that I wasn't against spurs, but that I thought they should be used as an extension of the heel - not to back up an aid. Particularly on a highly-sensitive horse like Link. S said that she was having trouble having Link respond to her leg directionally; I simply responded that he can be excruciatingly light to your leg and brought up the fact that I ride this horse bridleless regularly, something I could not do if he did not respond to directional leg cues. I think she missed my point though. K, my instructor, replied in response today that S simply does not have Link's respect. I guess I did not want to admit it and then have to say it to S (who treats me like I have little idea as to what I am doing), but K is right; respect toward the rider will translate to respect toward that rider's aids. That is not to say there are not days even I do not have Link's respect. However I either work on that directly, or I earn his respect indirectly through exercises. It is usually pretty simply obtained and once it is, it is there to stay throughout the session. So I have asked S to refrain from using spurs then as well as most other training aids.
It is a tough decision deciding whether or not someone can ride your horse, and balancing benefit to the horse versus possible harm to the horse. I want Link to be loved and exercised while I am gone, yet I do not want him to be unhappy nor do I want to have to undo any "training" someone has put on him. I am not sure if Link will be happy under S - she is pretty good with him however there were some times I sensed some frustration in her voice (frustration I picked up on easily and had to be careful not to relay to Link - it's funny how that can work, how sensitive we can be to others' states of minds and emotions!) and there were times I did not exactly approve of how she handled him, such as disciplining him for misbehaving while tied. It is not that my horses do not have boundaries, they do. However I do not discipline them for something specific - I instead address and solve the root issue. After all, they are just behaving like horses. Who's to say they should do what we want? For example, of course Link wants to move his feet while he is tied - he is a high-energy prey animal who feels compelled to move his feet. Rather than disciplining him, I can work on relaxing him - body and mind - through different exercises, and thus he stands tied as a result of said relaxation. You solve the root issue. On the other hand, S never did hurt Link and he should be exercised this winter while I am gone. I sort of decided though to see if it works out (S still has to agree to sign a couple waivers - from me and from the barn) - if it does, it does, if it does not, it does not. I also have someone interested in Link coming out tomorrow who sounds promising. Despite the rush (I leave Saturday and essentially will not be home the next few months), she still wants to see and ride Link.
Anyway! I am prattling on a bit.
Today's lesson on Link went quite well, and I was quite pleased for Link to do a number of things S had said (after her first ride on him, before he was warmed up or working up to his full potential) he would not be able to do yet due to where he was at and the type of bit I use (Myler/Parelli C3 Cradle bit). Link was a little sluggish in our lesson at first, but K had me do a number of transitions. It only took a couple before Link was raring to go and was tearing up the rail, lol. We actually succeeded at almost really revving him up too much, just through the use of transitions! Haha. What a sensitive horse! We did some work that involved directional leg cues as well, such as spiraling in and out on a circle at the trot - he was very very light and responded with barely a brush of my leg. On the rail I asked for some extension at the trot and got a lot of controlled power! I could feel his hips and shoulders swinging and the push from behind as he pushed forward - it was fantastic!! It was like sitting on a powerful bike and revving the engine, lol. He was very forward, very on the bit (he just grabbed the contact, but without leaning), and tracking up! K put us over some trot poles, which Link definitely seemed to enjoy. Contrary to what we thought, he was completely calm with the poles - no shying whatsoever. I thought he would be okay but wasn't quite sure. I could feel him questioning me a little here and there as we approached the trotting poles however I gave him his head and he was reaching down, lengthening, adjusting his stride as appropriate (especially if he made a mistake - he made sure to correct it next time over the rails), and was rhythmic! He was fantastic - I think he even surprised K a little, hehehe. We did a little work on canter, but after a couple tries he was just too revved up to do more, so we called it a day there. He tried to counter-canter on both leads today - HAH! We picked up the correct lead to the left and quit while we're ahead. I think tomorrow I'll work a little on suppling as well, as much as I can. I have someone else interested in riding Link coming out tomorrow afternoon, so we'll see how that goes and how much I can get in! Although our canter was not the greatest today, I was SO proud of Link today - it was our best session yet in many respects and he seemed to really enjoy it too. SO! Riding tomorrow, another lesson Thursday, and then I will see if I can ride him Friday or not (though if possible and if things turn out that way, I will just get the new rider to ride Link that day so that I can watch them work). Wish us luck ;)
I also have someone coming out to ride Koolaid tomorrow, and another asking to come out Friday (we'll see). I think I might still have someone to lease him come January if I do not find anyone this week...as usual, we'll see. Hopefully everything falls into place to both ours and the horses' benefits.
Silver and Cody, poor guys, are going to have to sit on the back-burner over the winter - come spring I will make a point of riding both of them more (Cody especially). I love those guys and cannot wait to have our own property so that I have more time to at least just dote on my boys. I miss my boys and feel bad I do not have all the time in the world for them at the moment. So now let me go on about another horse I wish to add to my herd. I know, I am crazy, and I do realise how this sounds! But things will be better time-wise when we have our horses at home and right now it feels right to concentrate on my riding career and thus the horses who will take me there, at this time.