My Bipolar Ride on Gem

My hopes to get a lesson on Gem this weekend didn’t work out: something about Trainer sending her own horse through his first 1* event got in the way. How dare she! đŸ˜‰ Plan B was to get a sitter and take a date day on Gem and Pete on the trail. Dusty and I haven’t been on a Wyatt free date since our anniversary last October. That got squashed with thunderstorms in the forecast for all day Sunday.

Saturday afternoon was warm and sunny though, so I hopped on up in the hay field to see what I could accomplish. My aim was to work on canter transitions since that is my current worst skill.

I don’t have any pictures from the ride because my phone took a swim in the toilet that morning and was sitting in a bag of rice (useless by the way) until Sunday morning when I gave up and entered one of Dante’s circle’s of Hell…aka Verizon…to see what could be done which was nothing short of paying a crap ton of money and leaving with a new phone I didn’t want. Ugh.


It was warm enough that I rode in a tank top which generally never happens. My blood is like ice most of the time and I rarely go out in anything short of two layers when it is under 85, but it was super sunny and just felt really good. I dragged Gemmie over to the hay field and clambered aboard in the dressage saddle.

The weather did not disappoint on Sunday. On and off storms that kept the Duo hiding in the shelter

Right away things were crap. Gem either wanted to throw her head down to eat or throw it in the air and zoom around tense and distracted. All I wanted to do was walk. For about 5-7 minutes we fought each other. I cursed her name and eventually told her I should sell her to an endurance home and get a horse that can do the simple things I enjoy doing…like walking, trotting and cantering safely and pleasantly at home.

Then I did something I have never done…I got firm. Not angry. Not rough. Not mean. Not unfair. Just firm. When I said halt I meant halt now, not in 20 feet when she decided to. When I said walk, I meant walk. Not jig, not trot, not stop and eat. Walk. Bend. Turn. Simple things that a 19 year old horse, having been ridden consistently and fairly for the last 7 years, should be able to do without issue. She isn’t green. She isn’t young.

I realized, up there on her while having no fun at all in those first minutes of the ride, that I no longer have the same horse under me as I did 7 years ago. She isn’t a delicate little egg that will crack and lose the last 2 months of trust I built up if I do one single thing wrong. She can handle the amount of pressure asking her to freaking halt puts on her without losing it. She just doesn’t want to because she has never had to. And that is my fault. I didn’t make the necessary shift in our relationship when it was time, likely 2+ years ago, and have been letting her get away with behaviors she shouldn’t have.

When I became firm with her, informed her that I do mean what I ask, she responded by fighting a bit but then listening. She halted. She walked off. She relaxed. When I finally decided it was time to trot, she picked it up and went around my 20ish meter circle nicely. If she tried to speed up, my half halt and sitting tall told her to slow it back down and maintain her rhythm. All I had to do was be clear, firm and consistent.

The next 40 minutes were a blast!

She floated around the hay field nicely and while she would get distracted at times by traffic or some such, she kept her pace, kept being relaxed and kept being rideable. We did figure 8s, 20 meter circles and larger circles around the perimeter of the area I was working in. She lowered her head, blew out and was a joy.

A beautiful rainbow out our front door

Just when I was beginning to think about working on that canter, she began to turn her head and bite at my leg. I asked her to move on, but she was clearly trying to tell me something. I listen to my horse when able and she is very honest about her feelings, so abnormal behavior such as this is typically her telling me something is off.

I hopped down worried that the girth was pinching her and noted that she was slathered in white foamy sweat. If there is one thing that my Princess hates, it is to be sweaty and here she was lathered! I chuckled at her sad expression and disdain for sweat and called it a day. We had been working pretty hard for 45 minutes and were both hot and sweaty. She had been fantastic and I had learned a valuable lesson.

It is time to hold Gem more accountable for her actions under saddle and quit thinking of her the way I did when she was mentally breakable. Being fair, but firm really helped change the dynamic we had Saturday afternoon.

10 thoughts on “My Bipolar Ride on Gem”

  1. I often tell students (depending on the situation of course) that when they feel a moment of resistance, they can ride through it to find something nice on the other side. This is a great illustration of that! Your conversation with Gem about selling her to an endurance home and getting a nice horse who can do simple things sounds very familiar. Except Ozzy is too lame to sell. So I’m just getting a baby draft horse instead! Hahahaha. I feel your struggle. Ozzy is 16 and has been ridden for twelve years and is still a loon -_- I’m glad your ride ended on a productive note! 45 minutes of hard work is nothing to sneeze at!


    1. Baby drafts though….the answer to everything đŸ™‚ I’m learning that 45 minutes of solid work is nothing to frown at. I’m so used to needing to spend 2+ hours out on trail to accomplish anything. It’s a new era.


  2. Yes! I am SO happy to read you’re being firm with this mare now. I felt like she bossed you around way too much (and dumped you too much, too, lol). She has *amazing* athletic ability (hello, little freak mare with your 40 HR throughout 100 hilly miles!) and obviously has great work ethic based on what you’ve accomplished with her, it’s about time she do more of what YOU ask and less of what she *feels like*. GOOD FOR YOU!! It sounds like you had an amazing ride and I bet you’ll continue to have many more! Can’t WAIT to see where things go. =)

    Gem is a lot like Q with her personality, and I can relate to change in relationship re: being firm and demanding more vs. doing something that will crumble the trust to dust. Q was fragile in the beginning, but she is NOT now. I crumbled her trust by being a continual shitbag to her in 2014 and have been rebuilding it since, but in that time I have learned the mare better and I know I can absolutely PUSH her now. I can even reprimand her when she’s being a snot and she doesn’t take it personally anymore (i.e., she is a fussbucket when tied when there is zero reason to be, I pop her one and she stops and gives me a “FINE” look whereas in the beginning I’d pop her one and she’d go skittering in fear). Q knows I won’t hurt her now and she also recognizes that she can’t get away with half her evasive shit. Spooking and dumping me over nothing is something we will be working on when we’re back on trails. She’s proven herself via flatwork and now I’m ready to demand more on trail because I’m 99% certain half her spooks are reasons to quit doing something. MARES!!!!


    1. It’s taking me a long time to realize that I won’t break her at this time. She is due for a rude awakening but she is inherently lazy so once she learns that listening gets her done quicker she should fall in line. It’s all on me now!


  3. Ugh being disciplined in riding is so hard sometimes, esp when we wish the horse would just get on with doing the thing. It’s worth it tho!


    1. At this point I can’t blame her a whole lot. She is just taking advantage when she can and her personality is not very forgiving. She isn’t a do it to please me type horse so I need to be the one who changes.


  4. Haha I understand exactly how that is! My oldest horse, Pokey is 24 yrs old now and I always used to ride him like the littlest thing would break him. I haven’t ridden him much recently but when I do I have been trying to be a lot firmer with him. (He hates it but it makes him so much better to ride!:)


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