I’ve re written this post now four times. I was so distraught after the lesson that I texted Emma to talk it out. Thanks Emma for chatting with me!!!! I’m still uncertain what I want to say about it.

Thursday afternoon I had a lesson prior to bringing the horses home. It was so bad that I had tears in my eyes right before I called it a day. At 35. While riding my horse. It was that bad.

I’m not sure the details are that important here. Gem was angry. Who knows why. It wasn’t pain. We weren’t doing anything hard per se: more work on rhythm and balance at the walk and trot with plans to add in the canter although we never got there. We didn’t jump either. Instead we zoomed around while Gem got angrier and angrier and I got more and more frustrated at life.

It’s odd. I wasn’t ever angry with her which is a major change from in the past. I didn’t get scared or tense even when she had had enough and eventually reared for the first time in the seven years I’ve had her. I was just heart broken that I had let it get to that point without speaking up

more firmly on her behalf. That’s my job as her owner. And I failed big time.

I was frustrated with Trainer for the first time ever though even that isn’t deserved. The woman sees us two hours a month. She can only do so much.

It’s just. Well, Gem wasn’t having it with the slow pace on a 20m circle. I understand she should be able to do that, but on Thursday for whatever reason she couldn’t handle the pressure. She told me loud and clear. And I didn’t listen because I figured Trainer also saw it and knew what to do. And maybe her tactic was right and my way wouldn’t have changed the outcome at all. I don’t know. I know what we did just made everything worse.

With a pissed off mare under me going at her best 12 mph endurance trot, Trainer had me work on transitions to get her listening better. I understand the logic. But I know my horse and I know transition make things that much worse. She hates them. Doing them on the circle made her get angrier. Her neck got shorter and shorter and her energy got more vertical with every passing lap and every passing transition. By the end of that she no longer had a walk. She jigged.

Ok. Let’s try something else. We began working on turns in the forehand at the halt. At least that wouldn’t require forward movement. Gem proved a quick study going both right and left. Perhaps installing better lateral aids would help. Nope. Once we returned to our trot work she was still feeling more like a carousel horse.

We then tried trot poles. Maybe getting her mind on those would help? Except we did poles on a bend requiring more circles. And that was the icing on the cake. She tried to escape the constant pressure to circle and bend by cantering and when I shut that down she reared. It was tiny and pathetic but it was a rear and I quit then and there. She was screaming at me to back off the pressure and I had to listen. I should have listened earlier. I knew better.

What she needed was a long trot around the arena on a soft contact with maybe some canter thrown in to loosen her up and let her blow off some steam. She needed a larger work space and a slow gathering to the 20 m. She needed the release of pressure and she never got it. So she exploded and I apologized to her and got off.

I’m frustrated. It was a bad ride for sure but not bad because Gem was acting up. It was bad because I didn’t speak up for her. I didn’t tell Trainer we needed to work on something else. I didn’t ask to jump a little or canter. I was a sheep and Gem needed a wolf.

Gem needed me and I slunk away and hid behind Trainer. That was wrong. I understand and like the training process we are going through, but sometimes the horse just can’t and it needs to be tweaked. As Emma put it “the training pyramid means jack shit if the horse is soured to the work”. I’m not ready to say she is soured to it after one bad ride. She was tense from the get go but I do think that the way we worked her made it worse and not better. We should have given her more space and gotten off the forsaken circle for a while. Maybe came back to it at the end after we jumped or did something else entirely like go out and jump the stone wall she loves so much.

I plan to ride Saturday and see what she is like. Hopefully it was just a small blip and we can return to the fun progress we were making before. Time will tell.

22 thoughts on “Tears”

  1. I’m sorry about the bad ride. I *hate* feeling like I let my horse down by pushing too far in our training. Just saying that “it happens” doesn’t really take away the sting either… But it does help to know that even as we are learning how to advocate for our horses while simultaneously working on building trust in a new trainer and program, every experience can be a new learning opportunity for better or worse. I’m sorry this ride ended so poorly but hope that you and Gem and trainer all learned something useful from the experience and will be better prepared to continue with training in a productive and FUN way! You’ve done such a good job already with introducing Gem to a brand new sport – and she seems to love it! The next rides will hopefully get better!!


