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.
19 thoughts on “Well That Wasn’t Any Fun”
Ha! Sounds like my ride on monday. Right down to being a sweaty mess at the end. I do believe that sometimes it is the horse and we have to do what we have to do to make our point. I am proud of you for riding that out and don’t second guess yourself.
Yea these rides aren’t enjoyable but I think we both learned a lot. I had wanted to ride Wednesday night but didn’t get home from work until 745 pm. Gem is a thinking horse so I know she has been stewing over it since then. It will be interesting to see what horse I have under me next time
Good for you, sticking it out and ending on a good note. Those kinds of rides are the worst and best at the same time. I only say best because sometimes you have a break through and sometimes the breakthrough is that you need to take a step back because you’re not ready. I don’t think that applies to you. Have you checked hocks to see if it’s a pain issue? If it’s not a pain issue sometimes I start by lunging them and installing a solid verbal canter command. Then you can associate your physical cues with the verbal cue and eventually eliminate the verbal. That works good with starting horses so I’m not up there flailing around terrifying them and teaching them to fall on their face into a canter. Other options are a dressage whip to reach back and get her ass in gear instead of trailing out. Does she usually canter when asked? Even if it is a mess?
As far as your trainer coming can you just say you know she checks out at home. Maybe it’s because all she is going to get to do is walk and her mind that’s boring. She’s used to flying down trails. Walking circles sounds like a step back in her mind. Maybe ask to do a quick warm up on a loose rein and start out with canter work. This would eliminate the need to correct walk work.
I’m just offering some thoughts. No rudeness or bossiness intended at all. Just take me with a grain of salt. 🙂 Gosh that was a long comment sorry about that.
It’s not a pain issue. She only acts like this at home. Had I trailered to the arena this entire ride would have been a completely different story. Her response when she doesn’t want to work or if she doesn’t understand the question is to go faster. It’s been this way for years. Thankfully since beginning lessons in February it has improved a lot but we still have rides that revert back especially when at home after dinner while her BFF is grazing.
As for cantering, when I first got her I couldn’t touch her with my legs at all. Past trauma with another owner. I spent an entire year slowly building it on her by using voice commands first. She will canter easily when I ask verbally. Slowly I introduced leg. She will canter any time I ask. Cantering is not the problem. It’s having a strung out, hollow and tense trot that is the issue.
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Good that it’s not pain. So she’s being a heifer at home? I would use a dressage whip and a canter pole. Nice together posting trot to the pole not even thinking of canter or rushing but with forward energy. Then about 8 feet or so out depending on her trot stride sit down, half halt and drive with your seat bones. I sit a little heavier on my inside seatbone squeeze inside leg at the girth and outside leg a little further back like scissors. Then ask at the pole when her outside hoof is on the ground. So when she strides off the depart should be a little be a little more together. Just a thought. 😁
Personally I think you are doing awesome with her and really making leaps and bounds with her training.
I can get her to canter. Getting there is simple. She’d canter all day if I’d let her. It’s being balanced and listening that’s the issue
Yeah, those kinds of rides never are any fun. But good for you for not giving up! Especially in this heat.
I’ll admit to wanting to! I didn’t though. She sure wasn’t happy with me at the end
sounds like she was just having a day! Y’all worked through it though and ended on a good note. Don’t give up on riding at home. Keep it up when you can. I would have trainer come out at least this time so she can be there to help get you through it faster. Or maybe when you expect Gem to be the same, she won’t be!
Typically once I have a bad ride like this Gem comes out with her best behavior the next time. I didn’t get to ride last night because I got home at 745 pm and still needed dinner and to see the kiddo. Hopefully I can ride Friday after work and see where her brain is. I’ve got stuff I want to do!
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It might be good to have her come to you and get a fresh set of eyes on what goes on schooling at home. Maybe add some more tools to the box when dealing with grumpy gem.
That’s what I was thinking. It gets frustrating when I know I’m doing something wrong but don’t know what else to do
YES! GOOD FOR YOU! And I agree with L re: trainer coming to you and giving you some more tools to use. Sometimes a really bad ride can help more than a good one because you get to learn new methods to work past the bad. I’ve learned to not be upset but instead be grateful for “bad” times on film or with eyes on the ground because ultimately I learn a LOT more from the experience.
I’ll give her a call and see if she can come out next time. I have to temper my excitement for moving forwards with the slow pace I need to go for us both.
Horses!!! Can’t help but love them even when you get the middle hoof 😉 Chimi does this to me too (though he doesn’t have the angry mare later) so I feel your annoyance!!!! But it will get better 😁
The angry mare was very angry indeed!
Aw bummer, I hate being caught off guard by a bad ride. For whatever reason my guy is the hardest to ride at home in our normal arena, and I always forget that. Isabel was a goddamn terror in our field at home (nvm that she was a professional in literally every other field ever). Frustrating.
I’m sure there is some horse psychology behind it that I’m unaware of. Hmmmm….that’s sounds like a great new profession…horse psychologist!