Riding/Horses

Our First Cross Country Outing- Part 1, the Warm Up

Yup, this is going to be in multiple parts because, well, there is a whole lot to say. Also, limited media because I was alone.

Okay, lets back up shall we?

The original plan was to have a group outing at FENCE, a venue about an hour away, Friday at 9 am. I was super excited for not only our first cross country experience, but also the first group lesson we would be involved in. Trainer also had plans to put one of her students going for her A pony Club rating (basically professional level) on Gem during the outing.

But then this exchange happened Thursday evening:

Trainer puts up with my sense of humor

I admit to being really bummed. Pretty much everything I was excited about had evaporated and I briefly thought about canceling. I had taken a day off work for this and was thinking maybe it wasn’t worth the time away from the office anymore. In the end I decided that any lesson was better than no lesson.

Instead of riding pictures you get some shots from the hike Dusty, Wyatt and I too at Ceaser’s head over the weekend.

We started with a warm up in the jump arena. Trainer gave me the reins (hahahahahahha funny pun) and told me to warm up on my own while she watched so she could see what I was doing. I started off by working on those slow, purposeful turns maintaining rhythm and trying to achieve real bend at the walk. She had good things to say about my posture, my elbows being fluid and unlocked and my attempts at bend although my turns could have been planned even earlier.

Then I picked up the trot and Gem was floating and light. She really is liking the Baucher quite a lot. I think she needs the stability it gives her plus I am riding a million times better and more steady myself which helps create the balance we are looking for.

Devil’s Kitchen.  Wyatt overheard the Park Ranger telling us about it. As we walked up to the area, Wyatt was walking really slow. Then I heard “I hope he isn’t home. I don’t want to make him mad.” Poor guy has really scared that it was a real devil.

Honestly, the flat work was boring simply because it was so darn good. Gem was listening and while we are still fighting a lot of the same things, each time I can feel it improving.

A serious Wyatt surviving the Devil’s Kitchen

One of my (many) flaws in riding is lack of preparation. Gem can turn on a dime, but that doesn’t mean she should and it also kills off any momentum we have. Trainer is working hard on the training pyramid and we are just now beginning to get the whole rhythm thing down so we can begin to work on relaxation more. When I stuff her into corners or turn her sharply, it ruins everything. Plus it can’t be that comfortable for her.

So we worked on lots of changes of direction focusing on planing well ahead, giving Gem plenty of notice by using all my aides and turning like an 80 year old driving on ice. My main task was to keep the exact same trot pace and rhythm through it all. No slowing, no speeding up and maintaining equal weight on all four feet. No more motorcycling around turns on two wheels.

And….we nailed it!!! I started planning well in advance and it felt like we were barely working at all even though I was doing way more while riding than ever before. She turned here, she turned there. I made her go past all the scary objects that she was trying to spook at, I changed diagonals, I let go of one rein to give her a scratch on her withers.

Through it all she remained steady and even. My half halts were being listened to, my posting speed was getting through and we floated around like magic.

I didn’t think my smile could get any bigger.

And then……

Riding/Horses

Riding the Horse You Have, Not the One You Had

At what point do you let bygones be bygones?

This is an issue that Trainer brought up in my last lesson. We were just starting the jumping portion and I did what I always do: got defensive in front of the jump and completely took my leg off her. This gave me the same response I always get: Gem stopped and refused to jump. Not her fault, since I was telling her loud and clear that I didn't want to actually go over it. Now, a more forgiving horse would have jumped it anyway since she was clearly pointed right at the middle of the thing and knew fully well what my intentions were. But she isn't a forgiving horse.

At that point Trainer piped up. While Gem isn't a forgiving horse, she is an honest one and was telling me three strides out she needed more support to go over it. Even then she kept going up to the base asking for help which she never received and finally at the last minute she politely refused. No buck. No dropped shoulder. Just a polite "well, if you don't want me to then screw it I wont".

My defensiveness stems a long way back. When I first got her she was a witch. A little bit mean, a whole lot obstinate. Back then she would pull dirty stunts at the base of a jump even when I had my leg on and was fully committed to making it over. Heck she would pull dirty stunts just about anywhere anytime. She would act as though she would do the thing and then drop her right shoulder, spin 180 degrees and bolt. I ended up on the ground more times than over the jump. This behavior taught me to be scared, timid and not 100% committed to going over.

But that was years ago. She no longer acts like that. Sure, she doesn't go out of her way to help me, but we came to the agreement many years and many miles ago that she would do her job and I would do mine and we would stay out of each other's way as much as possible. The mare hates it when I nag and I hate it when I have to.

