"It is always darkest before the dawn." --proverb
I'm working with two trainers now, one solely for the first rides and one for myself as I do the groundwork and first rides with Quincy. My lesson yesterday was with the second, my main trainer, Regina. I've trained with Regina previously, both on her horses and with Cowboy as I rehabilitated him after his P3 fracture.
Yesterday's lesson was half on the ground and half in the saddle, but both shared the same theme--finding resistance and getting past it.
Resistance can be tough to see. Or, if we see it, we come to some sort of peace with it because you have to pick your battles and as long as your horse is doing pretty well, you figure, it's good enough. If resistance goes ignored, it shifts from resistance to training--bad training, bad habits.
Regina is hands off during our lessons, but instructs me from outside of the round pen. She is a fountain of information that I only half retain once the lesson is done. This is probably because I'm listening to her and my horse simultaneously. However, no matter the exercise we're working on, she is always wanting me to let Quincy find the right answer.
The thing with Quincy, and all horses, is that the wrong answers are sometimes a form of resistance. They want to give an answer that they're comfortable with and allows them the most freedom. You ask for something, like a bend in their neck, and they twist it down to the ground and say, how about this instead? They're negotiating for the best deal--one that preferably leads them back to eating at the soonest possible moment.
When I first got in the saddle yesterday, Quincy was moving forward as I asked, but her head was all over the place--mostly down. It was uncomfortable because in that position she couldn't move forward properly and I didn't have any control. She could break into a trot or, if she wanted to, even buck me off. My first impulse was to bring her head up through the reins and bit, but she was ignoring the reins and it was taking more and more force to get her head up, which was frustrating her while her frustration was scaring me.
Resistance and frustration are very different. Frustration comes after resistance when they're not finding the right answer and there is more a battle of wills between horse and rider with no clear path to success. We have to create a clear path for them to see and choose. Knowing how to create the path is why I have a trainer.
Regina had me move up on my reins until I could feel the bit make contact--no pulling back--and then just hold it there as if I was holding an arm full of watermelons. Quincy tried to go down, but the way was blocked. Quincy tried to go sideways, but the way was blocked. Quincy started backing up, but the contact remained.
I could hear Regina saying to me--hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it.
And, finally, RELEASE!
We apply pressure through aids, leg contact and our physical presence to interact with the horse. Any time there is pressure involved, there will naturally be some "resistance." The idea behind Least Resistance is for the handler to pay attention, "read" the horse, apply only as much pressure as is needed to get results, and release that pressure the instant the horse tries to respond. Wild Horse Mentors
It seemed like a long time before the release came. It was the point at which I was about to give up. When I was saying to myself, "Why am I here again??" And then, Quincy's head came to a place of softness--and the release. She had made the right choice, which happened to also be, the only choice.
Regina talked to me about it afterward and how resistance is our ally in training. We often don't find or recognize our horse's areas of resistance and, when we do, we give up trying to work through them right before they find the answers.
Today I'm going on a trail ride with my other trainer, Rachel. She's going to ride Quincy while I ride Cowboy and, as always, if I feel comfortable we can switch off. She offered to do this for me so I could see what to expect on the trail with Quincy. I was very happy to take her up on it.