Well, it’s 2016 (in case you hadn’t noticed, which you very well might not have, given that there aren’t really any fireworks that happen near your stall and I’m not sure you have any true concept of the passage of time except as it concerns the gap between feedings). So first things first: happy birthday and congratulations! You made it to seven, despite my very real concerns that you would not, whether due to throwing yourself on the ground in a fit of pique, horsey-eating-jumps-that-really-do-kill, or equicide (on my part).
As you likely remember (or do you?), last year was a bit of a rollercoaster. I like rollercoasters, though. There are certainly things I will be changing this year, but I feel like overall, we did a pretty good job of learning together and from one another, right? It wasn’t perfect, but it was progress.
Thank you for letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that I was riding like an airdancer with a vestibular issue. I know it took me a while to figure it out, but the message eventually did get through – loud and clear and black and blue. And the change you exacted in my riding more than made up for the dirt I ate while getting it into my thick skull.
You have made me stronger, quieter, quicker, and more determined. You have given me the beginnings of an independent seat, a great appreciation for following elbows and short reins, and the knowledge of how to get the best performance from both of us. Ultimately, this may be to your detriment of your personal (lazy) preferences, but you started me down this path of change so there’s no one to blame but yourself here, buddy.
I know I didn’t always listen to you in 2015, and I am sorry for that. I somehow got it into my head that I was smarter than a 6 year old OTTB — silly me. I will be better this year: I will listen more carefully when you are trying to tell me something and work hard to change appropriately in response. (If that something is “Wow! Such a good thing I dumped you in front of that cross country fence, I saved BOTH our lives!!!,” I think you know what my response will be.) I will also try to be more precise in my communications with you, and make it easier for you to listen to me too.
I can’t promise not to make you do all those things you found so stupid in 2015, mostly because I think a lot of those things are important.
Trot poles are good for you. Counter-canter is really good for you. Conquering your fears is essential. Standing quietly at the trailer is the sign of a pleasant and well-trained horse. Your neck and butt look better when your mane and tail are trimmed. Body clipping is important. Velociraptor booty art is important! Girths are – really! – not to be feared. Trying to kill the assistant trainer every time we leave home is simply unacceptable.
I have some plans for us for the year, but nothing is written in stone. Mostly, I want you to keep telling me what you’re comfortable with and how far we can go together. It’s not tenable to stay safely within our comfort zone one hundred percent of the time, but there’s no rush. We will move up when we are both ready, and in the mean time we will have fun exploring new places and going on new adventures together. For you, I want everything to feel like a win, even if we don’t come home with a ribbon.
I promise not to lose my temper, as long as you promise not to lose yours. Given the high likelihood of this happening, I think I can safely say we will both promise to try.
I will aspire to never run out of peppermints and carrots, to ride with forgiveness, and not always assume that you are an evil genius who is working three steps ahead of me with more information than I have.
I love you and I like you (most of the time),
PS You enjoyed dressage camp at my mother in law’s, so please stop trying to convince me that you hate dressage.