These past few months with Isley have included some pretty big milestones. I rode him in his very first show under saddle at materiale – without any coaching, as my trainer was out of town. We moved to a new property and we have worked through the settling in process, which briefly lead to a mini-regression in terms of Isley
displaying tension and lack of focus under saddle. We are preparing to attend our first clinic in early June, and in the meantime are trying to solidify the skills he will need to successfully get through a training level test. All these challenges – and I don’t use the word challenges negatively – have lead to me really having my eyes opened about how much I love working with young horses, and my young horse in particular.
Oftentimes when riding I am reminded of a scale that I love called “the four stages of competence”. It very accurately describes a riders journey from beginner to skilled equestrian. I frequently measure myself against that scale, and strive for the next level, but when riding young horses without a schoolmaster to learn from it can be difficult to improve in ways that progress you as a rider.
Isley is so incredibly clever and tries very hard, so when I am given the tools by my trainer to introduce a new concept to him, the feeling of him working through what I am asking, understanding what he needs to do, and responding to those new commands is second to none. I feel more and more accomplished as a rider, and am quickly becoming addicted to knowing the solution when we run across a training problem. All credit goes to my trainer Nina in that she has been able to bring both of us along in a way that often I not only understand the types of correction and guidance that he needs without being told, but when and how to apply them, and if he doesn’t understand what I am asking, how to break it down to him successfully. Now, even when I feel a new challenge developing due to lack of balance, strength, or maturity, its almost exciting knowing that I have been given a new problem to learn how to train through! I am hungry for the future of his development physically and mentally – the milestones at each new level of training and competing are part of a lifelong journey I couldn’t be happier to be able to experience with my heart horse – one sticky transition at a time!