Training vs. Conditioning
|May 3, 2010||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
I have come to several conclusions this week, the greatest one being:
A great dressage horse may make a good endurance horse, but a great endurance horse doesn’t necessarily make the best dressage mount.
Other, lesser conclusions are:
1. God gives me the horses I need, rather than the horses I want
2. Those horses will develop within me humility and character.
I think one of the things that makes a strong endurance horse is also what makes a poor dressage horse – an independent mind that is capable of problem solving and making good decisions.
Yes, I know that we are talking about an animal whose brain in the size of a walnut. I try to avoid significantly anthormorphizing animals, but I’m convinced that horses have a reasoning power far beyond what their physical attribute suggests.
One of the things I value about Farley is her mind and ability to keep both of us safe on the trail, even when I’m not holding up my end of the partnership. Many many times she has “covered” for me on the trail – going up cardiac hill at American River because I couldn’t dismount, babysitting me in the dark at 20 MT 100, and getting me back to camp after I became hopelessly lost at wild west.
If she’s tired or sore, I WANT her to tell me so I encourage her let me know and to communicate and give me feedback on what I’m asking her to do.
Unfortunately, this independent spirit manifests itself in the dressage court and is less than desirable…
Sometimes Farley decides she doesn’t want to do circles or serpentines, or really much of anything. Cantering, especially, is the first thing to “go” when she decides she has a different agenda for the day.
Most of the time she plays along.
At Friday’s lesson she didn’t.
It was awful. She played along for about 10 minutes and then I couldn’t do much of anything with her. It ended with me saying to my trainer “I can’t do it” and then she got on and schooled her for me.
By the end of the lesson I was seriously doubting our ability to show even Training 1 next Saturday. All the progress made in the last 8 months seemed to be gone in one fell swoop. I was frustrated and disappointed. What was going on?
But then Saturday I schooled her and she was fine. Really good actually. And focused for much longer than usual. Thirty to forty minutes is usually Farley’s max for quality arena schooling and I stayed on 60-70 minutes. Apparently Saturday she decided she wanted to play.
Which got me thinking (not for the first time) – how well trained do we really want our e-horses? I don’t particularly want my e-horse to do canter departures from a halt, I don’t want them to stop if I’m not looking at the right spot or not using my seat in the right manner. I want her to stop on the trail if something is not right, but I don’t see it.
Is it too much for me to expect for her to know that she MUST move off my leg in the dressage court, but that she has a choice on the trail if something is wrong? That when I ask for a canter in the court it is not a suggestion, nor are we going to discuss it?
It’s that strange mix/balance of obedience and free will that an e-horse must have that is difficult to judge and train for. What is the horses’s motive for doing something? Did they think it was appropriate to grab a bite because it’s an allowable situation, or are they ignoring cues and grabbing a bite in defiance of the rider? One I’m OK with and is even desirable, but the other is a no-no.
I want to be fair to my horse and not confuse her, which makes it difficult to draw absolute boundaries.
*It’s not OK to walk past my shoulder with yours – except when it is….like when you have to pass me so I can tail up a hill.
*It’s OK to eat in any bit except your dressage bit.
*It’s OK to want to go slower on the trail, but not OK in the dressage court.
*It’s OK to ignore my seat on the trail, but not in the court
*I will never ever give you the cue to canter from a standstill at a ride. I promise. But I might ask in the court.
Because of all this, I probably have a better e-horse than dressage horse.
Sometimes I wonder if my lack of insisting on complete obedience on the trail has its consequences in some of her bad behavior at rides – at approximately 1 out of 7 starts she behaves like a fire eating dragon at the start. She won’t always stand for boot issues if other horses are passing us on the trail. Sometimes, she pulls on me to go back to camp faster than I would like. If the pulse down for a gate into hold is within sight of camp but not IN camp, I have a very hard time getting her to stand and be quiet. Am I sabatoging myself by not asking for complete obidennce all the time?
But, 90% of the time she is so very good and she does her job so well and takes care of herself so well, I think that I have struck an appropriate balance of a horse that listens to me but also takes care of herself. And possibly, if I insisted on micro managing her more we wouldn’t be as successful. I’m giving her room to train ME and on more than one occasion she has gotten me through a ride, not the other way around. Would I lose that if she was “better” trained?
There are a couple of cardinal rules that are to never EVER be broken and she understands those (like never EVER invading my space or bumping into me) – maybe I need more of these? But which ones?
Anyone else running into contradictory training issues? Any insights? Am I asking too much of my horse to understand that trail time is her time, and arena time is my time?
I’m not giving up dressage – it’s too valuable for both of us. It’s like going to couples therapy – we are learning to communicate and understand each other, and specific skills such as conflict resolution. But it is so different from endurance it makes me question how it all fits together – which is a good thing.