Very seldom are we, as horsemen, lucky enough to witness the breakthrough a horse makes when he finally understands what’s being asked of him.
You never forget it.
I remember my experience vividly. Several years ago, I was at a dressage clinic in Texas. Rebecca, a friend of my friend, had purchased a 6 year old green TB gelding. Jupiter had been dumped in a pasture as a baby, and knew virtually nothing. He was halter broken and would stand for the farrier. He knew nothing else. Rebecca purchased the steel grey, dappled gelding, hoping to make a dressage horse of him. She started him right away in dressage.
There were some folks who said she was making a mistake. One does not train a green horse in dressage. Rebecca said, why not???
The first time I met them was at the dressage clinic. I believe Rebecca had taken Jupiter merely to accustom him to lots of strange horses, new sights, sounds, etc.
She was schooling him in a warm up ring. By now she could ride him, but he was still so very new at it. Nevertheless, he was a giving, willing horse.
She was riding him at a gentle canter, asking for a lead change, and he wouldn’t change. It was not out of stubbornness or disobedience. He WANTED to do what she was asking, but he didn’t know what it was. She cued and cued, and he began to shake his head and pin his ears in frustration.
Then I saw something I shall never forget. Rebecca had him on the wrong lead, and cued. Jupiter changed leads…and his face said OH!!!!!!!! I get it! I cannot describe it other than a lightning flash of understanding on his face. YES! Rebecca yelled, and asked again, and Jupiter changed leads again! YES!!
He was almost skipping in his joy, he had finally understood.
I don’t have the words to describe that look. I think only a horseman would understand. But I saw it…and I count myself lucky to have seen it.