A phrase we hear commonly in horses – progression is not linear.
I completely concur with this statement, and I can vow the number of times my riding has taken dips and turns that have felt like regression, but overall have shifted me into a more complete and capable rider.
Case in point, Larico. Larico was a fiery dragon of a 20-something year old. He was imported, had an interesting history that made him quirky, and did not suffer fools gladly.
Sensitive, but dull. Particular and heavy. His preferred ride was exact, he like shorter distances with uphill balance, but even if you set him up perfectly, he’d still throw you for a loop. If you had anything other than a driving seat, you were S.O.L. (Kids, don’t look that one up).
He made me a tough rider, but he also made me a very niche rider. For months after moving on from my favorite dragon, I could not see a distance that was not short. I did not trust longer (or even regular) distances due to his clever abilities to plant his feet.
At the time, I felt this horse ruined me. Each horse I stepped on and manhandled from the onset would grow my guilt. I needed softness back into my riding, and my time with Larico had not encouraged that approach.
The delicate hunters I used to ride were overburdened by my fighting hands and driving seat.
It was not until months past my last ride on Larico did I realize the truth. This horse expanded me.
It was not linear, I did not immediately feel myself capable of handling more personalities, but that is what happened. After Larico, I rode much more confidently (albeit aggressively). Before I was a backseat Sally, now I was driving the car.
Sure, I allowed bad habits with him. But he did a lot of good for me too. Rather than the pushover I once was, I became the decision maker. I was emphatic with producing straightness and quality of strides that before I would mull over to avoid confrontation.
Even my personal life felt it. Two of my most difficult phone conversations I’ve had (a breakup and rejecting a wonderful job offer) I actually held from Larico’s back. Don’t call while riding folks. But I also needed to feel strong and brave.
Because Larico put me through a trial by fire, I knew I could handle it.
My progression after him was not a positive sloping line. I puttered. For many months. Even today, I am still breaking the habit of driving with my tailbone.
Reaching my conclusion, progress is not linear in horses. The frustration of being too far one way, or having a shortfall in another dimension can be exhausting. Progress does not rise continuously.
But is there anything that is effortlessly upward? I am struggling with the answer to this question.
Knowledge perhaps, as our experiences and know-how grows to levels that enhance our expertise. But I’d argue the quality of your information may cheapen (or worsen) your knowledge.
So I am still searching for something linear. But for now, we can enjoy the twists and turns.