The rides since the show have been less than stellar. It seems that Frat Boy has reverted to his old behavior of cantering off to nowhere instead of doing the work I’m asking of him. It is frustrating to feel like all the hard work and hours spent over the last six months have been for naught. I had a lesson yesterday more to get an hour of trainer’s time to discuss where we are and where to go from here than for the actual riding experience. Don’t get me wrong. An hour riding with her is worth a whole month of me riding on my own, but I needed to vent/brainstorm with her about what was going on.
The major point I needed to remember is that while Eeyore is feeling an awful lot like his 2018 version, I am a completely different rider now than I was back in May when I had my first lesson with her. It is part of the reason he is currently pissy. I’m demanding more of him. Letting him get away with less. My expectations have risen and he isn’t so happy with that. Where a year ago I’d either let him canter around or end up just walking out of either fear or frustration, now I am demanding that he trot when I ask and remain in the trot until I ask something else of him. He would much rather get low on the forehand and blast around. No sir. We don’t do that anymore.
This turned in to a 90 minute battle on Saturday morning. A year ago, heck 6 months ago, I would have quit 15 minutes in and felt defeated. Saturday I kept going. Kept demanding he do what I wanted. I wasn’t asking things he can’t do. I wasn’t asking things he doesn’t know. All I freaking wanted was for him to trot around the rail without breaking to a canter. Simple stuff folks. It took 90 minutes before he did it. Ridiculous.
Sunday’s lesson started off really well. M grabbed a ride on a gorgeous draft cross at Trainer’s barn so we lessoned together. Typically riding with a single other horse makes Eeyore’s brain melt. He gets all creepy stalker like and refuses to pay attention to anything other than that other horse. But Sunday he wasn’t like that at all. Apparently something from the day before stuck and he sucked it up and behaved like a good horse. In fact, I got the best 20 m canter work to date on him in both directions. It felt amazing.
We then did some jump work in the arena. A simple cross rail coming off the rail across the diagonal, 5 strides to a vertical. As soon as we got jumping he lost his marbles a bit and it became a wrestling match to keep him controlled leading up to the cross rail. The 5 strides to the vertical came up lovely each time though. Once we had done that a few times and everyone was happy, we moved out to her field.
That is when the wheels fell off and I once again had a monster under me who snagged the bit, dropped his front end and took off time and time and time again. From the ground he really isn’t going that fast. It isn’t a bolt. Since he lowers his front end though it feels a lot different on him. The issue is that as soon as I lifted his head and got him in front, he’d stop moving. He lacks adjustability and it is frustrating. On my part I really, really need to sit the frick up. He gets so very heavy in the front that I let him pull me out of the tack and that is a big NOPE. My biggest goal right now is to make it so that Trainer never has to tell me to sit up ever again. Or at least not 100 times in an hour lesson.
I finally got some control of my horse and we started jumping. Now I’m going to brag on myself here a little. Six months ago the “warm up” course she laid out would have given me a heart attack and I never would have done it. Actually, six months ago had he warmed up outside like he did Sunday I would have slid off and handed the reins to Trainer. I’ve grown though. Her warm up course was a vertical straight to a line of barrels (I’ve never jumped barrels before) that jumped into the grass dressage arena, a sharp left hand turn to a pile of cavalleti that looked scary as hell to jump out of the arena.
We came at the vertical and he wasn’t listening at all. I kept wrestling with him to avoid him hitting the jump on the forehand and we made it but then he got pissed and bucked on the back side. I had no interest tackling the barrels bucking, so I pulled him up. Trainer told me I could just start with the barrels but I said no. He could do this exercise and we started over. We did the vertical without issue this time and made it through the rest ok enough though a bit wild. The next go around he did the vertical fine but then had a bucking fit after the barrels, enough so that even the nonplussed Trainer made a comment at his bronco style, but this time I said screw you to him, yanked his head up and dug my heels in and forced his big orange butt out over the final jump. We came around and did it again no issue.
I had a long chat with Trainer while M tackled the exercise. These hi-jinks are unnecessary and growing old. Because all I do is wrestle with him before jumps, I’m not able to see a distance, correct our canter or basically do anything except wrestle with him and get his head up. Its annoying. And no, he isn’t in pain. Our last exercise was an up bank, three strides, down bank and he happily cantered that no problem at all. I don’t know what is going on inside his head.
At the end, Trainer handed me a new bit. Way back in May she had put us in a single jointed french link snaffle saying that she likes that bit for all new horse/riders. Its simple, easy for the horse to understand and she can figure out what is a horse versus rider issue. She said it is time to try something else to help give me some leverage when he is being an idiot yet not be so strong that he backs off. She gave me a rubber mouth single jointed pessoa bit and told me to play around with it and see how he reacts. Its too narrow for his huge mouth, so I need to pick up one soon. The hope is that it catches his attention a bit more and gives me a little more oomf to pull him up off his forehand without making him suck back and ping off the bit.
She also said we may need to add a dressage whip to my arsenal but I’m not ready to die yet so I’m holding off introducing that to him. The theory here is that he uses any rein aid as an excuse to stop moving his feet which is not the correct answer. Because he is so heavy in the full cheek it can take a lot of rein to get him up, so I’m not really able to be subtle with my half halts which he doesn’t listen to any way and I’m 99% sure I’m doing wrong. The use of a dressage whip may help with the idea that he can come up and rebalance but still move forward and stay in front of my leg. I don’t know. I’m willing to play with just about anything and Trainer hasn’t steered me wrong yet.
In the end the lesson wasn’t that bad. We managed to jump everything including our Grand Prix bank complex and I had some amazing flat work in the arena. Honestly a few months ago I would have been thrilled with it. Now though I’m wanting to move beyond “survival” and get into the nuances of doing it better with more skill. I need to keep in mind that I’m not starting over where we began, I’m asking for more and better and that takes time to get Eeyore to adjust to. He didn’t wake up and realize the rules had changed, so I need to make sure I’m clear and consistent with him.