Of course I have- what's the point of being me if I can't completely dissect something in my mind to glean every possible piece of information?
The truth of it is that a big spook like that that comes out of no where can feel like a betrayal. Now, before you get you fingers ready to type about all the reasons why I'm wrong and why the fall was all my fault anyway, save your energy. I'm not saying that it was a betrayal, I'm saying that it feels like one.
Could I have sat it out if I was ready? Maybe. It was a pretty fast drop-the-shoulder-and-leap-sideways move. I was literally hanging in the air before I knew what hit me. She wasn't being tense at the moment, nor was she being looky. I was doing what I have been told I have to do- which is relax the rein and let her go.
My ride later that day was not so great either. Just as Cynthia and I were getting the horses we heard the noise of a tree falling and both horses took off galloping towards the barn. We went to look but couldn't see what was going on. This put the wind up the tails of both of them. For Irish it leads to some initial tension but once his energy is put to use he settles. Cynthia did a good job with him. I had to lunge Carmen for a long time to get her settled and then in the ride I was pretty defensive. But I did get some good work from her and called it a day.
The next day I was pretty sore- my shoulders, neck and hip were not happy with me at all. Of course by then I had spent the night pretty much going over everything. I did not want to ride in my physical and mental state so decided to do a ground work session.
I wanted to work on setting up some spooky things outside the ring and working on that. I also wanted to deal with the pulling back when I come off- I don't want her running off- especially if we're out of the ring.
I grabbed an old broom I had and brought it up to the ring. I chose the broom because I can lay it down or stand it up and it's visible but portable. I also took Cynthia's advice and let the dogs out. They stay out of the ring and pop up randomly in the grass. I attached the lunge line to her halter and then fastened a chain lead up and over the nose band of the halter and tied it to the lunge line. The main aid is the line- if she bolts or tries to drag me that's when the chain comes into play.
When we started she was pretty defensive- her whole body language was one of wariness and she hadn't even seen the broom yet. I think she was expecting an intense work out. I started off slow and easy- I wasn't gong to ask her to run into exhaustion but I did want two things: go forward when I ask and stop when I ask. Those are the non-negotiables. The key one being to stop. I need her to figure out that when something is a bit freaky the right answer is to check it and maybe stop to look- not to run away.
The first time she spied the broom she slammed on the brakes. I let her look for a second and then asked her to go forward. She tried to run past and I made her stop. I didn't keep her working at the location of the broom but up and down the ring- towards and away from it. This is because she can get pretty fixated on something and it affects the work in the other area of the ring too. It wasn't about the 'broom' but about the listening. The dogs were ambling about outside. Periodically Belle would disappear in the tall grass and I would call her and she'd come popping out. Excellent. Irish even tried to help by running around his paddock. Later, he added in squealing.
I picked up the broom to move it and when I lifted the broom part over my head she gave a big leap. I've worked on her fear of brooms in the barn. With Carmen it could be that one time someone threatened (or hit her) with a broom. That would be all it would take for her to see the threat. Or it could not be that at all. It doesn't matter. I knew what to do with this- which was to walk forward 'chasing' the broom. That settled her right away and I could swing it around like some mad witch with no reaction at all.
So the broom moved around, the dogs were being dogs and Irish was being a bit of a toad (but in this case a useful toad) and through all this she became more settled and relaxed and less defensive.
I then added in her yielding to pressure. When I come off (the count is now 3 in case you were wondering) and I try to hold the reins she's reacting to the pressure and trying to run away. I started with me switching direction and having the halter exert pressure. Initially she resisted but quickly started following. I would expect that because Royce did a lot of work on that.
When that was pretty established I added in the falling piece. Carmen was walking around me in a circle when I suddenly yelled 'whoa' in a panicked voice and went down to my knees. She stopped to look at me and I praised her- this is the reaction I wanted. We did a few at the walk and then the trot and then the canter. When that was good I added in flailing arms. Thank god no neighbours could see this scene:
Beautiful grey mare trotting in a circle around trainer. Trainer suddenly yells 'WHOA', falls to ground waving arms like a lunatic and falling to ground.
yeah, like this
But she got it- she would stop and look at me and wait for me to get up. I then added in sudden flailing and falling with no 'whoa'. That took a few minutes but she got it.
|what are you doing? are you okay? Should you be doing this if you can't stay up?|
She and I were in a much better place at the end then in the beginning. Which gives me more things to think about....