Guest Blog post # 96: "Mr Ponderful" by Bill Woods

Mr Ponderful

My regular students usually have come to understand the flow of our training process. That’s not always the case when someone presents themselves at a clinic. Most times they are thinking “This is costing me a bundle. I better get a lot out of it!” From the clinician’s viewpoint, some problems are easy to unravel– more understandable aids or a better exercise to employ. Sometimes it’s as simple as the rider misperceiving what their work actually looks like.

Perhaps the hardest ones to convince are the riders who say, “So what do I do next?” when the correct answer is to just keep doing exactly what they are. There are times when horses are not ready to progress. Then your job is to confirm what you’ve already got. Sometimes mere repetitions will build the confidence that a horse needs to face the next challenge. In a timid, defensive horse that challenge might be as simple as learning to trust a passive contact before he’s asked to accept a more sophisticated outline. Just having a chance to digest the information that has already been presented (This can apply to the rider too) is sometimes the right path to pursue even if it’s not very exciting.

Then there’s the “Make It or Fake It” conundrum, not an unusual issue with riders who have been taught to appreciate appearance over substance. Samples: “What’s the big deal about the inside leg? He moves over fine if I just use an indirect rein.” Or “He backs up better if I swing my lower legs back and pull. Riding him forward into a non-allowing hand is much too complicated.” The hard to fathom answer (where light only dawns once perspective is achieved) is that many times the aids or the exercises are done not only to achieve a short term reaction but to develop the conceptual building blocks which allow follow-on themes to work.

And finally in the Things We Think but Are Not Always Free to Point Out Department: If a rider doesn’t think going back to basics really helps solve a problem, it’s quite likely they never understood the basics in the first place. True enough, but a good line to use if you never want to be invited back.

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