The problem is that I am still riding her like she used to be instead of the way she is now. My defensive riding has no place in her non aggressive behavior and yet I am still holding on tight to past grudges. I know that when I ride her more assertively towards a fence, that she will go over it. In fact, she has yet to refuse any jump that I am committed to going over, even if it is attached to a train.

Once Trainer demanded that I ride the horse I currently have, Gem moved around the course like a dream. She locked on to the jumps several strides out and pulled me towards them. She didn't balk, she didn't hesitate, she just soared over and went where I directed her to go.

It is a seismic drift in our relationship and way of going and one my body and mind has been slow to adjust to. The issue is that now I am beginning to punish her for her kind behavior by being restrictive and tense. Sure, she taught me to be that way but now she is trying to teach me to be trusting again and I haven't been listening.

It is going to take more than one good lesson to release the years worth of defensive tension from my muscle memory, but I could start to feel it ebb away by the end of it and hope to continue being a more willing partner moving forward. Well, as long as Gem holds up her end as well and continues to be a trustworthy mount.

What about any of you? Was there ever a point in your partnership where you had to let go of the past and move towards the future? What helped you make the transition from riding the past to the present?

Riding/Horses

Mega Breakthrough Lesson

Holy crap. Wednesday night was….well….super, uber, amazingly awesome. Even Trainer had a huge smile and recapped all the breakthroughs that happened during the lesson.

Lets back up a bit. Wednesday night was lesson night and I am really starting to love my summer evenings in the arena. I had my choice of either dressage or jumping and chose the latter. With jumping we typically spend the first half on flat work anyway, but then I get to work on jumping too and it feels like a bit of a reward for both Gem and me. Plus, I really want to work hard on beating down my fear when it comes to jumping and only practice will solve that problem.

Hot horse has no interest in working.

True to form, the first half an hour was spent working on the flat. I was really proud when Trainer complimented my posture and even said my elbows were loose and following. I have worked really hard over the last four rides on my own to get my hands to remain with steady 1 pound of pressure on the reins and follow Gem’s head instead of being stiff. I was so happy my hard work paid off. It still isn’t effortless to ride like that: if I stop thinking about it I revert to my motionless arms, but I can more easily return to it once I think about it now. Soon it should become automatic.

It was hella hot out, near 100F and humid, and the sun was still full blaze at 7:30 pm, so we stuck to the middle of the arena where the shade was and made a square. My first exercise was focusing on maintaining her rhythm around the entire square and making my turns without letting Gem fall to the inside. At first I floundered pretty hard. I’d put my inside leg on to turn, but it still wasn’t right. After many attempts I finally got it. After spending 7 years falling in like a motorcycle on every turn, having her weighted evenly felt so good.  I was giggling like a 12 year old again.

Breakthrough #1: how to approach and make a turn correctly. Trainer finally got me doing it correctly by doing this: when approaching my turn begin to turn just Gem’s ears inside, when I get to the spot I want to turn add inside leg to push her rib cage out, at the very end of the turn allow her hind end to follow. She told me to act like an 80 year lady driving on ice making a slow, long turn instead of jamming Gem into the turn and breaking through it like a sports car. In this way I was controlling her entire body in segments as we approached, went through and ended the turn.

Not only did it help make the turn even, but I also felt how she could maintain her rhythm throughout the entire square without losing it in the turns. After we made several circuits in both directions, she had me repeat the same exercise at the trot. The purpose of doing this on a square was to have purposeful bend at each corner and then make Gem get square again for the straight aways. In doing so, I really felt how I needed to block her movement out of the turn with my outside aides to get her straight.

The trot work took a bit more effort since Gem barely tolerates my leg and basically insists that any leg equals “go faster”, but we are slowly chipping away at it. As usual we started off braced and rushed, but then I had my next epiphany.

Breakthrough #2: allow my body to melt into my saddle. Sounds weird, but let me explain. Trainer is always after me to slow my posting down and stay closer to my saddle. Her words kept bouncing around in my head but never created any action. Well, this time she told me to melt like ice cream into my saddle and get sticky. I needed to still sit tall, but that “tall” should be in a melty sort of way. I don’t know why this imagery worked so well, but it did. I started to really feel what she was talking about and began posting the way she wants. This created two changes: Gem was much more responsive to my half halts since my center was closer to her and I was able to use my legs more effectively as they remained draped around her with a soft knee.

