Okay. I hope you read all the comments too because it really is an interesting discussion!
This is the comment I made:
People meet my horses and always compliment me on how nice and quiet and well behaved they are. And I thank them for the compliment but the whole time I'm thinking, "yeah...because they should be able to be like that and I expect them to."
And now I'm thinking, duh. What am I expecting during a ride? Confession: they're not all well trained. (one is but she thinks she wants to forget). Don't get me wrong- they're broke. Adequately. They are just right for brand new riders: quiet and polite and agreeable. But I'm still working on lateral movement and lope departures. Collection and lightness. Stuff they should know.
But I Don't entirely trust my training abilities.
So. Hmmm. Maybe I don't truly believe it when I think I want them to do something.
Because last week the one who pretends she forgot all that fancy stuff did a perfect 180 haunch turn. After months of one step at a time. Did she finally figure out what I'm asking or remember it, or did I at last make it clear, or did I expect her to get it right? All of the above?
I've been running this through my brain for a few days now.
I think about it when I open the barn doors and let the horses out for the day. I don't lead them out one at a time. I open the door, then let them out of their stalls, and one after the other they neatly walk down the aisle and outside. In the evening we do the same: I open the door and holler at them, they come in like good little students and head into their own stalls where they wait for me to shut the stall gates. The only times I halter them to lead them in and out is for practice, or if they know I'm putting them in their stalls to deworm them and they don't wanna. (And yes, somehow they know. They just do.)
Now let me tell you about The Loping Problem.
For years, my half-Arab gelding and I struggled with a nice lope departure. I'd ask, and he'd slam us into a bone jarring fast trot instead. He did this to me a few times at shows, which was comical, as he could trot faster than most of those nice little Quarter Horses were loping. I worked on it, mostly out in the pasture field, because in the corral he seemed to run out of room. It didn't make sense. He was 14.3h of short bones and muscle. He could take off from a standstill out in the field on his own. What was going on? I tried sidepassing him into it, trotting him in a tight circle in the direction of the lead I wanted, and I tried kicking him senseless.
I concluded that it was me. My friend DW had him doing dressage moves, for crying out loud. The horse was not the problem. Okay, he was typically stubborn but that wasn't it. It was me. I wasn't firm enough, I was a kinda wimpy, and for sure I had this crooked spine problem that I already felt was a problem. My posture was pathetic and I had great difficulty staying in position without slumping forward.
Eventually we got it together but it was always a weakness. Out in the field or on the road, we could lope. In the corral, we struggled.
Now, big sweet Phoenix who is a darling gentleman on the ground, is totally pluggy under saddle and we're getting some downright ugly lope departures going on.
So we have two situations here.
-they walk single file into the barn and into their stalls because I insist on it. I had to correct them a few times but now they do it right. I expect them to do this right.
-I had problems with lope departures with the horse I had for 17 years... and I'm having problems with the gelding I have now... and I'm realizing that I expect to have those difficulties.
(I've eliminated physical problems. I've got a good fitting saddle and a bit he deals with better than mere toleration. I lunge him before a ride.)
When I put a student on his back, he plods along like an old pro. He is rock solid and doesn't spook. He goes where his rider puts him. When I lead him he walks beside me on a nice slack lead rope, he stands tied like a good boy, and lowers his head every time I say "down."
When I ride him, he's lazy and sullen and feels heavy in my hands.
So... I'm going to let him get away with that? I'm going to let these guys train me into letting them be sluggish and reluctant?
It's so brutally simple, and geez, even slap-your-forehead obvious!
But I get all hung up on mistakes I made in the past, and pressuring myself to be all perfeshnul, that I forget to...
just ride and expect my broke horses to just do what I ask them to do!!!
(Isn't it great that we have this place to share our horse philosophies?)