In the interestingly ironic and yet predictable way that life works, I made the same mistake with H’Appy as I did with Gem that I swore I would not do.
Namely, I ignored the fact that we didn’t know each other and jumped in head first only to land on that head in short order, figuratively speaking.
With Gem, I was bold, brave and stupid. She was green, lacked confidence and intelligent. It led to a lot of fights, tears and declarations of a sale that never happened. Things didn’t improve with her until I moved to WI, had her in my back yard and was forced to slow way down due to 90+ hour work weeks and no sleep.
When I unloaded H’Appy I was timid, cautious and a lot smarter. He was bold, brave and wicked intelligent. It led to a lot of fights, a few tears and a declaration of a sale a time or two. Thankfully I’m extremely stubborn and hate giving up, so he is still with me.
The thing is that even promising myself I wouldn’t push things too fast, I still did. Here I was with this new orange horse who I paid way too much money for and I felt this internal pressure to now do all the things with him. I bought him specifically to do all the things, he was purported to be able to do the things, and I had a bit of a need to prove to myself that some issues were truly a Gem issue and that I wasn’t the worlds worst rider.
So I pushed this new to me horse in a new to him environment to do things. It didn’t go very well.
I’m a slow learner, but I can learn and so right now as we get back under saddle and moving forward again, I’m taking all the pressure I have placed on us off.
I’m riding as able and working on what feels right to me in the moment. Some days that is jumping. Others it is simply walking with a few trot transitions thrown in. If he is listening well and calm, I canter. If he isn’t, we walk and halt and work on square turns and halting off my seat.
I want him to learn that I am fair, predictable in my requests yet persistent and a voice that can’t be tuned out. I want him to trust me not to get himself killed and I want him to continue to be bold and brave, two characteristics that made me choose him over others.
It means a lot of small rides with small questions scattered with bigger demands and higher standards.
To that point I went to ride Friday afternoon and found a compliant gelding in my cross ties. He had new shoes put on Thursday and I’ve learned to give him bute in his dinner the day the farrier comes to help with any soreness from the procedure. Of note, farrier is much happier with the status of his feet these days and thinks we may get him out of pads eventually.
I had one thing I wanted to really work on: the backside of the fence. You see, I have this annoying habit of being so insanely happy to just get over a fence that I celebrate and throw riding right out the window as soon as we get over. When I jumped earlier in the week, I found myself careening around the arena going nowhere and I thought “hmmm…maybe I should do something about that”
So Friday I kept the small cross rail and added a single ground pole 180 degrees opposite of it on the rail. I wanted to trot over the jump and the pole and by adding this I not only had something to aim for (helping my lack of steering) but also something to make me come back to a trot.
H’Appy was feeling good and argued that cantering was both more fun and easier than trotting politely. This translated to more work for him but that’s his fault. After warming up using the arena at large, I started going right taking the crossrail at the trot, cantering away keeping my eyes on the ground pole, bringing him to a trot before it, trotting over, trotting to the crossrail and repeating. They were far enough apart to be taken straight and then bending after versus creating a circle including both elements.
Or at least that is what I tried to do. He thought launching over the ground pole and trying to fly off into the distance was a better plan.
It took a while but eventually he was trotting the pole and the crossrail going right. His canter felt so amazing though that I let him canter the exercise a time or two before taking a walk break and switching directions.
Guys, that was the first time I cantered a fence with him. It felt AMAZING! That’s a whole other post though because I have a lot to say about it.
Going back to the left was once again a discussion that we can’t rush to the good part and canter the entire thing. It took a long while to get him trotting it and once we had it down I trotted around three times and called it quits.
He was starting to get that horse sweat smell and was breathing pretty hard at this point so it was the perfect time to end it. I gave him a ton of praise as we walked back to the barn.
It was super fun and rewarding. I’m learning to be a lot more strict with him and planning ahead really helps that. I don’t want to drill him with the exercise but I think the idea of it is something we will continue to work on for a while to help us both out.