It was also a heck of a lot more work than my typical style. My legs were screaming for a break after a while and they never do that!

We both got a walk break after that and moved towards one end of the arena. There was a solitary jump set up and Trainer marked that as the center of the circle she wanted me to create. Since the footing had been recently dragged, she would be able to see my geometry perfectly. It was time for the dreaded 20 m circle.

We once again began at the walk and I immediately got called out for only looking with my head. Once I turned my entire body in the direction I wanted to go, Gem became soft and bent as well. I know this. Why I can’t just do it is beyond me. Then we moved back into the trot. We started going left which is Gem’s weaker side by default that it is mine. My left leg tends to want to drift forward. When I lost my bend, Gem lost hers and got tense. Trainer did allow for the fact that any time I put my left left back and on, Gem scooted forward and gave me a little allowance for that but it is something we still need to address. Going right was much better.

I was still in giggling school girl mode as Gem was listening so well. Yes, she sometimes got too fast or sometimes went super slow and heavy but she was easily brought back to where I wanted her. Trainer commented that it was the most rhythmic 10 circles we have put down to date and that we were working together and not at odds with each other.

I would have been happy to call it a day after that, but then Trainer said the C word. Wahwahwah. I really, really, really need to get over my concerns with cantering. I can canter all day long on the trail. I can canter after fences. It really isn’t the cantering I mind, it is the transition. I suck at them. I make them tense. I make it so that I spend the first five circles fixing what I created. Ugh.

Back on the circle we went to the right, my stronger side, and I did my best to ask for a nice canter transition. I sat tall and leaned back a bit. I gave with my hands. She cantered. Then I threw her away and we went careening out of control. Seriously, I can chew gum and walk at the same time. But then I did it again and this time I forced myself to look where I was going, keep my damn legs on her and steer. And you know what? It led to

Breakthrough #3: steering during the canter produces a nicer, more relaxed canter.  Odd how not abandoning your horse actually helps things, isn’t it? But honestly, when I forced myself to stop thinking “cantering, cantering cantering we are going to die!” and actually rode by keeping my posture upright and stable and then maintaining a path of travel in which I looked 5 strides ahead of where we were to give Gem a clue as to what we were doing, she moved into a nice rideable canter that was nearly fun to do.

Left was harder, but again my left side is weaker and it is predictable. Trainer was really pleased with it though. She said it was the best canter work we have done. I told you it was an amazing lesson!

After the canter work it was time for the fun part: jumping! I was determined to not let my nerves get the best of me. She set up a solitary cross rail that was set off the rail and required a very particular approach to get it right. We came in at the trot off the rail going left and I made the turn at the correct spot, but let Gem get buried in the turn and she ran out of gas. Then she was so focused on me nagging at her to trot while simultaneously having a death grip on the reins, that she never saw the jump coming and slammed the breaks on right in font of it.

Coming at it from the left I needed to turn at the start of the gate you can see in the background. The first couple times I stuffed her and let her lose all momentum in the turn which made the jump poor.

Yeah. My fault. Sorry, Gemmie.

We approached it again and this time I rode her through the turn and did my best to tell her I wanted to jump. It was still a bit stilted because I stared at the ground and held her back, but we went over it. trainer had us approach it from the other direction and then she added in a 2′ vertical. I was to come at the crossrail going left, aim for the rail on landing, sneak between another fence and the rail then loop back going right to hit the vertical. True to form, I freaked before the vertical because it was a new fence and Gem ran out. Again, my fault.

I’m pretty sure Trainer was screaming inside at this time. I mean, I say I want to jump and I am on an honest horse, but then as soon as I see a jump I freak out. Sorry, my brain is messed up.

Anyway….

Trainer set up three jumps all easy enough on their own but with tricky, tight landings. The point was to get me focusing more on where I was going and not at the jump itself. The first jump was our old friendly green and blue crossrail with a tight turn left off the rail, this led to a red and white cross rail set on a bending line which if failed would cause us to run smack into the rail, coming out from jump 2 was a longer approach with a loop to the right then hitting the red and brown vertical which required close attention to thread the needle on landing between the rail and another jump.

The red and white cross rail was jump two on a bending line then I needed to turn right and come over the vertical coming towards the camera

Breakthrough #4: Quit caring about the jump, it is a non event, and focus all your attention on the landing. By doing this, Trainer forced me to quit staring at the jump itself or else my landing was awful and we ran into things. By changing my focal point, I was able to keep my legs on and take the jump as it came and then immediately take control on the back side to get us to point B.

