Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I love A-HA moments

This is, for most of you, going to be a "so what?" post, but bear with me. I have a point.

Yesterday, I had an a-ha moment in my lesson on Snoop. I've had lots of them, although maybe not enough of them to be as proficient on a horse as I'd like to be. But when a detail finally makes its way into my brain, I savor it. I cherish it. I describe it to myself as I drive home. I re-live the moment while I'm in the shower. If I could bronze it, I would.

The situation was this: Niki was asking me and Snoopy to lope a straight line across three poles. The poles looked, more or less, like this (the orange triangle is a cone on the corner):

The line we were supposed to lope was here:

I loped Snoopy around on the right lead first, pointed him toward the first pole, looked at the last pole, and thought we had it made. Niki, of course, was yelling at me to stand him up more. Oh, she wasn't yelling because she was mad. She was yelling because I get so zoned out when I'm riding, she's reduced to shouting and repeating herself. I figure, I'm giving her good training for when her son is about five and too busy watching cartoons to actually listen to her.

We loped over the first pole, loped over the X, then suddenly veered to the right. Before I knew it, Snoopy was jumping over the cone.

"Nope. Do it again." I heard Niki say that.

I tried it again, this time listening hard to Niki and pushing his left hip over and tugging the reins up over his withers. I confess, I wasn't sure why I was doing it, but I did it. Our line was perfect. I did it one more time to prove it wasn't a fluke, then turned around somehow and loped the same line on the left lead. This time I kept Niki's commands in my head and loped it perfectly the first time. It felt superb, like I was actively riding my horse and he was just as actively responding.

"Beautiful," Niki said. She kind of sang this, as in, "Hallelujah, the woman can be taught."

So here's the a-ha part: Afterward, I figured out what she was telling me to do. When I was looking down at Snoopy, he looked to be in a straight line, in that his hips and shoulders were parallel. I expected us to go straight.

But even though his shoulders and hips were parallel, they weren't even. His right shoulder and hip dipped slightly lower than his left side.

Even if his body seemed to be on a straight line, he would not be able to continue the line. Sooner or later, he would veer. By pushing his opposite side, it aligned the leaning side and made him truly travel in a straight line.

I know this is a little detailed and possibly dry and mechanical, but my point is that sometimes it is in the details, whether it's horseback riding or writing a novel or raising a child or living a life. Broad, sweeping changes aren't always necessary. It's that one minor adjustment that can give you the greatest reward.

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