While practicing my half-steps in-hand this week, I told Paul that Kelso and I were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Paul smirked and said that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, as the tunnel doesn’t end. Ironic for the guy that published a book titled Riding Towards the Light to say there was no light, huh? 😉
This conversation got me thinking. While there might not be an end to the tunnel in the sense that you can always improve, it is imperative to always have a little candle you are riding (or crawling, at times) towards. When you hit that little bit of light, take a moment to bask in the glory. If we aren’t looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, what are we riding towards? And if we don’t take a moment to enjoy the glory of our goal, no matter how big or small, when will we be happy with our progress?
There is a quotation by John Lyons that states “Only two emotions belong in the saddle. One is a sense of humor and the other is patience.” I am adding to this. Gratefulness. Be grateful for the little things that come unexpectedly and the ones you worked your [imaginary] shadbelly tails off for. Be grateful for getting that medal you have been working towards for months or years. Be grateful that there is alway something to work on, and that there is always something that is improving. (Even if you don’t feel like there is.)
Each tunnel has candles on the way to a few moments in the sun before you jump right back into the darkness. On the way to the end of the tunnel to getting a Bronze Medal, there are candles at points of getting your horse on the bit, learning to sit the trot, perfecting your walk pirouettes and lateral movements, and figuring out flying changes. When you do emerge from what can be a dark tunnel, you can be blindsided by the fact you made it. Be grateful you made it through then pick a new tunnel to go down.
The big tunnel that Kelso and I are hoping to get to the end of is getting both my USDF Bronze Medal and Bronze Freestyle Bar. This week, we had a pretty big candle moment that has us jazzed for this future. Near the end of my lesson Paul told me we were going to experiment. Kelso and I have figured pretty much everything out as the result of an experiment so we were pretty excited to hear those words. [Paul informed me this week that he usually doesn’t have interns practicing half-steps so quickly, but he saw that I was getting bored and he was scared of what I would make up on my own, so he gave me something to do. I plead the fifth but I will say Kelso and I were playing with rearing and spanish walk before we came.]
The experiment turned out to be experimenting with Flying Changes; our counter canter is solid and adjustable from extended to collected canter, so we are able to start with introducing the Big F.C’s. I still can’t quite believe that the WP and I have been deemed fit to start down this tunnel, but we are excited all the same!
The exercise that Paul had us do was to pick up counter canter on the long side, and then bunch his canter up approaching the corner. I was not to push him over with my legs, and I was only instructed to lightly encourage him with switching my hips. My main objective was to keep him straight in front so that he wanted to change in his hind end before, or at the same time, as changing in his front. It can be pretty common for horses to only switch the front without switching the hind, which is what we were trying to avoid with keeping him straight + changes must be straight. The bunching up before the corner would load his hind end up to make him uncomfortable enough to switch. I am proud to report that Kelso got a couple of flying changes. More importantly, he didn’t lose his mind when I asked so much of him!
I am blessed with how many moments in the sun Kelso has given me, and I am thrilled with the light he gave me this week.
Off to bask in flying change and half-step sunlight,
Erin and The Wonder Pony
Trivia Answer from Week Five: Colonel Podhajsky gave General Patton’s Widow Red and White Carnations to honor her late husband. General Patton gave the United States troops orders to protect and help move the Lipizzaners during the Second World War, ultimately helping to maintain the historic Spanish Riding School.
Trivia Question for Week Six: Half-pass is often incorrectly said to just be haunches-in off the wall. Why is this incorrect? (This is definitely more theory than fact based; it is something that I studied in the past couple weeks that got my gears spinning, and I hope it makes you think, too!)