After P was done with her exhibition ride we called R to let him know we were ready to work on obstacles. He took his sweet time so we sat around and chatted with P for a while until he came out. It was actually a good thing because Aria was given a nice long time to cool down from her ride. When he did come out I grabbed Aria and his instruction started immediately because I wasn’t using my lead line correctly. R can be really intense and it’s not everyone’s flavor but I really love his style of teaching. I probably should have warned Alex ahead of time but I didn’t realize R was going to wrangle her into the training session. Haha. Sorry, Alex!
Once I had my lead line on properly we headed back to the obstacles but of course when Aria started to walk ahead of me I didn’t correct her appropriately so R stopped us and he demonstrated how to properly do it. He explained that intent is important when working with a horse. When he asked Aria to back up he waved the lead line in her face but the important thing to remember when doing this is that you aren’t trying to hit the horse in the face. Your mind set should be that you’re shooing flies away, because you don’t actually want to hit the horse but if you do happen to hit them, they’ll understand it wasn’t on “purpose” because you weren’t focused on them.
He also reiterated that my relationship with Aria should always be as an advisor to her, star of the show. I cannot force Aria to do anything (let’s be real, she’s 1100lbs, baby doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to) but I can make suggestions that are in her best interest which in turn are in my best interest. If she abuses that relationship I won’t want to ‘work’ with her any longer and if I abuse that relationship she’ll ‘fire’ me. Despite all the analogy it really is all about building trust.
Finally after about 20 minutes (no joke) we made it to the obstacles we had worked on the previous training session. We discussed what I was going to do and how I was going to do it and then he demoed the poles once more for me. Not because I didn’t know what to do but I wasn’t 100% that I was going to do it exactly his way. Spoiler alert: I still messed up when it was my turn.
One thing I really like about R is that he never minds when someone makes a mistake. He’s intense and he’s a taskmaster but he feels mistakes are part of learning and in some cases the only way to learn. Just like training horses, he doesn’t reprimand you and is quick to praise when you’re right. He also doesn’t mind if he asks a question and you answer with ‘I don’t know’ or with a different answer than what he wants. He doesn’t expect everyone’s mind to work like his but I do love it when I end up on his same wavelength.
Alex thought she was going to get to relax in the shade but R engaged her in the lesson when he asked questions and at one point even demonstrated his technique on her (sorry again, Alex! He does it to me too). It was a pretty dense training session and I couldn’t remember every little thing I’m was supposed to do when asking Aria to work around me but I did perform the obstacles to his standard by the time I was done. Every time I forgot one component of the task Rwould remind me and I’d start over. His mantra is ‘perfect practice makes perfect’. He so right, though. Aria was a rockstar and did exactly as told so the whole session was really making sure I was communicating correctly.
Towards the end Aria wanted to eat this weed that was on the ground. She kept trying and I kept correcting but I was not correcting effectively. R took over while we chatted and she eventually left the weed alone. Every time she nibbled on the weed R would back her up and then praise her. Eventually she understood that she could lower her head but not eat. Once she got to that point R asked her to lower her head to the weed until she left it alone. Total torture for poor Aria but also a good lesson in self-control. At the end R plucked the weed and let her eat it. A nice little treat for all that effort. Haha.
What I thought might be an hour session with each trainer ended up being closer to 4 hours total if you include the trailer loading work R did. Not that Aria actually needed it but she doesn’t self-load and has to be led in so that was a nice little something extra. My eyes were dry and hurting, the sun was stronger than I’d like, I was dehydrated, and starving but I walked away totally energized. Isn’t that the best feeling?
It was such a long day but she’s finally home! There will be many pictures of her to come.