Zola is getting it!
Rode Zola last night, and I confess that I gird myself for it. It’s not like riding Chance, which is fun. She was very good however, stood still at the mounting block, walked off nicely. Waited til I asked her to trot. Trotted relaxed with good steady rhythm. Easily transitioned back to a walk after half a circuit of trotting. Stopped when asked, then easily moved back into a walk. She did hesitate as we got 1/4 of the way of our second lap. She stopped and I could almost hear her, “Excuse me, we’ve already gone around the track.” But it was short lived and she went into a walk when asked.
So it was a great ride! Zola is putting all the pieces together; steering, speeding up, slowing down, relaxing into a good rhythm , and working together It’s a great feeling when you get to this point. The horse starts to understand – and accept – what being ridden is really about. To me, this is the goal of training – which should really be called educating. It may take longer than some other methods, because I never want to lose the horse’s complete trust, nor do I wish to make the horse feel like it has to give up part of itself. This is hard to put into words really, but it’s not about getting the horse to submit, but to cooperate. A fine line I guess but important to me – and certainly to the horse. When I’m teaching a horse I always think of it as asking the horse to do what I want, not demanding it comply. So it takes longer to coax the horse into obeying, using only as much “direction” as necessary to get my point across.
In the end I feel strongly that the horse not only retains its original degree of confidence, but grows more confident. As a result, new situations are handled better and the horse learns to learn, and continues to mature mentally as his/her confidence and understanding continue to grow.
To me, yesterday was a big turning point. It took a while to get here, but now things should start coming along much quicker.
Below is a photo of Zola (left) and Sweet Tea out in the field together. All the horses were out, but these two were off by themselves.