The Learning Curve

I had the pleasure of participating in a Cooler Horsemanship clinic this past weekend. James, equipped with a headset microphone so we could all hear him teach, worked with ten horses and their owners in a string of individual sessions. A hardy crowd of wind-blown spectators hooked their elbows over the arena rail and learned along with us.

I asked James to help me fine tune Mystic’s side pass on the ground and to introduce me to side passing in the saddle. I learned that the latter maneuver requires knowing how to move your horse’s front quarters—something I was clueless about in the saddle. I won’t go into detail because I’m still figuring the process out (read: I don’t know how to explain), but it’s my newest and next challenge. As you can see from the photo below, it involves complicated reinwork. James described the process as “counterintuitive.” I just call it difficult.

One unexpected benefit of the session was that Margaret Bednar, a fellow boarder, blogger, and über-talented photographer, picked up my camera and started snapping. She captured James riding Mystic—who instantly “collected” himself into a dressage frame. Here’s what he looked like:

I don’t know a whole lot about dressage—clearly Mystic has more experience in that department than I—but even my untutored eye can see the graceful curve in his neck, his compressed energy, and his more balletic movement.

As I tried out my new way of holding the reins, he kept that gorgeous arched neck.

When I went back to a relaxed rein, his posture shifted accordingly. Can you see the difference?

After the session ended, we posed for Margaret. Every time she snapped a photo, Mystic swiveled his ears back. Finally I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Even though learning new things can be tough, Mystic and I always grow from the experience. Best of all, we both ended the afternoon with smiles.

Thanks, Margaret, for photographing us—and for capturing Mystic in all his filthy glory on your blog post “I Wanna Be a Buckskin…” If you haven’t subscribed to Margaret’s blog Just Horses yet, do it now!

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5 thoughts on “The Learning Curve

  1. Those last two pictures are awesome! It was so interesting to see him more relaxed with the contact and in a thinking state of mind, but still somewhat tense in the mouth and feeling as though he needed to over flex. What a great start, I can’t wait to see the two of you a few months from now. You are doing it the right way and giving him time to accept the contact again. Margaret, great shots!

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