The first time through I was still a little hesitant coming towards the jumps. Gem was perked right up and taking me right to them and it was a new sensation for me. It felt like she was speeding way up, when in reality she was just locked on to her target.

The second time though?? Magic! I looked where I was going, kept my legs on the darn horse, let her take me to the base of the jump without holding her back, and then kept my position after to steer.

If felt amazing!!!!!! Like 20 million exclamation points amazing. Gem was up and willing, she was obviously having fun and even dragged me at a canter over the bending line. I had SO MUCH FUN!

And the best part??? All the butterflies were gone from my stomach. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t even nervous. Now if only I could go out that way the first time, but baby steps. I felt like we could have jumped anything at that point.

It was the best lesson I have ever had both on the flat and over jumps. It felt like a major breakthrough happened and we all of a sudden reached a whole new playing field. Gem was happy and relaxed and I enjoyed every single minute of that hour. So much so that I did something maybe a bit stupid – I penned us in for a cross country outing next Friday the 28th!!! Eeek!

I’m not 100% sure where it will be yet, I think at FENCE for those local. All I know is that Trainer mentioned working on water, ditches and banks. All of it sounds scary yet fun so here is hoping it works out.

 

 

 

 

 

Riding/Horses

Breach of Etiquette Makes My Blood Boil

I shouldn’t be allowed out of the house. It just pisses me off.

My mom offered up to watch the kiddo so we could go ride. I wasn’t going to pass an offer like that up, so Dusty and I loaded up and hit the trails on the 4th. Any trail time is good, but on a typical work day? Even better.

We go ride again. Ok.

Turns out we weren’t the only ones trying to beat the heat and get a ride in before the festivities began and we pulled into an already teaming parking lot. Of course, it wouldn’t have been so bad if people actually parked with any thought outside of themselves. It was a bad omen for the rest of the day when we saw several way too large rigs pulled in diagnonally taking up multiple spaces and making the trail head a maze.

Dusty told me not to let it ruin my day, a bad habit I have of letting things like this get to me. So I did.

A gorgeous day to be out on trail

We headed out to repeat the same loop we did a couple of weeks ago. The footing was even better and we made good time when we could before Pete got tired and asked to start walking more. The big old guy is starting to wonder why he was pulled out of retirement.

Things were going well until we came to an access road. We were walking along due to the gravel footing and I just happened to look behind me and saw a woman running. She showed no signs of slowing and never called out that she was coming up behind us. Had I not looked back I wouldn’t have known she was there until she spooked the crap out of the horses.

When she nearly ran smack into Pete’s butt she turned and called her off leash dog to her. I won’t even get into my complete hatred of dogs and horses mixing here because that would take a while, but this woman didn’t even apologize. Instead she stood right next to us shrieking for her loose dog and then proceeded to take off running again once he was in sight behind her. She was darn lucky our horses are both idiot and dog proof or they could have had some serious injuries from getting trampled or kicked.

The only time the extremely affable Pete gets upset is when Gem gets even a hair ahead of him on trail. I love that I caught his glare while taking my favorite shadow picture

From there it went down hill although we still enjoyed the ride immensely and the horses were most excellent. Pete handled the terrain better than last time although I think he was a bit foot sore with all the rain making his dinner plate hooves soft.

There had been a deer up ahead in the large field

The trail has two road crossings at the end and both can be a bit hairy as cars tend to go flying down the country road. We came to the second one and saw a large group of six riders on the other side immobile. We paused on our side and watched for a little bit but the group were just chit chatting and effectively blocking the entire trail on the other side making crossing the road impossible. Our side wasn’t safe for just chilling out at: a small clearing right at the road without any shoulder and with a deep ditch on either side. We were growing restless and needed to cross but no amount of nicely asking them to move away from the road was producing results.

We did a lot more trotting which Pete handled very well. A few more times out and he may get in shape yet

Dusty hates confrontation and while I don’t go looking for it, well depending on who you talk to, I won’t back away either and started ramping up to tell them they had until we crossed to move or get bowled over. Dusty asked me not to make a scene and fortunately for him they deemed it time to move right about then any way.

At this point I was a bit tired of dealing with stupid, rude and self absorbed people. We ended up back at the trailer with two very sweaty and hot horses and stripped tack quickly to go use the single hose available. We walked over to find three of those same ladies already there. We settled in to wait for our turn while the horses enjoyed grazing.