    1. I hope you are right. I know I will have bad rides but this took the cake and was so terribly awful. And I felt sorta helpless as we kept going and going and going and it was not getting any better. I know Trainer was at a bit of a loss by the end too. There were like maybe 5 redeeming steps taken the entire hour. Tomorrow is a new day though so we will see


  2. Sorry you had a bad ride and turned into a fluffy sheep when wolfwear was needed. I’ve been in similar situations with trainers. In the end though…you did the right thing! You stopped and plan for a fresh start! It’s a new day! Happy Fall!


  3. I get what you’re saying completely, but you also need to cut yourself a break. You pay a professional to help and you went along with the professional’s instructions. Doesn’t mean you’re a sheep or weak or anything like that! And now you’ve learned a little more about Gem, and hopefully Trainer has as well. She had a bad day from the get-go which she’s entitled to some days, but that doesn’t mean she’s soured to work. Hugs! Have a great ride Saturday. I’m still so bummed about Sunday 😦


  4. The fact that you recognize this is SO IMPORTANT. I give spiel to every new client and it specifically addresses the fact that I’m the trainer, but you know your horse better than I do, and that you are the horse’s advocate, and can feel free to speak up if you have concerns. I think it’s hard for students to recognize and verbalize that, but I also think it’s important for trainers to open the door for that dialogue. I’m sorry you had such a bad ride and that you are feeling this way about it after 😦


    1. It’s interesting because Trainer said after we called it a day that Gem wasn’t scared, nervous or in pain. She tried all her tactics to help a nervous horse settle yet it only made Gem worse. Gem was very clearly telling me to go F myself and she was going to do whatever she wanted to and neither of us had a way of shutting that down. Hopefully whatever new was up Gem’s butt will have gone away by tomorrow


  5. I went through this same circumstances. I ended up not training for two years until I found the perfect person to work with us. She listens to me and she listens to Ashke. And she adjusts what we are working on based on her reading both of us. She’s willing to change her plans. I haven’t cried in a lesson or an arena ride in over a year. And Ashke loves her and our relationship is so much better.


  6. Oh man. I’m sorry you had such a bad ride. But that happens. Don’t let it get you down. It’s honestly a very normal part of horses. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes absolutely nothing is wrong and your horse is an asshole. Sometimes they have an ulcer or an abscess or who knows what. Sometimes there is a reason. Sometimes not. Don’t blame yourself. Just move forward.


    1. We had been doing so good recently too. I think that hurt the most. I had been really working hard at my homework so we could move on to new things and then Gem didn’t come to play so we got to work on basically nothing.


  7. I’m so sorry you felt so bad, don’t let it get to you. Tomorrow is a new day and a new ride. Do something you both are successful at and go from there. I’m sure Gem is no worse for the wear. Hugs


  8. Sometimes horses do not want to play. I was not there and so it’s hard to give advice. I have found that when things are not working letting go and doing something else often helps. A frustrated horse can’t learn and Gem may be feeling that the rules have changed (which they have). It can feel like the end of the world but it’s usually not (I know that from my own experiences with a dramatic mare). I am wondering if perhaps she’s in heat. Carmen’s first and last heat of the year are a real issue for her and she needs a lighter touch.


    1. Generally her heat cycles go unnoticed. I’ve not had her act any different with a heat cycle in 7 years. I think she was just not in the mood and wanted to fly and got angry when she was asked to work instead


  9. Hi Sara, just getting caught up on blog reading. As riders, we work so hard to get everything right and sometimes the ponies aren’t on board. Don’t beat yourself up. It was a learning experience for all & you guys will be a better team because of it.


  10. late to the party but don’t kill yourself over this. We all have bad lessons, bad rides, bad moments. But you move on from there and go to the next ride. I am sure Gem will not hold a grudge for long but an opinionated mare has no issues making her displeasure plain LOL and she will do it again. But you learn from it and go to the next step. I think i often take five steps back before moving forward 2. it is such a vicious cycle. And you trust your trainer to do the right thing (OTHERWISE we would not be paying them money right). Chalk it up to a bad day and realize there are a lot better days ahead!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s