Today I was struggling to tear open a feed bag with my giant gloves in the freezing cold. I kept attempting to rip the same side of the bag (it was one of the ‘easy open’ ones) but it wasn’t tearing. I had horses to feed! After 10 seconds of mindlessly tugging on the one side, my brain finally clicked into a logical mode, and it registered what I was doing. I tore the other side of the bag. It came open right away.
Of course, the first thing that I felt was a sense of stupidity. Why had I wasted that time and energy trying to make something work that clearly wasn’t to work? I guess I just wasn’t thinking. I had a million other things on my to-do list running through my mind, and such a mundane task like tearing open a feed bag wasn’t one of them.
Sometimes I need to stop and think for a second before repeating something 10 times just because it should be working.
I have noticed that I do this a lot in my riding too. I’ll repeat the same exercise on the same circle for minutes at a time, with no positive change. “This worked miracles in my lesson,” I think to myself. “Why isn’t it working now?”
That’s where the saying comes in that everyone has heard a million times, “You’re not going to have the same horse today that you had yesterday.” Of course, there are exceptions to this rule if you’re lucky enough to ride a perfect school masters or easygoing horses, but that’s not the case with Murphy. He thinks he’s too smart to be fooling around with this “dressage” thing as he spooks at nothing and gallops into the canter transition to get his way.
I am starting to learn that in order to get Murphy to be consistent, I am going to have to be inconsistent with my routine.
If I ride the same way every day, with transitions in the same spots, circles that are all the same size, and going each direction the same amount of time, he gets bored and tries to get out of working.
Going into the spring season, (even though seeing the word “spring” seems so strange and distant during the polar vortex) one of my goals is to be a more adaptable rider, meaning that I will ride Murphy well, whether he feels somewhat sane, or if he feels like he’s trying to revert back to being a racehorse. I want to keep building up the tools in my tool box until I feel like I can keep Murphy’s mind focused on me, no matter how distracted he is. And maybe most importantly, I need to learn to put more of my trust in him, that he will pay attention to me as long as I am confident in my riding abilities.
Sometimes it feels like the best option is for me to give up when Murphy is prancing around the ring sideways with his head up in the air, but that’s when I have to pause, collect myself and refocus on the situation. I have to make sure my emotions aren’t getting in the way of thinking logically, and come up with another way to fix the problem. It might just turn out to be as simple as opening the feed bag from the other side.