I’ve been riding less in the last couple of weeks. This is largely due to the giant insect bite on my thigh, which is pinched by the edge of the skirt of the saddle whenever I ride. After living with this for a fortnight and it not getting any better, I felt it might be better to do minimal riding and give it a chance to heal!
So we had extra days off and he had a little time on the lunge without me on his back.* On Sunday I felt like I ought to ride, as I’d ridden so little lately, but I was so tired from a busy week. I just didn’t feel like I’d have any energy or feel in the saddle, and I realised by riding I’d just be frustrating the two of us, so I just went to spend a little time with him.
He was feeling quiet and dozy, which reflected exactly where I was too. I wanted to groom him, but I didn’t have any energy. This made for an interesting grooming session because I don’t tie him up when we’re in the stable together, and I wasn’t going to assert any energy telling him “stand still”, “step there”, “move over” because I felt so drained of energy. Instead if he walked off when I was grooming, I just stood and waited for him to come back within my reach. He was curious about my unusual behaviour. Several times he sniffed me, huffed on me, felt me with his whiskers or gave me a little groom with his upper lip, none of which he usually does when I’m grooming him. When he’d walked away and I hadn’t moved he had to manoeuvre himself around the edges of the stable to avoid bumping into the human standing unhelpfully in the way, but he carefully did so.
I felt like he was looking after me. He knew I felt like crap and he offered the companionship of herd with his sniffs and general attention to me. Or did he? Am I anthropomorphising? (Easily done, but hard to type.) Did he just see a creature who varied from her usual behaviour of ordering him around, and so triggered his curiosity? A human who took grooming at a pace that suited him for once?
I guess we’ll never know. What I do know is that the next day we had a really good ride. He was listening to me and I was communicating better than usual. Why was I communicating better? Because my “feel” was better. I was quicker to praise and quicker to adjust and correct both him and myself. We had a more consistent contact and we were both trying in useful ways (some days we both try hard but fail to communicate where we need the other one to direct their efforts). Regardless of what he made of the super-tired grooming session, I’m convinced it had a really positive effect on our ride. Had I forced myself to ride tired on the Sunday, I’m pretty sure we’d both have been frustrated with the result that day, which would have negatively coloured Monday’s ride too.
*We had 4 tries at the right lead canter. The first two times he got it right, but fell back to trot quickly. The 3rd and 4th attempts he was disunited and I didn’t feel trying any more was going to produce anything better so we went back to trotting.