If you sat a group of riders down in a nice, quiet room and asked them if they thought it was a good idea to ride your horse when you are angry, they would probably all say no. Nothing good gets accomplished when you do things angry, right? Well unfortunately, we often don't realize that anger is creeping in, until it is too late. Riding and training a horse can be a very emotional endeavor. Just think about how exhilarating those rides are where your timing was just right and your horse understood everything you asked for. Those rides are amazing, but lets be honest, there are some rides when things don't go quite as smoothly as we would prefer. How we react in those situations can really make or break the relationship you are developing with your horse. George Morris says that every second you are working with your horse, you are either schooling or unschooling them. It can seem like a daunting statement, but don't let it scare you! Think of it as a challenge to use every opportunity you have with your horse to make your partnership stronger. If you keep this in mind, you will never ride angry.
During the journey of bringing horses up through the levels, one of the best lessons I have learned is to quit while you're ahead. As a total perfectionist, this was a really hard lesson for me to learn! It is very easy for that "one more time" to become another ten times and while thats not always a bad thing, it can easily become a slippery slope. While it is great to keep this in mind during your ride, sometimes you need to consider it even as you drive to the barn. Training an intelligent, living creature to trust you and respect you as their leader is a huge responsibility. We need to be mentally prepared to work with our horses no matter how our day is going. If you are running late, distracted or just in a plain old bad mood, it may not be the best time to train your horse... and there is nothing wrong with that! Go on a trail ride, hand walk your horse somewhere relaxing or just clean your tack, because tomorrow you will be better prepared to perfect those 10 meter circles. Our horses are like mirrors and this is fabulous when we are feeling great and everything is going right... unfortunately, it works both ways.
In the words of a true master, "The biggest enemy to the partnership of dressage is impatience..." - Walter Zettl. I think the only thing harder than learning patience is keeping a hold of it. As we train our horses, we are always working towards teaching them patience. Whether it is standing in the cross ties or holding a square halt, we expect our horses to patiently wait for our next request. A good description of patience is the capacity to accept change without upset. I think of it as being content and relaxed where you are. This is a great state of mind to learn in! So next time your horse is struggling with a new concept or showing some resistance, reach for your patience and use it to listen to exactly what your horse is telling you... you may hear something very helpful!