I've had a wealth of quality rides on my horses lately (where "horses" is used instead of "Q" because I've ridden Griffin twice). I can remember last summer with Q where it would be a toss up as to whether or not we'd have a quality ride day or a shit day. The best days were sporadic. The bad days were sporadic. And the mediocre days were littered throughout.
This trend has ended. And I truly think it's ended for good.
Bad days were totally and completely my fault. They were certainly augmented by Q being in heat, but they were mostly my fault. I didn't handle myself and her well. She's (and any horse) is capable of anything. I (anyone) am the weakest link. My weaknesses will keep her from achieving success. When I slack off as a good leader, it impedes her ability to be awesome.
Slacking off and being a poor leader is both mental and physical. I accept my physical short-comings. Many of these are just because I don't have the huge amount of time and money to devote to lessons that would give me absolutely perfect, efficient form and know-how. I don't struggle by any means, but I always have room to improve my fitness level, muscle memory, and knowledge of how to maneuver my body to be an active rider and not a sack of potatoes.
Mental short-comings though? That's all on me. That's something that can always be improved upon, but something that is totally in my control. Stress level from life outside horse-time certainly donates to my mental state, but being strong enough to release that stress when I'm with my horses is something I've been working on a lot. And I think I've conquered it.
Its rare that I truly lose my temper because of something silly that happens with the horses. If I'm having a particularly stressful day I can't quite let go of I either don't go to the barn, or I go and just groom and feed them. Being more open with myself, recognizing and admitting to myself that I am being an idiot and need to put my reasonable pants on instead of my dummy ones has been wonderful.
When I arrive at the barn now, I get their halters from the tack room and a zen-like state descends. I let go of work stress. I let go of to-do list thoughts. I let go of thoughts revolving around that days plans, that weekend's plans, and next week's plans.
I walk into the field to be immediately greeted by Griffin. I halter him and continue my walk to Miss Q who stands waiting for me (because showing attachment and emotion by running to me like Griffin would be a sign of weakness, haha). I halter her. The three of us head to the barn (and Kenai trots and runs circles around us).
I methodically groom them both. Q falls asleep more often than not these days. Griffin watches my every move while standing [mostly] still.
When I mount up and ride, I focus on my position. I let the horse move forward with slight corrections as they get distracted. I praise eagerly in a soft voice whenever appropriate. I don't yell, squeal, hit, kick, bounce, or other silly encouragement. Both respond very well to this. They don't have time to be discouraged. I give a brief correction and move past the error. Moments later we repeat the exercise that led to the error. Another correction is delivered and we move past it, or praise is given and we most past it.
Distractions on the part of the horse are fewer. They become more interested in their job. I get a thrill from their learning process and their interest in their job - not their friends or food.
Its not to say I don't get frustrated with them at times. Certainly no. I just don't have some mental breakdown about it in any degree. Verbal chastisement in a normal-tone voice as if I were carrying on an every-day conversation? Oh yes. That happens. That happens frequently. Its a good way for me to voice my frustrations. The horses just think that my calm tone means good/neutral things. The ride carries on.
Griffin's circles, reverses, figure-eights, and halts have progressed into very smooth maneuvers. Q's focus on me has increased. Griffin's issue with stopping to lick the the toe of my boot (sigh) has nearly ceased. Q's manic bolting upon landing a jump has decreased significantly - she was trotting in AND out of jumps when requested last time. She was almost bored with the exercise, in fact.
Its not hard to find a positive note to end on any more. We work, learn, praise continually, and then end. My mind is in a calm and zen-ish state the whole time. Errors happen. No big. Its all a learning process for the horses and me. Being calm and encouraging the whole time helps to overcome obstacles quicker. Riding is always a joy now.