Watching my kids learn from James has been such an amazing process, even if it’s only been going on for a couple of months. James is such a different creature than Sugar and Cookie, my mare and the pony we’d borrowed, and I’ve been watching the kids learn his quirks and how to adjust to them, both on the ground and as they ride him.
For example, James has a Thoroughbred’s thinner skin. While we could curry the bejeezus out of either of the mares and they’d be rolling their eyes in ecstasy, James prefers a gentler touch. Which is often a challenge, as he does like his mud. He also prefers the medium firm or flick brushes to the harder mud brush, and we need to be very careful around his tummy area. He doesn’t kick, he just fidgets and looks around with a very pained look on his face, as if to say, “Be careful, if you would, around the softer bits.”
Perhaps the most notable changes have been in Noah’s riding. I’m not sure if they’ve come because he’s actually spent more time in the saddle, or because of our new trainer, or because the new trainer has been able to explain to Noah how certain things that he does affects James, but Noah’s riding has improved a great deal since we’ve had James.
As I’ve mentioned before, James’s Thoroughbred sensibilities require a much more tactful ride than Sugar, my more phlegmatic Warmblood mare does. Noah’s legs can swing like a pendulum and his shoulders can tip front to back and Sug just plods along. James interprets Noah’s flailing legs and tipping shoulders quite differently, and does his best to do what he thinks is being asked of him by showing Noah how fast he can go. When they go over poles or crossrails, Noah’s lack of leg strength and balance caused him to sit down more heavily on James’ back, which caused James to speed up.
Our trainer has been able to explain to Noah how his movements affect James, and has given Noah exercises to work on to strengthen and improve his form. Noah has been working diligently, as he now has a better idea of why he’s being asked to do certain things and how what he does affects his horse and their work together. Again, it may be that Noah is older and more mature now, or it may be that the new trainer has a way of teaching that Noah finds easier to understand, or maybe it’s just that this particular horse and the feelings he’s created in my son have given Noah a greater desire to be a better rider and horse person.
All I know is the result, so far, has been a greatly improved young rider who is very happy that his efforts have resulted in increasingly successful efforts with his equine partner. Watching Noah try so hard to ride in a way that makes James comfortable in his work makes me so proud. Watching the pride in my son’s smile warms my heart, as does watching James’ soft, trusting brown eyes follow his boy around as Noah putters around the barn.
I guess that’s the basis of any successful relationship, adapting to one’s partners needs and habits. What do you think?
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