Did you read Courtney King-Dye's article in the March issue of Dressage Today? It was a fantastic article about riding without emotion. Her description of her own frustration while riding a young horse and then asking Steffen Peters to help really made me consider my own training. She described how Steffen got on this particular horse and the horse did everything in its power to not do what Steffen was asking. She said he never got upset, frustrated or angry, but simply sat there, not removing the aids and waited for the temper tantrum to cease.
It made me think back to a ride I had on Wheels last week. I asked him to take a little extra weight on his right hind by asking him to step slightly sideways from my right leg along the wall. His reaction was to immediately kick the wall with such force it punched a hole. My reaction?...You miserable horse, don't ever do that to me!! as I kicked him hard with both legs and chased him around the ring.
Was that the right response on my part? Heck no! Wheels was not kicking at me directly, he was responding to pressure, plain and simple. By me getting angry and chasing him around the ring, I lost a moment to train what the real issue was about...not accepting enough weight on the right hind leg. Instead, he galloped around with his hips to the right, balancing over his left hind. I don't believe for even a moment he connected my correction with his kicking the wall. It only made me feel "better."
What should I have done? First, not allow my emotions to overtake me and assume I'm being assaulted by my horse. Second, insisted he take the weight over the right hind by riding strongly down the wall in slight leg-yield position. Instead, I turned the incident into an argument and the moment was lost.
From this day forward, I will not ride with emotion during training. Horses are only reacting to pressure and outside stimulus. They are being horses and doing what they do. It's my job to show them the way and not be bothered by their incorrect reactions or reactions to what's happening around them. I'll "put blinkers" on myself so I'm not seeing things that I might make the horse react to and I'll keep my chin up and eyes forward from this day on. That's my promise to my horses.