35. Doing right for doing wrong - so long as you listen and learn

Blog 35 – “Doing right for doing wrong - as long as you listen and learn”

Loading and travelling Lola home was not a relaxing experience for any of us.  

In part this came down to past negative associations but it was also because Lola lacked the proprioceptive awareness to know where to put herself and how.  

This was one of the first thing we worked on once she was home and Lola is now confident to load and travel.  

(Although it is not my intention to compete her to travel for training in the foreseeable future I do believe that it is essential that horses are confident to do so in case medical emergencies necessitate a trip to the vet.  It is well worth taking the time to train this before such an eventuality should happen, to quote Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, “Hope for the best and plan for the worst.”)  

However I had other reasons for wanting to travel Lola at the time...

Out of courtesy I contacted Lola’s breeders when she arrived home and they assured be that she had been “Very loved” as a foal but was, “such a disappointment, that awful rolling white-eye, terrible conformation and quite untrainable” and they wished me the best of luck.  

I sent them my contact details but have not, and neither do I wish to, hear from them since.  

Perhaps they are good “horse people” but rushing any horse never works out well in the long-run and Lola’s sire has a reputation for throwing sharp horses who take a long time to mature, so why breed a horse with those bloodlines and then put it a high-pressure environment so young?  Many breeders and owners do this, often repeatedly and with dire consequences for the horses that they claim to love.  

That said at least they gave her to Nat who gave her to me rather than force her to stay in a world so unsuited to Lola.
Lola nests in her hay, picture by Vanya.
I can hardly criticise them though when I went on to make a mistake (and then some more) afterwards.  

Lola arrived home in April and having resolved her loading issues I was keen to get some input from P.K. with whom I was still training.  

Our next section was in May, Filly and I took and passed our ridden exam and I took and passed the “Theory Lecture” on the first day, the second day was taken up with the “Guest Rider” and “Own Student” examinations, one of which I passed, leaving only day 3 for a lesson with P.K.  

My “well considered” plan was to travel Filly there for the exam with Chris, who would leave me there and travel Filly home at the end of day one, and for him to return for the third day with Lola. 

She loaded and travelled well for Chris but was unsettled in the stable and on arrival in the indoor school it became apparent that she could not cope with the speakers.  It was not so much P.K’s voice, maybe it was the static sound, not audible to human ears but apparently perceivable to Lola and that reminded her of her early competition experiences?  Observing this P.K. wisely turned off the p.a. and taught our session without, however Lola and I “survived” rather than benefited from it as I simply had not prepared her for the experience.  

Since then Lola has become a much more confident horse in all ways, we have a p.a. at Ashen E.C. and she has become accustomed to hearing my voice over it while turned-out during coaching lessons.  
While working with her I started to have the radio on my telephone playing in my pocket, firstly very quietly and then a little louder.  
Now we often enjoy sessions in the arena accompanied by Woman’s Hour over the p.a.  
Nowadays I rarely choose to address issues “head-on” preferring to take a more global approach, once a horse has learned to trust you outside influences are of little or no concern to our horses but this was such a phobia for Lola that I felt it needed addressing more specifically.

Lola with Toby on arrival and the winter before last playing together in the arena
In spite of having a new, wonderful and troubled horse in my life I was distracted by preparing for my exams, I was desperate to do well and to show P.K. my new horse.  
I was thinking more about what I wanted to achieve than what was best for Lola.  
I drove home regretting my decision to take her and it somewhat dampened my euphoria at all the other things I had, apparently, achieved on that course and resolved not to take her away again until I was confident that she was ready.
Lola two years ago.

However I began to obverse something interesting in Lola over the next few days and weeks.  

While she had seemed to settle fairly well on arrival, eating well and enjoying my attention, she was hyper vigilant, always on the lookout even when she “should have” been relaxing in the paddock.  

Having taken her away, only to bring her back to the same place where she felt loved and supported Lola started to settle in better and to really be and feel “at home”.

I’m not sure that we can do anything that really matters to us without making mistakes from time-to-time.  So long as we learn from those mistakes, work out how to change our strategies for our horses' benefit, as opposed to repeating those mistakes again and again and expecting a different outcome, then each of those mistakes can have surprisingly positive outcomes. 

Next time, "Best Laid Plans" published 8th June.

For those searching online for more “instructional” resources than offered in these blogs please make use of my video downloads www.ashenec.co.uk

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