Letting Go of Control
Well, I'm so excited, I just had to share this. I've been taking lessons on a rather difficult horse for the last 2 months or so. I enjoy challenge and so was assigned her. I've literally never ridden anything quite like her. She's an 8 year old Arab mare named Silk 'n' Satin - her nickname at the barn is Silk 'n' Satan because she's so unpredictable.
She's usually pretty good, right up until we get to the canter. The first time I cantered her, she would do flying lead changes at random, especially in the corners of the arena, which is kind of unsettling in a small arena. She progressively got worse, where every time I cantered her, she would come to a dead halt and start rearing, leaping, crow hopping and pretty much any other type of contortionist movement she could think of. The lesson I ride in alternates between flat work one week to jumping the next. In jumping, she will go at an easy trot or canter until we're about 15 ft from the jump, and then bolt like a bat out of hell down the line. If I try to hold her back, she does one of two things; she either stops and starts doing her weird rearing, crowhopping thing, or sticks her nose in the air and bolts through anyway. With her head in the air, getting into my two-point is really challenging.
We've come to the conclusion that she has a really tender mouth. She's never ridden with anything but a snaffle bit and another person who rides her decided to try a bitless bridle. I wasn't there, but from what I understand, it was utter disaster. She still did her kooky antics, and was worse because now there was absolutely no control.
Last night was jumping and I had a decision to make. I could try and hold her back and fight her every step of the way, or let her go and see what happened. I decided on the latter and it was the scariest ride of my life. Not because of her acting crazy, but because I decided to put all of my trust into this seemingly unpredictable 1000 lb animal. Despite being terrifying, it's probably the best ride I've ever had on her. Yes, she went fast, but that was it. She did a 3 stride combo in 2 strides. There were some sharp turns, but I discovered she can turn on a dime, and despite them being faster than I was comfortable with, not once did she trip or stumble. She also put her adeptness at flying lead changes into play and every time we switched direction, I didn't even have to cue the lead change.
I relinquished control and guess what? Nothing happened. I lived to tell the tale. In fact, for the first time since I've started riding her, she seemed calm and happy. There was no fighting or rearing. Usually she is a frothy, sweaty mess when we're done our hour lesson. Last night she was a little damp. The whole experience has been so humbling, because she ended up teaching me, not the other way around. I have stuck with her over the last 2 months because I knew I was missing something, and I honestly think that was it. My first instinct is to correct or control bad behaviour, and this has shown me that I have to take a different approach with her, and I'm super excited to see how it will work in flat work next week.
This was such a unique, exhilarating, terrifying experience for me, I'm just wondering, does anyone else have any stories where they've successfully just let go and had the horse respond positively?