Carmen has been 'cinchy' of late. Last time she was like this I gave her a stomach supplement and it disappeared. I wondered if she was a bit acidy of late which was making her uncomfortable. I figured that I might has well try it. I also approached it from a behavioural perspective as well- I held a crop and when she pinned her ears and turned her head at me I gave her a smack. That got rid of the behaviour but not the ear pinning. But by today it was all gone- last time it took 3 days of the supplement to see a difference too. I suspect I will be keeping her some sort of maintenance schedule for the supplement.
The other thing was that the weather is cooler and the horses may be more energized with the cooler weather. I always do some ground work but I decided that I needed to do more before I get on. So Thursday I put her on the lunge line and did direct work with her before I got on.
I need to pay more attention to her shoulder- she was blowing through my aids and ducking inside. So I got out the short crop and started carrying that. I can get a much better tap/smack with the shorter crop then with the dressage crop. As soon as her shoulder bulges in I get after it.
I need to fix my seat and then deal with her- not the other way around. I have been very very focussed on ensuring that I am getting my seat in the saddle and my legs around her. I keep my hands close together and don't let them get wide (this gives her an escape).
And lastly, I need to trust that I have the tools and just get on with it. On Saturday when I rode I actually had butterflies in my stomach. I think I was still on adrenaline on Thursday, but that was all gone by Saturday. I still got in the saddle though so that's a plus.
So with all that how did it go?
In a word- better. I've ridden twice without Irish (Thursday and Sunday) and once with (on Saturday). She's being spooky about the blowing grass and I'm just working us through it. I have been finding the balance between not backing down and not picking a fight. It's not easy.
Cynthia loaned me the book 101 dressage exercises and it's been great. I have been picking out exercises that work on her brain and her body. My favourite so far is 'The Needlepoint':
- a reverse on the long side - 15 meter circle on the short side and then another reverse on the other side. It's perfect to keep her engaged and listening. I move it around the ring and I can find her settling in to me.
Interestingly enough when Cynthia and I hack out around the field which is between the fence and the woods she's not a nut bar- which I think she would be if it was just about the trees.
Today we were doing okay but she was being very resistant to the far end (not troll corner, apparently they have moved). I patiently kept working towards there and then down there. At one point I asked her to whoa and she was as stiff as a board with her neck rigid.
'what do you think is going to happen? I asked her 'have I ever let anything bad happen to you? Do you really think I would do that to you?
As soon as I said that she relaxed and let go.
Yup, that's right- I played the relationship card. Guilt is a legitimate training tool.
More likely what worked is that I stayed on task. When I felt her backing off and getting 'bouncy' instead of tightening and leaning forward I sat up and back and put my seat in my saddle to go with her not against. Immediately I felt more secure and she became more 'steerable'. When I felt myself getting flustered I took a deep breath and returned to the task.
I wanted to work on lengthening and shortening her stride. I took her the middle circle and used my seat to ask her to come short and then lengthen out. We've been working on this with limited success. Today after the second circle I felt her lengthen out, lift her back and stretch her neck into contact. I was thrilled and praised her. I asked her for this two more times and then brought her back to a walk for a break. I then changed direction and we tried it going to the right. This is her harder way and she struggled with staying straight. Without straightness there is no way to really lengthen so I would get her straight and ask. Finally she figured it out and we had some success.
I called it a day after that.
That afternoon I volunteered at a dressage show. I had really wanted to go to this but couldn't justify the expense. I was sad about that for a bit but figured I could at least help. It was nice to catch up with friends and celebrate their successes. I learned that some friends are thinking of having a fun dressage show in October. If that works out it will be great for us to go to. Another kind horse person said i could come to her place too to put some miles on her.
|'you're just not giving up, are you?'|
The truth is that she's a ton better than she was 2 months ago. But as I get more, I want more.