Training a horse is just like that. You train with a deadline in mind, but come show time you have two choices. Ask the horse to preform and display what he is capable of accomplishing. Or, ask him more than what he is capable of and end up with the possibility of breaking his confidence, giving him a bad show experience, or even effecting his future value because you asked him to do more than he could and he failed in front of a crowd of potential buyers (a bit like a person's GPA going down and then being judged by that when they apply to schools).
A phenomenal trainer by the name of Dick Pieper once told me a story about a mentor of his. This trainer asked Dick "Do you think its possible to improve a horse by 1% every day?" and Dick said to him "Well of course, 1% that's not all that much." To his surprise the trainer said to him "Well then you are going too fast. If you have a horse improving at 1% every day, he will be finished and perfect in 100. And we all know that's not possible. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it and we wouldn't have jobs."
I am telling these stories, and drawing these analogies this week because I do not have many new things to report. I spent this week going back over the basics. I reinforced principles, may be throwing in an extra step before a full release in a turn, but overall it was a rather "uneventful" week. But in no way does "uneventful," mean anything negative. By building on what he knows, instead of throwing more at him, his confidence this week has greatly improved. He is responding better to leg aids, and his patience has improved immensely. One session this week we did not even leave the walk. We just went back over it all, slow and steady, and then I just let him stand, with me on him, and standing tied. I let him get his feet stopped and let that be OK.
Lastly, I want to leave you all with this... When you go to your next competition, I want you to ask yourself before you go into the arena "Does my horse know everything I'm about to ask him to do?" If the answer is no, I'm not suggesting you do not compete, I'm suggesting you preform to the ability of the horse you have that day. No more, no less. Do not ruin a horse for a timeline, in the long run it does not help either of you.
Come October, Rain Dance will be as far along as he is capable of being at that point in his training. With how things are going, I anticipate that to be pretty darn good. But, I do not want to get you all in the habit of expecting each week of this blog to have a bunch of wild new maneuvers and tricks that were covered the week before. But I won't leave you without anything at all. As always, photos are below and on our Facebook Page.