I came home from work to 36 degree temperatures! I wisely decided to wait until after supper to ride. By then it was a cool 31 degrees and humid. The horses were sleepy in their stalls but Carmen gave a nicker when I came in. I spent some time braiding her mane to help her stay cool and then we headed up to the ring.
We started off fairly mellow with the usual alerting around troll corner. But I wasn't worried and we went to work. Slowly Carmen became more tense even though I was not (I swear on a stack of horseman's manuals!). I could hear small creatures in the brush and I'm suspecting that some dear were circling (they bed down in the tall grass by the ring. What started as a plan for a quiet, short ride quickly morphed into a lesson on listening.
I no longer work on getting Carmen to be okay in spots of the ring. Instead I work on schooling and where is not relevant. It's like a dance where both partners want to lead. That never works well - in dancing or in riding.
I'm fascinated by how I don't get upset or scared by shenanigans. I guess that is the lesson that Carmen is teaching me. I found myself tonight staying focussed on the plan and I didn't let any mare tantrums deter me from the exercises. If we were working on bend on a 10 metre circle I insisted that we ride the 10 m circle with bend and not speeding up. This is new for us. I have let shenanigans interfere in the past so I'm not surprised that my drawing the line on this leads to some resistance. Resistance is not bolting (yay), more like if I ask her to circle and she ignores my bending aids, if I tapped behind my leg with the whip or gave a kick she would spin away and be all offended. I simply put her back on the circle and carried on, despite the drama.
The sequence of drama with Carmen often goes like this:
I think scary things are over there we should avoid at all costs.
I am NOT going there!
Okay, I will go in the general vicinity
Fine! We will go there but I will be bent to the outside and ready to flee
Stop asking me to bend or I will FREAK OUT. I'm warning you
Okay we bend going through there but I will keep an eye cocked and go as fast as possible
STOP ASKING ME TO SLOW DOWN
Okay, I am going slow. Are you happy with how you are crushing my spirit?
Hey, they is easy, I don't understand what all the fuss is about.
I rode much longer then I planned but I wanted to finish with her walking slowly around the ring- not rushing. I realized that I was holding her in the pace I wanted but that is not a good plan for the long run. So I asked her to slow and relaxed my hold. If she sped up I asked again and upped the strength of my aids until she slowed and then relaxed again. Carmen needs to be in self-carriage and she cannot do that if I hold her. I have no idea how many times I circled the ring. I was starting to worry if I was going to be late for work tomorrow. Finally she gave me what I wanted- a slow walk and didn't speed up.
Life with Carmen will never be boring but there was also some very good work in our session tonight as well. The leg yields were excellent and she's starting to adjust her bend with the softest of aids- when she choose to. The trick is to convince her to let me lead.