Between all the rain, the hay growing to a point where I couldn’t use the field and then wanting time in the arena to practice course work and our dressage test, I haven’t ridden Gem at home in well over a month. Maybe closer to two.
Monday night I dressed her up in the dressage tack and wanted to work on using my inside leg for bend and re introducing the canter. It ended up being one of the most frustrating rides I have had in a long time.
I kept all of Trainer’s words running through my head as well as the advice from Emma’s great post on auditing the clinic (read it here) and chose every step that I wanted Gem to take. I sat up tall, tightened my core and was greedy with my position (something Trainer is always after me about). I used half halts. I breathed deep and relaxed.
I was therefore a little lost when Gem basically just gave me the horsey middle finger and raced around the field at her best endurance trot not heeding my aides at all. Trainer has also gotten after me about being too lenient with her – if I ask her softly and she ignores me I need to get more aggressive. I did. She still blew through me deciding it was more fun to do whatever she wanted to do.
At one point, and I’m not particularly proud of this but I like being honest, I was full out hauling on her reins while sitting deep and tall, tightening my core and keeping my legs on and she still would not halt. Pulsing the request to not allow a full out pulling war was useless. I was beyond frustrated.
When I asked her to walk, she would either jig or break to trot. Halting was a nightmare. I don’t know what bee got up her butt, but neither of us was enjoying this ride. Still, I couldn’t just quit. I’ve done that before and all it does is teach her that acting that way gets her out of work.
Instead I chose a straight line along the short side of the field and made her walk. If she jigged or broke to trot she got halted. Sometimes nicely and sometimes aggressively. Once we reached the end of my line, we turned and did it again going back the other way. Over and over and over. We did this for 30 minutes before she settled and actually gave me a flat walk.
Then I asked her to trot. Maybe I should have called it a day once she gave me the flat walk, but it had only been 30 minutes and I wanted to work on our canter. I asked her to trot and she immediately zoomed away. No, that is not the right answer. So we worked on trot walk trot transitions although “worked on” is being a little nice about it. Basically I asked her to walk at a very definite spot and she told me where to stick my walk transition instead.
I was out of ways to improve it. I sat tall, tightened my core, had my shoulders back, breathed in and sat down in the saddle to cue for walk. She stared off into her pasture at Pete. I used more rein. She flicked her ears back and gave me the finger. I used more rein than I am comfortable using and she still didn’t give a crap. I turned her in a tiny circle and she finally walked. Repeat time and time and time again. When she finally walked for me, I let her have a break.
At this point I was on a mission with her. She wasn’t in pain. She wasn’t confused. She wasn’t afraid. Now I know that most times it is the rider’s fault and I think I have been more than willing to take the blame each and every time, but Monday night boiled down to Gem just not wanting to work at home while Pete was watching and grazing in the next field. She both knew what I wanted and was more than capable of performing a simple trot to walk transition when asked in a fair and consistent manner. Gem just didn’t want to play.
Asking for any sort of bend was completely out of the question. Any slight touch with my inside leg just sent her more forward and she kept ignoring my half halts prior to using it as Trainer has taught me to do. I gave up on those making a note to have Trainer out to my place again instead of trailering to her so she can help me when Gem decides she has no interest.
Finally, after 45 minutes of this crap I got Gem in a nice trot that was a good pace and not strung out. Trainer has scolded me for allowing Gem to canter from a bad trot, so I worked hard on getting the trot good before asking. Once I asked Gem picked up a lovely left lead canter and we floated over the ground. She maintained power steering and it was soft and light. Perfection really. I never wanted to stop. Eventually I asked her to trot again and she did without fuss, so we ended there on the only good note of the entire hour ride.
She got a good cold hosing afterward as she was really sweaty. She was angry with me and let me know it. Part of me wonders if she isn’t a bit bored with all the walk trot we have been doing and just wants to stretch her back and canter. However, I can’t allow her to canter when she is a zooming and strung out race car, so she needs to figure out that she gets to do the fun stuff only when she is listening.
It seems like the spring rain is finally drying up a bit and the next cutting of hay won’t be for a while, so I should be able to get more frequent rides in at home to work on this. Trainer has been out of town doing Pony Club ratings, but I have a lesson scheduled next week. I’m debating on traveling there or having her come to me. Traveling there allows me to work on things better as Gem is in a much better frame of mind, but that doesn’t really help me when she checks out at home. It just feels like a waste of $55 when she comes to me and all we can work on is getting Gem to walk for the hour versus going there and working on bend, geometry and the like. I don’t know, I’ll have to think on it.