Trainer AB was able to come out over the weekend for my first lesson in way too long. We had others scheduled but it always poured down rain causing them to be moved. This has been a very wet and warm winter so far and while my arena remains a thorn in my side, the footing stays rideable even under 6″ of water which has been my salvage.
There was a lot to talk about since I hadn’t seen her since the last HT. I’ve been waffling a lot about what is best for us as a team – full training, more lessons, her riding him in shows, not showing at all, etc…and trying to really hone in on what I want from horses. It boils down to a few things:
- Have fun – if it isn’t enjoyable it isn’t worth doing. Scary sometimes, yes. Hard work, for sure. But at the end of it all, it must be fun.
- Improvement– nobody likes to feel stuck in a rut. Riding the same backwards ways and working on the same issues gets old, fast. I don’t have any bar I’m striving for here. No set height of jumps or level of competition. What I really want is to feel like I’m a better rider than I was 2 months ago, 6 months ago, 1 year ago.
- Flexibility -Spontaneous plans are the only way I function. I texted Trainer Saturday afternoon to set up the lesson for Sunday. I signed up for the last HT three days before it ran. I don’t have a ride calendar and I don’t pre plan my rides at home. It works for me to decide to enter a jumper show the night before or morning of. However, this means that I have to have a versatile horse who is in shape enough to tackle these last minute shenanigans readily and happily.
With all that in mind I have decided against full training for Eeyore. It isn’t needed for the above and goes against some of them directly. Trainer and I talked and I do want to keep showing. I like the challenge and I find it mostly fun. My confidence stems a lot from knowing my horse will do the thing. To that end, I am officially signing Trainer up to ride Eeyore at Windridge in February. Seeing him tackle all three phases with her will help me realize he can do this and that will make me a lot braver in the saddle.
For the lesson itself, it was pretty eye opening in all the ways I never expected it to be which is pretty par for the course for Trainer AB.
Right now the focus is on getting Eeyore to carry his own head and to understand that rein aids can mean a lot more than “slow down”. A lot of the flat work goes like this:
Eeyore pick up your head. I’m not carrying 1500lbs in my hands
Oh, you want me to slow down, I’m down with that
No, I want you to balance upfront and continue to move. I’m not talking to your feet.
Oh, so this is hard. I’ll just curl behind the bit and suck behind your leg. Then you can’t yell at me because I’m still technically moving and I’m not leaning.
Nope, you can’t do that either
It is hard work for him and me both as it requires my body and mind to do 1000 different things all at once and after just a few circuits around a 20 m circle I find myself out of breath. I will say though that it is getting easier and better for both of us and we are able to get some really good circles before it falls apart. The canter was the most balanced it has been to date as well.
My homework since the last lesson has been to sit up. After hearing trainer repeat “sit up, lean back” a million times in one hour, I declared that she would never have to tell me that again. Or at least not so much. As such, I’ve been working diligently on my upper body not only being more upright, but also being independent of my lower body so that when I give a cue I don’t tip forward. The hard work paid off as not only did I not have to be told to sit up one single time, I also got a lot of praise from Trainer for my stability and position. Wahooo for little wins!!
We finished with the flat portion of the ride and I thought we would move on to jumping, but Trainer had other plans. Remember the whole “needs to be fit and healthy to do the spontaneous activities I get us up to?” part of my life with horses? Yeah…well I’ve failed him miserably on that score and Trainer has a plan for me to fix it. My biggest pasture is pretty perfect for conditioning work. Not only is it plenty big, but it also slopes from right to left and from front to back. She wants me to work up to 10 minutes of canter work up and down that pasture after each ride.
To this end, she had me spend the second half of the lesson out in the field. As soon as we left the arena I tensed. Eeyore can be a giant asshole out in that pasture. It is the only time I have fallen off him – when he lawn darted me at a walk in that field. Trainer gave me a look like “grow a set and go do it” so I set off to trot up the hill. Eeyore immediately had an epic hissy fit. He bucked. He reared. He attempted to bolt away. He went sideways. He jigged. He did everything but be polite and follow directions.
Ah…so now she saw this side of him. She told me she was happy to see this because then she could be there to help me through it and better understood my anxiety about her conditioning plans for us. She set me on a small 15 ish m circle around the water trough to the left. Eeyore bucked and insisted that he would rather go in the barn where Gem and Pete were. She told me to a ) actually sit in the saddle instead of being tense and hovering and b) make him do it even if that meant he went around with his nose touching his butt the entire time. When we went towards the barn, he would speed up. When we went away, he would slow down and try to turn back towards it. I was to ignore all of this and make him do what I wanted. It took about 25 circles before he started to listen and then we repeated it to the right. it took less time and then we did a huge circuit of the entire pasture with her walking beside me. She got her steps in that day.
We manged to finish on a good note with instructions to begin with 5 minutes out in the field at the end of every ride. Once he behaved at the walk, introduce the trot then the canter then work up to 10 minutes. I’m not sure how long that will take, but I will do it.
You know, I’m not sure what Trainer thinks of Eeyore. I’m not sure she would ever tell me to sell him, but I also don’t think she would be all that sad if I did. Her biggest issue with him is his lack of obedience. His opinions that turn into action. While we were fighting over working in the field, she told me “He doesn’t get to have an opinion about this. He needs to learn that when you tell him to walk or trot in the field, he just does it. No questions asked. No temper tantrum thrown. If he wants to squeal under his breath, fine, but he does what you say”
It is something she has told me before and something I am working on instilling in him, but this too will take time. For now, I have my homework and will work hard at it until I get to set up time with her again.