DAY 91. I walked out to the field this evening with the intention of riding Solar only to find that he had applied a heavy layer of “rider repellent.” He had expertly rolled in the one and only muddy spot in his pasture turnout. One look from across the field and I knew that my plans for the evening had changed; Solar had rolled his way out of riding.
I find with horses that you’ve got to be flexible to adjust to the realities of the present moment. So often our own “should haves” or “ought tos” don’t really apply, or don’t match what our horses need from us. One look at all that mud and I was reminded that my agenda for riding was my own; really, there are any number of things I could do with Solar that would suit him and benefit him.
Solar and I have just over a week left together before he moves on to his next owner or returns to his current owners. I’m trying to balance my schedule to adequately capitalize on our last few days before the final show on October 5, and I’m feeling the pressure to “make the most out of” our last rides. Alas, I’m fighting back the office flu, I’ve had to adjust Solar’s schedule to accommodate others, and the weather has turned decidedly to fall (with no indoor arena, this complicates training). The mud on Solar was a welcome reason to relax a little, and chose not to ride.
Instead of riding, I took the opportunity to just hang out with Solar on the ground. We did several groundwork exercises, which parallel the work we do under saddle, and we practiced a few tricks, shared some treats, and did stretches. Nothing particularly impressive from a training perspective, but relationship-building nonetheless.
These low-key, low-pressure interactions help build a happy relationship with the horse. Despite being in full work, and having high expectations from me during training, Solar still greets me in the field. He works with a content expression and follows my lead most of the time without question. He also expresses his unique, friendly personality in a safe manner, and remains curious during our interactions together. These are all signs that we have built a quality relationship together that Solar is comfortable with. He feels like a friend as much as a working partner.
The lesson from today is that often the best thing to do is simply listen to your horse, and let them dictate the agenda. Anything you do together, no matter how small or how far from your original plans, can help build the relationship you hope to achieve.
** If you want to vote for Solar to win the 100-Day Trainer Challenge, you can do so here. Thank you for following along and for your support! **