So, Walter Zettl was here right after we returned from WEG. Remmer had been on vacation for three weeks while we were at WEG and really only had three days of prep, and West Point was ready to go. I had two days of great lessons and on the third day Westy was the best he’d been, but Remmer was the worst. He had been so forward and powerful the day before, and Walter was really impressed, but this next day he had nothing. We did the lesson a little differently – instead of Walter guiding me the whole way, he said “Ride as you usually do, and I will coach where I see you need help”. We’ve done this the last two times, so it was not a surprise. What was a surprise is that even though I was able to do what Rem needed… I didn’t do it.
Why? Because I rode as I thought I should, not as I knew I should. How interesting. Instead of putting my horse’s needs first, I put mine first – it wasn’t about Walter, it was about trying to do what I thought Walter would like, so that was about me.
The session finished better than it started, but I felt bad for using my stick a lot to tap Remmer when he wasn’t responding. That’s not psychology, that’s “make” and it’s not how we usually go. Remmer put up with me, he gave a bit more here and there, but he wasn’t happy.
After putting Remmer up I went back down to the arena to watch Walter teaching the next students to go – Caton and Pat, and after they finished I asked Walter the magic question:
“If you were riding a horse that didn’t want to go forwards, what would you do?”
“I would head out of the arena in long straight lines, give him somewhere to go, make it more interesting!”. Oh brother. That’s what I would have done too. I teach that!
“Why didn’t you do it?” Walter asked. “I told you to ride as you usually would.” I know. And I didn’t. That won’t happen next time.
As we continued to talk about it, I said that another thing I do with Remmer sometimes (being an LBI) is ask him to go even slower than he wants to. “Yah!” said Walter. “That is also a good idea!”
So that was my big learning experience. It’s what we teach: put the relationship with your horse first, put your horse’s needs first, and everything else will fall into place.
Sometimes the hard part is not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.