Had a lesson with Duke (retired show jumper) about responsibility. Poor Duke has been micro-managed most of his life. He is in his 20's. He is a retired show jumper. He is very sensible and has a lot of power. He was taught to pull and run on his forehand. He did very well in the show ring even with his handicap...amazing guy he is.
What is Duke's responsibility? On this day, he learned he can make decisions and keep the rider with him. He was allowed to pick the direction and the gait. All that was asked of him was to keep the rider safe.
This is a big deal for Duke. At first he wasn't sure about this decision making, but it didn't take long for him to settle into it. He went up one path and down another. He chose trot and walk. There were moments he felt the rider's balance wasn't where it should be and he slowed down sometimes going down to a walk. He took this responsibility very seriously.
Allowing Duke to make these decisions is very important. I need him to look out for me and I need to trust him and his judgement. It's a good way to gain respect from Duke and learning more about him as well as him learning about me. Riding with a loose rein and allowing him to pick and choose takes trust, that he will watch out for me that I don't need to micro-manage him.
At the end of the ride, he was very pleased with himself. He also chose to go over the ground poles. He held his head up and hit every pole with what sounded like six feet instead of just 4 feet. He was worried that the tug-o-war was going to start. It didn't happen. The second time thru, was my idea because I felt he needed reassurance that the tug-o-war wasn't going to show up. As soon as, I lead him to it, I went back to being just a passanger. He was perfect...didn't hit a single pole and went through it with pride and came out with a lovely working trot.
When all done, he was smiling and the more we talked about him, the more he was beaming. He even stuck around for awhile after being untacked. He was very content and happy.
It's a simple lesson, but a very powerful one.