I also think that while I’m missing having lessons, for right now I’m not going to sign up for any. For one, chubby wouldn’t be able to handle an hour long session right now at his fitness level and I don’t want to cause injury or stress by asking him to do something he isn’t physically prepared for. I’m also liking having the ability to adjust on my own per how we are both feeling. This ensures a positive outcome versus riding with someone who wants us to do x even though we just aren’t able that day.
I’m really starting to enjoy this orange beastie of mine and looking forward to the future.
20 thoughts on “Removing Pressure”
Do you realize how much more CONFIDENT you sound? Seriously, you sound so much happier talking about Doofus lately! Keep doing what you’re doing because I think you’ll find that you just may have found the horse you thought you bought… Amazing what feeling good (feet) and a well fitting and secure saddle can do! Keep it up!
I feel a lot more confident 🙂 The saddle really helps, having the horse feel good and not constantly second guessing if he is reacting to pain or just trying to get away with something really helps, and riding just for myself (and not to a trainer’s schedule or program) really helps too.
that’s awesome tho! good for you for setting up a useful and effective exercise that worked well for h’appy and produced a good fun ride!! that’s what it’s all about 😉
I’m hoping he learned as much as I did. I’m not sure. He is likely the most stubborn creature I have ever met and that is saying a lot because the two blonde men in my life are like talking to a brick wall sometimes.
This is the best! Also, I am so impressed with your farrier! I’m lucky to get a full sentence out of mine! If yours does move, please have it be to Idaho!
I love your attitude about all of it. And I agree with Sarah- you sound like a different person which is the best!!!
He tried to be silent when I first met him, but I wore him down. I’m talented like that HA!
Banking so many positive rides lately has made a huge difference in how much I’m willing to push. I feel like I am almost back to when I first brought him home, pre bucking me head long into the grass incident and I’m working hard on building that up each time. Hopefully by the time the warm weather returns and it dries out a bit, we will be ready to start with a trainer again.
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my farrier doesn’t talk much either but I babble away and he nods or agrees most times:) YAY on you having fun riding. What is that like? LOL
And yes on the saddle helping too but a new saddle would not help if your confidence wasn’t coming in! YAY!
I think mine starting coming when I am at work to avoid me and my endless babbling, but joke was on him because now he just gets an onslaught of texts all day long.
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You sound a lot happier and confident as well! I’m glad the rides have been going so well so far, and that you’ve been jumping and making exercises for the both of you to work on! I think you’re well on your way to getting back (and much further!) to where the both of you were last summer ❤
I hope so!! By taking the pressure off myself, things are flowing a lot better and I think he is finally coming around to the idea that life isn’t so terrible under saddle.
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Love the tone of this post ❤ So glad things are moving in the right direction with him. He certainly is a CUTE non-angel.
He is adorable. A major PITA most of the time and always, always with his head in your way if you are doing any work around him, but cute.
Planning rides ahead of time (with full knowledge you might have to address something in the ride or even 2 or more extra exercises in case something isn’t translating or if the horse is perfect each iteration) really does help in keeping frustrations low and smart pony brains engaged,
I’m learning that “toodling” is a bit of a dirty word for me. If I don’t have a purpose I wander and let him get away with things like not trotting exactly when I ask or drifting off my line of travel. Maybe not the end of the world but it can easily translate to bigger issues later
I’m happy to read this. Sounds like things are going in a good direction.
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Love that your having some amazing rides on him! Especially cantering the jump- woohoo!!
Who knows…maybe we will be able to hit up a show this spring and not look like toddlers LOL
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Things sound like they are on the right path for both of you. I’m too can ‘hear’ the confidence in your words. I think taking time to build some things and get your mojo back before a lesson make sense.
I don’t take pressure very well and really need to feel secure on the horse before I’ll move past my comfort zone, so I think for now getting my sea legs under me with him and playing around a bit on my own is the better route.