Festin and I in September 2011…We’ll just pretend this was sitting trot and not the wrong diagonal!

It is the very difficult horses that have the most to give you. – Lendon Gray

Certain quotes have a way of sticking with you and echoing in your head long after you read them.  The first time I read this quote, my confidence was still packed away in the deepest, darkest, corner of my mind.  I clung to it, thinking my horse is difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, so there must be something more to unravel, something that makes him tick and is worth all of the blood, sweat, tears, and heartache.

Rolex 2012 was a huge turning point in my riding.   I realized success isn’t always measured by our accomplishments in the show ring or by the level at which we train.  Sometimes, success is measured by our perseverance and attitude.  If each time we ride we can be just a little better, then in a month we would be a month’s better, and in a year we would be a whole year better.

I made the decision to persevere and move outside of my comfort zone and I have yet to regret it.  It’s funny how when you make the decision to be better and change the way you  look at things, the pieces just fall into place.  For far too long, I had been the rider who found excuse after excuse not to do something.   Almost a year ago, Festin and I were teammates, but not in a good way.  We were the kind that had two different agendas and clashed all the time about what we were doing and the direction the team was headed in.

November 2012, a whole year better!

Now I am more regimented with my schedule and my goals.  Gone are the days when I would get on and ride for twenty minutes; 10 of which I would spend riding and 10 spent standing in the middle of the arena trying to regroup or just procrastinating.

Before, when Festin spooked or protested, I would just avoid the situation that put us there and be happy to survive.  Needless to say, I had a lot of undoing to get where I am now.

Now when we have an issue or spook,  I apply the aid that I know I am supposed to, keep my eyes up, and work on it until there is no issue.  I tend to laugh off the things that used to make me nervous.   Recently, I’ve spent a decent amount of time riding Festin in a bareback pad and halter and lead ropes.  Thanks to our bareback riding, my balance is better and I am developing a better seat.

A calm and relaxed bareback ride in a halter and lead ropes soothes the soul.

To get to this point, I’ve had to let go of my fears and put my trust in my horse.  Step one was using the mounting block again after an accident that ended up with my horse literally sitting in my lap on the arena floor, then bolting across the arena while I attempted to sit up.  Thankfully, neither one of us was badly injured and life went on even though the use of the mounting block had come to a screeching halt.

Our new found harmony has helped us grow by leaps and bounds.  Festin can still be spooky at times, but he has an amazing work ethic and desire to please.

When he is good I am good, and when I am good, he is great. 

It’s amazing to look at photos and videos from earlier this year and compare them with current ones.  I’ve finally learned to sit on my seat bones (most of the time) and Festin is becoming comfortable in the contact and proper frame.

His muscling has changed and he is finally developing a neck that looks suitable for his body. I’ve made some changes too…  I started slowly, forcing myself to ride at the rising trot for 10 minutes, then 15.  Now we work on the walk as an actual gait vs a warm up and cool down, we trot and canter for 30-45 minutes at a time and I don’t feel exhausted, and I enjoy my horse like I have never enjoyed him before.

20m circle at our first “away” show in August of 2012

Sure, life is not always perfect and things are constantly changing.  Letting go of our fears, setting goals, and remembering why we ride in the first place can make all the difference in the world.  I’m starting to believe that maybe Festin isn’t that difficult after all.   It just takes the right key to unlock his particular brand of greatness and I think I may finally have it.