Recent challenges with submission

Before Rob and I traveled for work, I had a lesson with Sarah at her farm. Maggie and I hauled over and worked on our respective challenges. Knots and I were repeating our warm up from the show, having trouble differentiating between trantering and trotting. We were making incremental progress (and probably only because I’m an optimist) when Sarah called me over to talk about goals. I told her I wanted to be approaching 30s in dressage, and that I wanted to run Novice at the end of the year. We have touched around the idea that Knots MUST accept leg and rein aids, and at the same time, but we haven’t made it the sole focus of a ride. Sarah pointed out that acceptance of the aids (all of them, at the same time) was absolutely crucial if I was going to meet any of those goals.

And so she went to the barn and grabbed some side reins and a neck stretcher. I untacked Knots while she added a surcingle and the side reins and neck stretcher. We were worried he would react poorly to the side reins for the first time, so she moved slowly. She firmly established forward momentum. First the next stretcher, then the side reins, then an increase in pressure. Knots quickly accepted the pressure, but then started trying to resist. Sarah pushed him through his resistant moves, and he seemed to be getting it. She worked him in both directions, and he really seemed to be understanding what she was asking.

After the lunging, I tacked him back up and Sarah mounted and walked off. He immediately gave to the bit at the walk, so she tried a trot. Cue 45 minutes of resistance. It was really hard to watch. He considered lying down and thought about rearing, but Sarah was very quick to tell him no. In all, she was forced to take a single submissive walk step and call it a win. She came over and told me that I needed to choose between Knots and my goals. If I was committed to running novice in the late fall, I needed to ride another horse. If I was committed to the [slow] improvement of Knots, she would help me, but I should understand six months of daily work might not fix his challenges.

Anyways, that was pretty tough to hear. It worked out that I had a forced week hiatus from horses, and I thought a lot about the situation. I talked to my friends and got some additional perspectives. I really appreciated Sarah giving me her professional opinions knowing I would be upset. Some of the other things I heard ranged from calling the advice overly dramatic, to saying why was I wasting my time anyways. One of my friends mentioned that I should just ride Jellybean, since she was a fresh slate. Another friend pointed out Knots didn’t like new people, and he was probably testing her more than resisting. I didn’t think about this as a crossroads so much as an opportunity to refine the course… but what is the course? To be continued

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