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 Go Forward???

Layla Watkins

"Make him go forward. He's not going forward," Mike urges from the ground.

"Thank God," I think quietly to myself. As a first time Thoroughbred owner, the last thing I want to do is "Go forward." I'm riding an ex-race horse that knows nothing BUT forward…fast…really fast! And to control this 1100 pound adrenalin machine, I'm supposed to rely on a flimsy little bit in his mouth? I decide that Mike has secretly taken out a life insurance policy on me and is looking to retire early.

"GO FORWARD!" he bellows.

"Uh, Ok," stumbles from my fear-frozen lips as I tentatively put a little more leg on.

"Not faster, more energy! Stop, stop, STOP! Let me get on."

Phew! Our lesson concludes with a long talk about confidence, or lack thereof, in my case. Confidence in my riding, my horse, and my coach. "Trip is not Tia (can you link this to her story?). He doesn't trust you and you don't trust him. But, it will come. Just keep at it. In the meantime, you've got to work on making him go forward." Ugh - not that again. "It's much harder for him to do something bad when he's going forward." Yeah, right…

The next day, while leading a spooky, hot-headed, Trip to the ring, he reared. That did it - I wasn't afraid, I was mad. "Ok horse, you've got so much energy? Let's see just how much you've got!" Out comes the lunge line and around and around he goes. Funny thing was, while he nearly wore a hole to China running circles around me, when he was moving forward, he couldn't rear. Hmmm…forward, no rearing. Maybe we were on to something.

I recounted the episode to Mike and conceded that maybe going forward had its advantages. But I was still convinced that I had more control when Trip wasn't going forward. "Wrong, the forward energy is what gives you the ability to maneuver him the way you want." Yeah right…

Our lessons continued with the focus on making Trip more supple - bending, straightening, etc. Our progress was slow, to say the least. Until one day, I went for a bike ride and lo and behold - the light bulb came on! Have you ever tried to ride a bike reeaalllly sloooww? You're zigging and zagging all over the place, handlebars here, handlebars there. You need that forward energy for balance, steadiness, and, you got it - control. Hmmm…forward, control. Maybe we were on to something.

Read other articles by Lalya Watkins