Art emerges when we accept the horse as he is and begin to work from there.
Creativity begins when we take the training work and make it into a little game for the horse.
Someone once told me I was a fun rider to watch. For a few minutes there, I stood there, not understanding where the compliment came from. The horse I was on was a lower level horse, just starting to play with Second Level lateral work– so it couldn’t have been from riding the “exciting” moves or from all of the power and precision that upper level horses have. Then it dawned on me– that particular ride I had ridden like a little kid on their pony at a gymkhana.
As I juggled trying to have a productive ride while navigating the arena traffic and around the jumps in the small arena, there were many unexpected maneuvers. Instead of simply staying on the same circle, I made the most of the situation by adding in serpentines, leg-yields, lengthenings, all the while trying to add in travers and shoulders-in. It almost became a game.
Fun is infectious.
That ride might have appeared sloppy to an onlooker because nothing was percise. To me, I did my best to make the most of an otherwise aggravating situation. To my horse, the ride was a game, not work.
Mixed in the spontaneity, our turns became smaller, collected gaits more confirmed and balance refined.
By having fun–and a sense of humor– I accomplished more through the chaos than if I had been the only rider in the arena.
What situations can you take advantage of to infuse your ride with fun? How can you make training be like a game to your horse?