Changing Perspective

By Becky Adler Fagan

Hi readers!  I hope you’re all doing well.  It’s been a long time since my last post but I’m happy to finally publish this next chapter of our story.  It was a tough one to work on, but it also represents a huge turning point in my journey with Grady. 

If you’ve been following the story, you’ll remember that Jayne was recommended to me by my friend, James. {Click Here to read the previous post}  That recommendation turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened for Grady and me, and Jayne is still a huge part of our life to this day.

After James suggested that I contact Jayne, I was relieved and excited to have someone to call who might be able to help me with Grady.  I had known of Jayne from the horse show world but didn’t know her well.  I sent her an email explaining the situation and she got back to me the next morning.   She said she would be able to help me, however, she was leaving to train in Florida for the winter just after Christmas, so we only had a couple of weeks.  We set up a lesson for the beginning of the following week. 

Since I hadn’t been riding Grady that much, I thought it would be a good idea to get on him a couple of times before the lesson even though I really didn’t want to.  I had come to hate the feeling of frustration that came over me when things weren’t going well during our rides. The emotions that our unsuccessful rides brought to the surface caused an underlying feeling of dread when it came time to ride Grady.  I knew it wasn’t good to let my emotions get the best of me, but for some reason that was a really hard thing to overcome when it came to this horse.  Despite that feeling, something made me keep trying.

I didn’t plan to do much during these rides and I kept my expectations low, but I just wanted Grady to get used to having weight on his back again.  Even though he was pretty tense and would still try to bolt off to the right sometimes (this had become his signature move), we managed to get a little bit done.  I was really looking forward to seeing what Jayne thought. 

Jayne has an amazing ability to see the most minute things from the ground and her input was invaluable.  She counted on the fact that I was already a successful and tactful rider with a lot of education and experience.  Despite all that experience, I had never endured so much failure with so much sincere effort so I was open to trying new things.  Some adjustments to my position helped me start to teach Grady a new set of aids.  By learning how Grady responded to each aid, I could develop a system with sequences that he would come to understand.  This helped me change the perspective on my process.  Jayne never viewed Grady’s outbursts as a bad thing and always stayed calm and positive.  Instead, his reactions provided information that helped us further develop the process.  In time, Grady would come to find comfort in the aids that he learned.  Since our first session was so positive, we agreed that we should fit in one more before Jayne left for Florida. 

Jayne came back for another lesson a little over a week later.  It was late December and the days were short.  The light was waning, but we got started and Grady was trying his heart out.  He was listening well and, even though he would still act up once in a while, Jayne really helped me stay focused on clear aids, leaving the emotion out of it. 

December 2011 – please excuse the grainy photos – 10 year old technology is a bit obsolete
Grady would sometimes act out when he was having difficulty but things improved as we had some great, breakthrough moments.

As Grady was really getting into the zone, he started whinnying as if he was saying “I’m getting it!”. (I had never experienced this with a horse before. We later learned that he would do that when he was having a particularly strong “A-ha moment”, because he continued to do it over the next few years). He still acted up once in a while but we kept at it.  As the lesson progressed, Grady relaxed and started to feel really nice.  Jayne had me ask for more trot and Grady gave it to me.  I couldn’t believe how great he felt.  What a confidence boost! 

After some solid work at the trot in both directions, Jayne had me dismount and give Grady a treat.  I was so proud of him and he seemed pleased with himself. I felt like this was a huge breakthrough for us.  I actually could ride him.  I simply needed to be brave about my influence.  For two years, every time Grady would misbehave, I would worry about him and wonder what was wrong.  Now that we had explored all possible health issues, I felt comfortable pushing ahead and asking him to work. 

Jayne and I discussed that it was time to let all the past stuff go and simply start from the beginning again.  It didn’t matter what he did before – I had to learn how to ride Grady the way that worked for him now.  Over time, I would realize that what seemed like Pandora’s box was actually a treasure chest. 

My plan was to spend the winter practicing what we worked on and take it one day at a time.  Even if Grady ended up having some time off over the winter, I looked forward to continuing with Jayne in the spring.  It was the most hopeful I had felt in a long time.