Hot and sweaty at the end of the ride

I was doing just fine until the remaining three from their group came walking over and completely cut us off. I glared. Dusty asked me to bite my tongue. I was doing pretty well with that until the one lady looked at me and said “sorry our group of six got here before you” in a condescending not really sorry and making me really angry type of way. My mouth dropped to the floor. “Um…no your group of three were here first. The rest of you cut us off by some sort of group association and should actually be behind us in line” Dusty groaned but the woman just turned away.

The ever patient Dusty losing it a bit

So there we were waiting our turn behind six horses at the hose on an extremely hot morning. If I had been at the hose, I would have watered my horse quickly and efficiently so that everyone got cooled off quickly. Nope. These ladies held their beer in one hand, the hose in the other and talked, washed off their boots and girths before their horse and in general didn’t give a flying crap about anyone but themselves. I was seething mad by the time the last horse was being led away.

Except that wasn’t even the end because they didn’t actually move away from the hose area and I had to plow my way through telling them that they will be lucky not to be kicked if they continued to stand in my path. Rude people make me want to teach Gem to kick on command.

It was bad enough that my very non confrontational, much easier going then myself, husband even made comments. That’s a rarity. As we sprayed our two off we noted that these same people were the ones who parked diagonally across multiple spots making an already busy parking lot near impossible to either park or drive in. Shocking.

Trail etiquette people. It’s important. Or you know, just don’t be an asshat when out in public. That works too.

Horses are better than people
Riding/Horses

Trainer’s Comments on FGF CT

The stars finally aligned Wednesday evening for a lesson. There are way too many things to say and I want to spend more time on writing it up, so in the meantime I’m going to focus on her opinions of the CT.

Poor Trainer. As soon as she walked over to me she got hit with a tsunami of verbal diarrhea followed by getting a phone shoved in her hands so she could watch the videos. She took it all in stride though which is why I love her.

Basically, she praised us both for getting the job done and doing well. She thought Gem looked very relaxed and ride-able throughout. In dressage, she really didn’t have a lot of comments aside from what the judge had already told us: decent test, needs bend. She understands more of where we are coming from and what we are working on, so she watched the video and knew it was about as good of a test as we can put in right now.

She did laugh at my jump video specifically when Gem walked over the two scariest jumps on course: the train and butterfly planks. Her own horse went preliminary in their summer HT last weekend and looked hard at that train, so she finally knew what I was talking about! She thought I rode pretty smart for what I am comfortable doing and did remark that I need to relax a lot more and just let Gem get the job done. More leg!! More looking up!! More go!!!

For Gem’s part, Trainer commented that she really likes that Gem is the exact same horse on both sides of the fence: she doesn’t rush before or after. While my steering was a bit odd looking, Trainer liked how I was able to move Gem onto a chosen line and that she didn’t fight me or spook and for my part, that I actual rode with a chosen line and stuck to it.

Overall, she was really pleased with the outing and thought we had earned our 4th place ribbon. Lots to work on and improve, too.

After she watched it and Gem was all tacked up, I started talking to her about my short and longer term goals. She was a bit hesitant when I started talking about what I wanted to do from here. I think she was a little scared I was going to go all nuts on her with big lofty competition goals, but I am practical at heart and once she heard my plans she was 100% on board with it all.

Now that she is in agreement, I can share on here in writing for the universe to laugh at. Eventing is definitely something I want to continue to pursue as long as Gem agrees to go along with it. There is a nice, beginner friendly HT we are going to shoot for in November. Trainer has agreed to take us xc schooling in July and August to see where we are at with solid obstacles. Honestly, the fences aren’t what scare me at the 18″ height on xc. It is the big open spaces between the jumps where Gem can get squirrely that terrifies me.  If those schoolings go well, we can set our eyes on the amobea level schooling HT in November!

After that, my bigger goal is to work really hard on our canter this fall and winter so we can come out at the tadpole level next summer. I’d like to return to FGF CT next June at tadpole which is a BN dressage test and 2’3″ stadium. Trainer thought that was doable. While stadium had more questions than I had been prepared for, it was an open and inviting stadium course and really friendly atmosphere, so a move up there would be really nice. Plus I already will know the lay of the land, so one stress would be removed. I’m excited to have a goal to work towards and I think we could handle 2’3″ with some hard work and dedication.

Riding/Horses

A Decision Made: No More Rides At Home

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.

 

 

 

Riding/Horses

Well That Wasn’t Any Fun

Between all the rain, the hay growing to a point where I couldn’t use the field and then wanting time in the arena to practice course work and our dressage test, I haven’t ridden Gem at home in well over a month. Maybe closer to two.

