Walter Zettl writes about the danger of the good ride. He says that if you have a really productive ride one day you need to be careful because you will expect it the second day. However, from the horse's point of view the next day is a whole new ball game. Perhaps they are sore from the work yesterday, perhaps they just are not in the mood and, most likely, perhaps the rider is riding with more tension because they want to continue to proceed. We need to approach each ride, he says, with no expectations. the horse in the warm up will tell you what they need that day.
Walter is a very wise man.
So on Thursday I was excited to ride Steele again. It was late afternoon (around supper time). His regular pad was dirty so I grabbed another pad. I like it- it's all cotton but more bulky than our usual one. I let Irish stay out in the field.
I started, as always with my ground work. It was a hot day and Steele was a bit sluggish but basically obedient so after a few minutes I got on. We started at the walk. He was looking around a bit but things were pretty good. Then I asked for the trot. We were trotting around for a few minutes when he started to balk.
I went back to walk to regroup. Picked up the trot and we were going well when he balked more severely. Again I walked. After the third time I stopped.
Where on earth was this resistance coming from?
Now I don't subscribe to the theory that if the horse resists it always the rider but I do believe that needs to be the first check. I made sure that I was sitting up in the saddle and not pinching. I made sure that I wasn't grabbing him in the mouth when I wanted to go forward (sending mixed messages). The same thing was happening-trotting along fine and then bam. The dogs were hanging around and Belle kept popping in and out of the tall grass. I thought that maybe he was not happy about that. But I also decided that he needed to get over it because he knows the dogs and they are well, dogs. There could be far more surprising things at a show.
After a few minutes of no success and some escalation I realized that I needed a different approach. I also realized that I was alone. So I halted and dismounted. Steele looked happy at that. I put the lunge back on and we went to work. And I mean work. After all there was no reason that I should be the only one sweating. After a few minutes of me installing 'forward' and 'now' he began to sharpen up and become more responsive.
I worked him more
I give, I give!
fine. what do you want?
Yes. So got back on. We went along and it hit me- he was only resisting when we turned away from the gate and Irish. I tested it a few time. Yup. Trotting to the gate or towards Irish- fine and forward. Away from the gate and/or Irish and it was 'nope. not gonna.'
Now that I had a reason I could work on it. I realized that our ground work was not fine that I was letting him set the pace and he was convincing me that I was happy with it. He wasn't being 'bad'. I had taught him that it was okay to make decisions. sigh.
So I went to work on this issue. The goal was that we would have a nice forward trot no matter where we were in the ring. Period. We were going alone the long side (far away from the gate) when he gave a big spook at the dog.
OMG. Seriously? This is embarrassing. You are an Andalusian.
Well I'd expect this from Irish, but your breed was used in war and bullfighting. It's not like you're a thoroughbred.
Well I was really really scared.
Yeah. right. Suck it up princess, you are making a fool of yourself.
After that there were no more problems. I made sure that I confirmed my lesson and then stopped. I checked his back after- no soreness no problems. His sweat pattern was perfectly symmetrical. Perhaps the bulky saddle pad contributed but it wasn't a huge factor.
To be continued....