Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The "Shoulds"

I am currently struggling with a serious case of the "Shoulds".
The "Shoulds" is a dangerous mental condition, wherein you start to compare where you currently are

versus where you think you "SHOULD" be by now.
The biggest issue I am currently facing is the The CANTER. 
As in, We Do Not Have One.
Now, it is unfortunate that I do not have a lot of photos or video dating from the time I purchased Boca to today. I do know logically that he has made a lot of progress.
We have had to address a number of physical issues and it has taken some time getting him right. The saddle fitter and chiropractor both agreed that he had been ridden in an ill-fitted western saddle, which cause him to be very tight and hollow across his back. Conformationally, he has some challenges, including being very downhill and also ewe-necked. The first farrier we used was not a good fit, as Boca both paddled extremely badly upfront and forged terribly behind.
My instructor got on him and pronounced that he was like riding a very green 3 year old. He had very little steering. He could not maintain a rhythm or pace.  He fell in or out on a circle. He wanted NO part of contact. He went through various stages of falling on his forehand and rooting downwards, followed by Rollkur-pony, in which he tucked his nose into his chest and ran. Or, the most recent stage, which involved twisting his neck and opening his mouth, in an attempt to avoid leg to hand.
Much of these issues have gotten so much better. We now *mostly* have steering and can maintain rhythm. We can make a circle without completely falling on the forehand. The Rooting and Rollkur-pony have disappeared completely.

Saturday's ride went so well, that I decided Sunday we would Canter.

Sunday, Boca came out feeling like a different horse.
He had a noticable lack of energy, seemed distracted and just not that into work.

Even though I knew it was not a great idea, I was so committed to trying the canter, that I went ahead and did it anyway. And guess what?  We still have no canter.  We had flailing, running, lurching, falling on the forehand and one angry red pony.

I tried not to get discouraged, but the voice in my head - the one I try to ignore- crept in.  "Shouldn't I... after 7 months... at least be able to CANTER???"


  1. I'm going through the same thing with my young horse and it took me some time to get through the "shoulds". Once I did, things got better and we are actually progressing quicker because I'm not putting pressure on us. Some horses just take longer than others and that's okay. Hang in there, it will come :)

    1. Thanks Jodi. I had been really happy with our progress the last few weeks. I could see noticable improvements and was pretty optimistic overall. For some reason, the bad voice piped up and said "You've had him for 7 months now and can't canter? You Should be able to canter by now."

  2. Letting go of "should" really is the hardest thing, because it's so internal. It's letting go of our own preconceptions and inhibitions.

    I've had Courage for 1.5 years now. Shouldn't he have flawless changes and jump around a 3' course like nothing?

    No. No he should not.

    My favorite was when talking to an instructor who said, "I should hope I ride better than you! It's all I do every day and if I wasn't lots better, that would be scary."

    Her point being, ammys like us progress more slowly and train less perfectly because it isn't our 9-5. And it shouldn't be. ;-) Someone has to pay the bills.

    1. I wish there was a Like Button for this whole statement :)

  3. Oh, and FWIW, Courage just now starting to be able to do a balanced 20m canter circle. It's hard.

    1. Thanks Aimee. I'll have to get it on video. His canter departs are Flail-tastic. For what it is worth, not even my instructor was able to get on him and get him to canter reasonably. I think he just completely lacks the muscle and training.

      I would truly *LOVE* to know what this horse has spent the last 7 years doing. I would feel better if I knew for sure I was working with a green horse that had 90 days training and then had been turned out in a pasture for 7 years. Then I would know that even though his biological age is 9, his mental age in terms of training and ability is still 3.

  4. My horse has a naturally great canter, and I still find ways to screw it up ;) All in good time!

  5. Can he not canter at all under saddle or can he just not canter on the bit? I was told that forward is the most important, so with a green horse it's best to not worry about contact, give them their head to balance and just have them go forward. Once they know they can canter under saddle, then you start asking for other things like good transitions, contact, rhythm, etc. When teaching something new keep it very simple and only work on one criteria at a time. I could be wrong, but it's working for Chrome. He's starting to respond to the cue to canter instead of me just clucking at him until he canters lol. We still have a long way to go and I am new to all of this too, so don't take my word for it lol. Good luck getting it figured out!!

    Oh and definitely banish the shoulds!! When we start comparing ourselves (yes I do it too) it takes all of the enjoyment out of it and puts too much pressure on us and our horses.