Learning bad habits is never a good thing. No one ever wants to learn the hard or the wrong way to do something. But sometimes it just happens when you look back on a personal journey.
Admitting that things aren't going the right way, or the way you'd like them to go, is the first step, and boy it's a doozy!
In the past couple months I've been learning a lot of bad habits.
All of these bad habits had been instilled in me all because Wow had become defensive himself. He began refusing and these bad habits were all I could do to hope we'd both get to the other side of the jump.
These bad habits had taken my confidence. My confidence in myself and my confidence in my horse. That's no way to ride.
After the realization that Wow is best suited in a dressage/flat-only home I began to ride a lesson horse at the barn who came in as a sales horse. He's not the most flashy or something I'd ever buy, but little did I know he was exactly what I needed.
I've been riding George, as he's called in the barn, in lessons for the two months or so as Wow's job no longer includes jumping. My first lesson on him was rough. I picked to the base and George, as honest as he is, left were he was supposed to and I was left behind eight out of 10 times. The 'hunter gap' felt like the 'holy sh*t' distance. However, as we've progressed I've learned a lot about myself. He's instilled in me a level of trust I haven't had for a while. Bad habits don't have to die hard.
George is young and in no means "made" -- his steering is, let's just say lacking; he's not quite sure what inside rein to outside leg means.; and bulges left all day long. I can handle the green when it comes to that respect, but what I'm most grateful for is his willingness and braveness to the fences.
With Wow I've been battling inner demons, for lack of a better phrase. Each ride and each approach to a fence it was more about what I could do to get him...and me...to the other side. Sit deep - check. Hands up - check. Lean back - check. Leg, leg, and more leg - check. Growl every once in a while - check. I couldn't be soft and hunter-y. I had to be aggressive and defensive. He was telling me he didn't want to jump anymore. I finally listened and it's been the best thing for both of us.
Lessons with George are wonderful. I can be soft and trusting. I add leg down the line without fear of a sudden stop. I can ask George to leave a bit long and he will; I can ask him to wait and he does. I can focus on what I need to - positioning, straightness, etc. without having to worry about the jump itself.
It's amazing how some bad habits that you think have become 'the way you ride' can smoothly melt away with the right horses and right trainers helping you along the way.
I'm looking into other avenues for Wow to excel in something he can enjoy while furthering my abilities by riding something, while not "made," is trustworthy and brave.
As I look for another hunter mount to [maybe a little bit in the future] do the Adult Hunters and National Derbies and eventually the Amateur/Owner Hunters I will take what I've learned from riding George and apply that to my new horse. Yes, I understand each horse is different and may require different things, but that willingness and bravery, to me, are irreplaceable.