Today Pam taught me how to have consistent, light tension on the reins so that my relaxed hands followed Annie's head as she galloped. What a fine feeling that was! Annie's canter departs were close to push button. Keeping her in canter was easy.
I felt like Annie and I were finally ready to eat at the grown-up table.
Then Pam invited us to come off the rail and canter down the center of the ring, right lead first, then left. We were doing so well on the rail, she wanted to see how we did without the psychological support the rail provides.
We made a complete mess of it.
After our second botched effort Pam said we did a perfect cantering side pass, a high level dressage move. Too bad I wasn't asking for it on purpose. To me it just felt like a real bumpy ride on a teeter totter.
After four tries, we did it ("By George, I think we've got it!") and Pam said it was time to call it a day. In my head I was whining, "I'm not ready to stop, let's do it again! I could dance all night!" Pam must be telepathic because she said,
"It's good to work with your horse to achieve something new but once they've got it you can wear out their enthusiasm if you keep asking for it over and over again. At some point they will think, 'Screw this!' and act out on you. You want to reward the achievement, not wear out their spirit."
It made me think of the times I would come home with an B+ on a test thinking that was pretty darn good. My Dad would look at it and say, "Maybe next time you'll get an A." Talk about wearing down a person's spirit!
So I understood what Pam was saying even though I felt ready to ride another hour. For Annie's sake I walked her back to the barn on a loose rein. It was time to thank her for picking up the rail-free canter with a good rub and some fresh hay.