October continues to be a spooky month for Carmen. After a stretch of pretty calm rides I am not sure what has changed. Perhaps her last heat of the year? Or the (theoretically) cooler weather? I feel like I am at a point that I can seperate out behaviour from training and I don't think that it's the weather. She is feeling more twitchy in general which makes me think 'heat'. I may explore using Regumate next year to see if it helps.
Essentially Carmen understands what is being asked of her and if she doesn't understand she will look for the answer. But if it doesn't come soon she will get pissed off and I need to regroup. I have grown to appreciate what riding such a reactive horse has taught me. Irish taught me to sit a buck and Carmen is teaching me to sit a leap. Carmen's bucks are small little things that make me giggle. Her leaps though- those are athletic and strong. Sometimes it feels like I'm being hit by a bus. I have learned that when she tenses to sit up and back and be bold. Not tight and perched like I want to do. I still do the perching thing but now I catch it sooner and sit back. It makes an amazing difference.
My rides on both Saturday and Sunday were 'interesting'. Saturday was with Cynthia and this time she was spooky at the opposite corner to Friday. Sunday I was by myself and the corner had flipped back to K. Sunday was also a foggy day and I noticed that as soon as I got on she was pretty sure that going to the far side of the ring (at A) was a big 'nope'. I don't accept her 'nopes' anymore because in Carmen's world it seems that if I avoid a place it becomes a spot that we never go because that's where bad things happen'. This is where walking the line between and insisting and not fighting come into play.
|Carmen: Irish can you tell if she has a halter or a carrot?|
Irish: You are on your own.
After the first couple times by 'A' a squirrel started cursing in the woods and she gave a big leap forward and tried to run away. I know that if I shut down the bolting early I can keep a lid on it. It's like if it works the first couple times then it's an option for the rest of the ride. This time I managed to get her stopped in about 2 strides (go me!). As I'm bringing her back to me I am also speaking to her: it's a squirrel Carmen. My god, it weighs less than a pound. Get a grip.
And one point on Sunday after we'd gone past A for about the 20th time she pitched a real fit and tried to run off. I find that this is where I have to be clear about the ask and not get frustrated. In this case I was asking her to spiral down from a 20 m circle to 10 and then leg yield back. An exercise well within her repertoire and one that I find helpful to focus her. This time when we hit the 10 metres she was determined to look at the woods and had a tantrum when I said no. The tricky part is to release as soon as I get what I want and not hang on. We then picked up a canter and I asked her to lengthen and shorten her stride going to the right while maintaining straightness. I wasn't expecting much - which was good because I didn't get much. That wasn't the point- the point was to say 'hey focus on this please' And it worked. After that she settled quite a bit.
|nope, don't wanna go there.|
What would never have occurred to me is that I could have feisty rides on Carmen and still decide to drop the gate and go for a hack. Saturday was simpler because I had Irish and Cynthia as back up. Cynthia had a jacket hung on a standard outside of the ring and that had caused some issues for Carmen. After I dropped the gate I walked up to the jacket, picked it up and delivered it to Cynthia in the ring. Going out with Irish she is happy to lead or follow- it doesn't matter. I was able to ride with a long rein. We picked up a trot coming home and Irish had to canter past us (whee I am a race horse!). Carmen just asked 'Should we canter?' and when I said no, we could keep trotting she was fine to let him canter away from her. Sunday in the woods she started a little tense but quickly relaxed and we walked out and home at a sedate pace. Even by the spider shed.
It seems strange to me that she is so much calmer when there are far more things that can 'surprise' us. My only theory is that she has had no bad experiences in the woods and the demands are so much less so she can chill. I have thought about hacking first but I think I'm going to leave it at the end for now as the 'reward'.
Carmen is starting to enjoy meeting others at the barn. A friend of Ed's brought our his grandchildren for a visit to see the horses. As always, Irish is the greeter for this but Carmen was quite intrigued. One girl just loved her and Carmen let her stroke her face and was quite tolerant of the sudden movements. I think she surprised herself.
|these human foals are quite lively aren't they Irish?|
I am liking that I can reach through to her even when she's trying to shut me out. I am liking that I'm not frightened by it anymore. I like that I feel that I can honestly evaluate if I should dismount- not because of fear (although heaven knows I don't want to get hurt) but because it seems to be the smarter choice.