THE NUMBER KEEPS CROPPING UP… Excellent private lesson today, really illuminating.

We took Rebel through transition after transition, trot to walk to trot, giving me the chance to work on them, too, trot to canter to trot, and he did not buck once the whole 45 minutes.

I’m still not giving him him a strong enough canter aid, so that transition still needs loads of work, but the constant change of aids and requests resulted in the first session in which I felt that we were listening to each other.

So what have I learned? I suppose there is a general reinforcement that he’s a smart ‘un, and that he gets bored, and then he acts out. Today, by asking for different things at different times— not allowing the round and round of a lesson to get stale— we had true communication. I did not need to thump him on the bum, I didn’t need to waggle my crop, and frankly, the length of the whip, while it proves helpful, wasn’t the issue.

The issue is to keep him engaged. I imagine it’s something like the way that I feel when someone’s harping on the same thing over and over with me, ad nauseum. I just do a human version of bucking. In the past, if it involved a day job, I used to act out by showing up to the office later, and later, and later…

This was exhilarating. I didn’t even realise that he wasn’t acting the maggot until it was all over. We’d both been too busy. What I achieved is an awareness of how to keep him working, and also a better seat in the canter. We were changing up so much, I had to really feel the difference, and in feeling it, was better able to demonstrate it.

How to do this in the normal run of a normal lesson is the next challenge. Emma once recommended I keep changing his bend when he stops listening to me— I’ve tried that to some effect. I must get some more tips, though.

How dull for him to to do the daily round. And how hard he works! I had him three days in a row, and I expect he’ll be working again tonight. I’m sure it never occured to me before, how many riders he carries in a day. And how annoyed he must get when the rider’s not giving him a good mental work out.

It’s been his strength of mind that’s been the challenge after all. We’ll see how we get on from here. I am energised, though, better educated as to how his canny wits works, and damned if it isn’t all exciting and interesting again!

Biggest lesson learned: don’t give up. Unless it gets dangerous, of course. But I never felt threatened by Rebel, only thwarted. And now… we’ll see. Saturday is another day, and anything could happen, but I feel equal to it now. Whereas every session with Reb was an exercise in obstruction and power struggle, I think— I hope— that we’ll get more of the best of each other from now on.

And three days in row? Not a bother on me!