Monday night I dressed her up in the dressage tack and wanted to work on using my inside leg for bend and re introducing the canter. It ended up being one of the most frustrating rides I have had in a long time.

I kept all of Trainer’s words running through my head as well as the advice from Emma’s great post on auditing the clinic (read it here) and chose every step that I wanted Gem to take. I sat up tall, tightened my core and was greedy with my position (something Trainer is always after me about). I used half halts. I breathed deep and relaxed.

I was therefore a little lost when Gem basically just gave me the horsey middle finger and raced around the field at her best endurance trot not heeding my aides at all. Trainer has also gotten after me about being too lenient with her – if I ask her softly and she ignores me I need to get more aggressive. I did. She still blew through me deciding it was more fun to do whatever she wanted to do.

At one point, and I’m not particularly proud of this but I like being honest, I was full out hauling on her reins while sitting deep and tall, tightening my core and keeping my legs on and she still would not halt. Pulsing the request to not allow a full out pulling war was useless. I was beyond frustrated.

When I asked her to walk, she would either jig or break to trot. Halting was a nightmare. I don’t know what bee got up her butt, but neither of us was enjoying this ride. Still, I couldn’t just quit. I’ve done that before and all it does is teach her that acting that way gets her out of work.

Instead I chose a straight line along the short side of the field and made her walk. If she jigged or broke to trot she got halted. Sometimes nicely and sometimes aggressively. Once we reached the end of my line, we turned and did it again going back the other way. Over and over and over. We did this for 30 minutes before she settled and actually gave me a flat walk.

Then I asked her to trot. Maybe I should have called it a day once she gave me the flat walk, but it had only been 30 minutes and I wanted to work on our canter. I asked her to trot and she immediately zoomed away. No, that is not the right answer. So we worked on trot walk trot transitions although “worked on” is being a little nice about it. Basically I asked her to walk at a very definite spot and she told me where to stick my walk transition instead.

I was out of ways to improve it. I sat tall, tightened my core, had my shoulders back, breathed in and sat down in the saddle to cue for walk. She stared off into her pasture at Pete. I used more rein. She flicked her ears back and gave me the finger. I used more rein than I am comfortable using and she still didn’t give a crap. I turned her in a tiny circle and she finally walked. Repeat time and time and time again. When she finally walked for me, I let her have a break.

At this point I was on a mission with her. She wasn’t in pain. She wasn’t confused. She wasn’t afraid. Now I know that most times it is the rider’s fault and I think I have been more than willing to take the blame each and every time, but Monday night boiled down to Gem just not wanting to work at home while Pete was watching and grazing in the next field. She both knew what I wanted and was more than capable of performing a simple trot to walk transition when asked in a fair and consistent manner. Gem just didn’t want to play.

Asking for any sort of bend was completely out of the question. Any slight touch with my inside leg just sent her more forward and she kept ignoring my half halts prior to using it as Trainer has taught me to do. I gave up on those making a note to have Trainer out to my place again instead of trailering to her so she can help me when Gem decides she has no interest.

Finally, after 45 minutes of this crap I got Gem in a nice trot that was a good pace and not strung out. Trainer has scolded me for allowing Gem to canter from a bad trot, so I worked hard on getting the trot good before asking. Once I asked Gem picked up a lovely left lead canter and we floated over the ground. She maintained power steering and it was soft and light. Perfection really. I never wanted to stop. Eventually I asked her to trot again and she did without fuss, so we ended there on the only good note of the entire hour ride.

Angry mare is angry

She got a good cold hosing afterward as she was really sweaty. She was angry with me and let me know it. Part of me wonders if she isn’t a bit bored with all the walk trot we have been doing and just wants to stretch her back and canter. However, I can’t allow her to canter when she is a zooming and strung out race car, so she needs to figure out that she gets to do the fun stuff only when she is listening.

It seems like the spring rain is finally drying up a bit and the next cutting of hay won’t be for a while, so I should be able to get more frequent rides in at home to work on this. Trainer has been out of town doing Pony Club ratings, but I have a lesson scheduled next week. I’m debating on traveling there or having her come to me. Traveling there allows me to work on things better as Gem is in a much better frame of mind, but that doesn’t really help me when she checks out at home. It just feels like a waste of $55 when she comes to me and all we can work on is getting Gem to walk for the hour versus going there and working on bend, geometry and the like. I don’t know, I’ll have to think on it.

Not happy with me at all