It just isn’t worth it. Not worth the time, not worth the frustration, not worth ruining our relationship over. At least not right now.
There are dozens of reasons why riding Gem at home isn’t working out. The most important are the frequency she gets worked and the area she gets worked in.
Gem has always been worse behaved at “home” than trailering out. In fact, when we lived in WI the one barn had 200 acres of trails on property. She was a nut job on those. Trailer out to the trail head? Wonderful, well at least as good as she gets. Rides in the “home” arena were always a crap shoot. The entire first month at a new facility was always awful as I had to re teach Gem that she did in fact have to work for me 3 hours a week and that that didn’t qualify as animal abuse. I can still remember in perfect detail the first time I rode her in the grass arena at the last barn we were at. We would reach the far end of the field, she would break into canter and try to take me right back to the gate so she could leave. Fun? No, but with persistence she eventually learned that by doing so it just got her to a closed gate and circled back to work some more. Eventually she does stop doing that and the rides become more even and more purposeful. But back then I was riding her 3 days a week in an enclosed arena with fences and gates and all those other nice physical boundaries.
Now, however, I ride 1-2 times a week if I am lucky and have a completely open 5 acre grass field to ride in with no fencing or other solid boundaries. It is a recipe for disaster and one I am tired of dabbling in.
I had really wanted to ride Wednesday, but didn’t walk into the door until 7:45 pm. I had about an hour of light to play with, but hadn’t seen Wyatt all day and that is more important, so when he asked me to play Play Dough there was no way I was saying no. Friday was my next shot. Work was slammed and I got home at 9:30 pm. Saturday Dusty worked then had plans to run in the afternoon. Finally, I got my chance on Sunday. Last week wasn’t a fluke either. My weeks almost always look something similar in one way or another.
Things started off pretty well Sunday morning. She had her halt back which was nice to see. I know she is getting bored with all the walk trot, 20 m circle, serpentine, figure 8 stuff so I thought I would get her cantering early on. She loves a good canter to stretch her back. I asked her for canter out of a decent trot and she gave it to me. Then she proceeded to grab the bit and run across the 5 acres towards her pasture. Ah hell no mare. I asked for bend, when she didn’t respond I asked for trot, when she didn’t listen I one rein stopped her ass and made her stand still all pissed off until I asked her to walk again. Then we walked up and down that field halting and walking and halting and walking.
At that point I let her trot away from her pasture and made her walk towards it. That lasted two laps when she then picked up the canter instead of the trot and tried to toss her head and run all the way back home. I shut her down immediately.
But here is the thing. I was having ZERO fun. None. I was frustrated. I was angry that she couldn’t just freaking walk down the damn field. She is 19 years old. 19! This isn’t our first ride. She can freaking WALK!
I took a deep breath, got off and was done. I did throw her on the lunge line and watched her w/t/c both directions mostly to see if she was lame somewhere I wasn’t catching, but also to just get her listening and focused. She wasn’t happy, but she was 100% sound and capable. While I know some people will judge me for ending the ride on a bad note, go ahead judge away…this is me not caring, at the time it was the best decision. My relationship with Gem is what is the most important to me. Not an all out brawl to see who can win. I don’t have the right tools in my box to work with this. I don’t know what to do when she blows me off and I’ve asked nicely, held my position, then asked again a little louder and louder and louder until I have to scream it at her. All I can do is get into a fight and maybe squeak out something decent, but in the process ruin everything I’ve been working on building towards. The short term gain of her minding me in that field Sunday isn’t worth the long term loss.
Trainer can come to me, but right now I don’t want her to. I have no interest in paying $55 to spend an hour being miserable trying to get my mare to walk. If I had an arena to work in, it would be different. If I could consistently ride her 3 days a week at home, it would be worth it. But to ride her once or maybe twice a week in the big 5 acre field? No, I don’t think it is. Instead, I am going to continue to trailer her to Trainer’s barn. She behaves there, or at least behaves within our current skill level which allows us to work on things like bend, geometry, leg yields and jumping. Having free access to the barn is amazing and I plan to trailer out more often to ride on my own there. Take advantage of the dressage court and jump arena to practice for now. I need to find out what the barn hours are. They have great lights on the jump arena, so I can ride year round and after work even when it is dark, but I don’t know what time it officially closes to the public.
Anyway…those are a lot of words to say that I am putting a hold on any rides at home until such a time as I can ride much more consistently and/or set up an actual closed off work space to help with defining boundaries. It isn’t fair to either of us to hop on once every 10 days and expect work to happen in a large field where she has room to make really big mistakes that I can’t fix. Someday we will revisit using the field, but not until we have a lot more rides with Trainer under our belt.