This picture was taken after our lesson, and after my trainer Kari rode him for a little schooling lesson.
Alfie has always been a challenging horse to ride. Not challenging in a dangerous way, challenging in a stubborn way. I remember when I first got him, I would watch my teacher ride him and he would move so nicely and then I would get on and he would stand. Just stand. Getting him to walk a few steps was so difficult. Why did he not want to walk for me you ask…because he knew he could get away with it because I was just learning and he took full advantage of that.
Throughout our years together, he’s come up with different behaviors to get his way, things he would do that used to scare me and our ride would end. The last year or so, those things don’t scare me anymore but they are still behaviors he uses from time to time. Today, he used them all.
The mounting block…he didn’t stand, so I tapped him on his butt so he would move into position. He stood. As I was climbing up the block, he moved again. Again I tapped him into position and he stood, and I was able to get on.
From the start of our ride, he was more focused on his horsey friends coming into the barn, the birds chirping outside, basically his focus was on everything but me. Sigh…this is how our lesson is going to go.
I know that riding a challenging horse like Alfie as opposed to an autopilot horse is going to make me a better rider. I logically know this. I’m ok with challenge. But today was a reminder of just how challenging he really can be and I couldn’t help the feelings of defeat slowing creeping into my brain and heart.
My trainer said there were a lot of good points of our ride today. But of course, I’m just focused on all the negatives. It’s something I try really hard not to get sucked into, but it really is hard to get out of the negative. We are our toughest critics.
We completed a dressage test at a walk today. It wasn’t perfect by any means, and at one point I just had to stop to catch my breath because I was getting physically tired dealing with Alfie’s tantrums.
After our test, we worked on our stopping and backing up. Alfie is a quarter horse, and he’s got the traditional quarter horse butt, big and strong. Backing up is something Alfie is really good at. Today he wanted no part of it. After several attempts to back up, he takes his head and throws it down to the ground in an attempt to take the reins from me. Seriously Alfie???
I eventually won the battle of the back up, and as our lesson ended my trainer asked if she could ride him to help him understand my requests.
As she lined him up at the mounting block, he moved. I was stunned. For all the times she’s ridden him he’s never moved, not once. So she corrected him by tapping his butt and voila she was able to get on.
I then watched Alfie attempt to give my trainer a hard time like he was giving me. The biggest difference is she corrected his behavior much quicker than me. This is something I’ve gotten better at but still struggle with as far as timing. Here’s the thing about horses, they challenge because they can. They test the boundaries, similar to children.
As I watched my trainer riding Alfie, getting responses from him that I struggled with, for several moments those negative feelings towards myself came up, but then I forced them to go away. I was able to see Alfie, his physical confirmation, his muscles, his positioning. He looks beautiful. His body is rounding, in true dressage form. He’s trotting using his butt muscles, he’s bending his head, he’s seeking contact of the bit. And he’s doing all of this because of me. I’m the one who’s transforming him. Me. The one he challenges every chance he can. Me. The one he trusts more than any other human. Me. It was then when I realized despite the struggles, I know I’m doing good.
Our day ended with a bubble bath and lunch, and of course a nap. ❤️🐴