Ah, January. The first, hope-filled month of a newborn year. The air is cold and fresh, holiday-gifted breeches are still crisp, and pledges to do more no-stirrups work are still mercifully unsullied by mid-year sloth.
- No more permitting her to eat the reins during bridling. This is a terrible habit, and she shouldn’t be doing it. Must not be so lazy that I allow this to happen. Also, I just bought new reins… You know what? Maybe we leave the old reins on for a while longer.
- Set a mini-goal for each ride. Ideally, set bar really, really low, and then thrill self by meeting it. And if we fail to meet said bar, remind self that walking in a straight line is hard. And maybe make that bar a bit malleable. Perhaps if horse crashes out of stall like a fire-breathing dragon because today she’s a five year-old monster, goal is no longer “improve adjustability at trot.” Perhaps better goal is “do not die today.”
- Set a cutoff time to achieve those goals. I occasionally dream of a fantasyland where I no longer witness a rider both drive up pre-lesson and pack up her car post-lesson all from the rail of the outdoor ring, where we just cannot seem to walk forward/turn a corner on four wheels/otherwise act like an educated horse. It seems everything—and definitely everything new—takes longer than expected. But there’s a difference between “working on something” and drilling. So new goal—if we’re languishing on a task no one seems to be enjoying—put the power tool down, and step away.
- Start walking her around the scary perimeter of the property. You can tell this is a good goal, because I have palpitations just thinking about it (What if there’s a bunny? Or a new section of fence? Or a weird leaf?). But our goals shouldn’t be limited to the ring, because we shan’t always be in the ring, shall we?
Update: OH MY GOD there are four-wheelers next door NEVER MIND NEVER MIND GO BACK TO THE RING ABORT ABORT.
- End on a positive note. No matter how sub-par I feel, at the end of the ride, will remember to ask for a few steps of something the steed is good at, or, uh, on some days, something she can do, and give lots of pets when she does it right. Good job. You did it. You free-walked down the centerline.
- Hoof-oil all four hooves without incident. Seriously, this is an actual goal of mine, and walking around the perimeter of the property seems more realistic at the moment.
- Stop beating yourself up. Ooh, look, winter circuit horse show photos! Hey, this horse is your horse’s age. And here he is winning the hack. And here he is cruising around a scary ring filled with not just flowers, but flowers of many different colors, with floppy, relaxed ears.
- Don’t forget to celebrate. Do we have to have a little parade every time I walk under her neck and she doesn’t mouth me? Yes, in fact, we do. Our pint-sized green-horse victories may be miniature, but by George, they’re special. Some people won’t understand how exciting it is that your horse is standing in the crossties like an adult, or taking the bit like a gentleman, or trotting on the longe line like a pro, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate it. Sure, sometimes time seems to be moving backward. And there will be days* when you’ll gaze longingly at the made horses in your barn. But then your green dummy will pick up and hold up her hoof politely for the first time, and you’ll be a pride-filled puddle. Get the ticker tape. Call the marching band. Alert the mayor. This parade’s going to be quite the spectacle.
Another day, another chance to trick my human into believing I don’t remember what shoulder-in is.
Okay. Yeah. You’re a failure.
NO. Consider these thoughts banished. Remember how horse-beast settled down quickly and got right to work on Thursday? And then on Sunday how she calmly walked past the Hose of Death? You’re not doing such a bad job. Good for you!
We’ve got this. One month (almost) down, only eleven months to go.
*maybe even every day
Emily Bogenschutz lives in Texas and is a freelance writer,
recent hunter-turned-jumper, and professional sneaker of saddle pads
into the washing machine. Follow her on Twitter: @EJBog.