The clinician the other weekend made several comments re: Bridget's lack of willingness and me being too tolerant/forgiving of it. There were also a few comments saying I should be riding at a higher level than the Midge can get me to. Rather than give us exercises to work on or tools to get us on the same page, I felt like she was saying Bridget just isn't worth the effort and I should be riding something else. I could brush that off since I had my own thoughts about the clinican and also no big dreams of being a dressage star with Midge. Then, some other people in my life were there and took that as their opening to weigh in re: the pony as well. It was kind of awful. Ever since, I've been thinking about each and every comment. I know everyone means well, after all. Life really would be easier if I owned a pony that could do it all (and wanted to do it all!). Of course it would be nice to own a horse who really wants to please it's rider and found things easier. Yes, horses are too expensive and time consuming to 'waste' your time on the wrong one. Of course I wouldn't mind something I could take to a show tomorrow. Maybe I do deserve better. Maybe I should sell her and suck it up and ride Ginger instead if I want to show. And most shamefully, hmm yes it would be nice to not always have the horse every one else is saying "thank goodness it's you and not me riding that"!
So today, I saddled up my little Bridget mare and didn't invite anyone else along. I needed an hour or two on my own with the pony without all that external feedback and second guessing. We went for a nice walk down the road, then diverted to a forest trail that takes you out to a logging road that sort of loops back around to the road again. It's about an hour and a half loop if you walk/trot it.
|Trotting on down the road|
The first trail portion ended up being extremely mucky and basically submerged in water in a lot of places. My plan for some relaxed thinking time was quickly shelved. Midge was unsure about some of the deeper sections, but found a safe way through without getting panicky. She was also spooky about a couple of the wooden bridges, since it seems like someone's been in there working and it looks a bit different. She went when I asked though and got a big pat. We ended up having to jump the final crossing, but again she was careful and sure footed, even with a muddy approach and landing and some tree trunks waiting to catch my knees. I did this same trail with Ginger a couple of weeks ago and it was a lot more 'exciting' even though the footing and water situation was way better then. Midge gets the gold star for extreme off roading.
|One of the nicer sections.|
Our little adventure just reaffirmed for me how great this horse is, and all the uncertainty over being competitive and showing was gone. I was back to plan A and had S's homework in mind - namely, cantering on the trail as much as possible to build up Bridget's strength and confidence. We popped out on the old logging road and Bridget was immediately thinking we should trot. I took her up on that and off we went at a nice clip, even through the big puddles and over the rockier sections. I focused on not nagging her, just reminding her now and then to stay straight on my contact and keep the pace. When I asked for canter, it was so immediate and forward I was surprised and got slightly left behind. Yay for better transitions :) We spent the remainder of our side road loop doing trot/canter transitions and Bridget was totally 'on'. We walked the last little bit on the busy road home on a loose rein and just enjoyed the sunshine and saying hi to all the neighbouring horses in their fields. All in all, a good ride - she was pretty spooky and 'up' but this was also the first time where I've really felt like she's been consistently taking me along with no encouragement, even at the canter. It's nice to feel like there is always more gas in the tank and another gear there waiting should you ask!
Sure, I could go buy a great hunter or dressage project and go out showing with my friends and maybe even win some ribbons. That would be fun too and something I'd really love to do. But my current reality is that I live in the middle of nowhere and have a 15 min hack on a busy road to the nearest ring. I don't yet own a trailer. I'm on a budget, I board and it's fairly rustic. There is no local vet, nor much in the way of local instruction. Most of my friends want to trail ride. I can struggle with my confidence. For all her supposed faults, Bridget fits my current needs very, very well. Maybe we won't amount to much by traditional standards, and maybe our flat work is going to be a lot more time and effort than is 'worth it', but I'd like to think we're still going to have a whole fun finding our own way to wherever we're headed.
On a more humorous note - G is Bridget's biggest fan and when told about the naysayers, asked "What's wrong with her? She's awesome! She's like having a big dog. Don't listen to those people! If you want faster or fancier, I'll buy you a fast car. Slow and safe is good on horses. Just let her walk everywhere if that's what she wants, and be happy!" :)