One of the things that I promised myself is that I would be honest on this blog. That doesn't mean that I post about everything but I will not lie.
That said, I've had some ups and downs with Carmen. She is young, talented, sensitive and spirited. Establishing her trust of me in the saddle has not been a simple road. She and I didn't have the same history that I had with Steele so it's a work in progress.
With that in mind let me tell you a story:
On Saturday my ride with her was good and bad. She was clearly uncertain about going into the ends of the ring where the grass was blowing. I rode her and stayed calm and didn't get upset. But I won't like and say that I was not frustrated in the end. All I want to do is walk, trot and canter around the ring- it didn't seem like a big ask. We would be going along and then I would meet resistance. I would persist and we'd carry on. Until we came that way again. I ended the ride on a good note and put her away.
Sunday my niece was with me (more on that in another post). She takes riding lessons and we were going to have her ride Irish. Cynthia came to ride him first to make sure he was okay. Carmen was clearly 'up' and we lunged until she was listening. When I went to mount she did a mini bolt down the ring. We had a couple of those but I stuck it out. I wanted her to canter softly on a circle both ways. When she did that I stopped and got off. Cynthia held her and I asked her to take her to troll corner and stand there.
Later we headed into the city for a BBQ. On the way home I was thinking some more about Carmen and what to do. It was not terrible and we were making progress but it felt like I was missing something. Now I have the tendency to 'overthink' things but as we were driving along some thoughts floated up to the surface.
I realized that I was working Carmen slowly with the idea that as she relaxed we could get into those sticky corners. However, that might not be how she was seeing it. She might be viewing my approach as being non-supportive and leaving her on her own to fend for herself. Perhaps I needed to be more certain that we could tackle those corners.
When I got home I headed right out to the barn and put on her halter. We marched up to the ring. She hesitated as we walked up but I did not- I marched along and she came behind me. In the ring my goal was simple- Carmen was to listen to me and to go into those corners. I won't bore you with the details but be sure that I was not harsh and that I broke it down into simple steps.
In hand we walked into each corner. If she got in front of me I stopped her and backed her up. On the lunge I let her choose the gait as we went through the spooky parts but she was to go into the corner. Predictably enough she was cantering and trotting quite quickly. I ignored that - if she went into the corner I gave her praise. When she showed signs of relaxing I let her carry on a few more circles and then asked her to walk. She did. For a few steps and then ran away again. I let her go and asked again. Finally I could see her eye soften and she dropped her head and blew.
whoooaaa I said. And she did. Right in troll corner. I then took her over to the mounting block and she stood stock still while I climbed up and laid over her back. I was tempted to hop on but I'm not an idiot (well mostly) so I didn't. We finished up by heading back to the barn for a groom and some fussing over.
Monday I was off and in the morning I got her ready and we went up to the ring. I marched us right into troll corner. She was a bit up but I repeated from the day before- she was go into the corner but the gait was up to her. If she trotted out of it then she had to trot all the way around. When she returned to the corner I removed the pressure and let her decide if she wanted a break. In five minutes she came to dead stop in troll corner and looked at me- this is what you want, right? She dropped her head and I took her over to put on her bridle.
At the mounting block she was made of stone as I got on. I won't go into all the details of my ride but let me tell you that the area of the ring that she flatly refused to go into before was no big deal. We walked, trotted and cantered troll corner. I was over the moon.
Tuesday was a day off. Today (Weds) was threatening rain so I brought her up to the ring to do some groundwork. She was a bit uncertain about troll corner but I carried on and within 5 minutes she was going where I wanted at the gait I wanted. As soon as I wanted her to turn she would stop and turn. We stopped at troll corner and she dropped her head to graze. I let her do that for a while and then we went over to the other side of the ring. She grazed there as well. As she grazed I reached down and unsnapped her lunge line. I backed up and began to slowly walk down the ring. I didn't look back. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her lift her head and then she slowly began to follow me down the ring. I stopped- she stopped. I walked, she walked.
It was awesome.
Maybe we'll get there after all.