- Starting Over (used that one before I think)
- Ground Zero
- The Wheels are Off the Bus
All of them can be summed up with 'what the hell is wrong with my horse?'
I almost didn't write this post but I decided that my goal to be honest here should be honoured. I am not posting all my thoughts or everything that has happened but this is it in a nutshell.
So from that you may gather that things are not going well.
That is an understatement.
I vaccinate between giving up and formulating a plan.
The 'issue' is going around the ring. As you know, Shanea has been putting on some training rides and I've been following up. The rides are stressful for Carmen but they shouldn't be. All we are asking her to do is:
- leg on means go
- walk/trot/canter in all parts of the ring.
- do not bolt
Honestly, given where she is with her training those are well within her wheelhouse.
While I am not convinced that it's ulcers I have started her on medication because I figure the anxiety she's showing is going to lead to them.
Shanea and developed a plan where she would come Thursday evening and ride Carmen and the next morning I would ride in a lesson. Thursday night was awful. It all started with geese flying over head honking. Carmen would not give in. All she wanted to do was fight and Shanea is very good at not fighting. After 90 minutes she began to show some submission. At 2 hours I told Shanea it was time to get off. It seemed to me that we had gotten as much from Carmen as we were going to.
Friday morning was cold and breezy. Carmen was a twitchy mess in the barn. After walking her around the ring we both acknowledged that riding would be foolish. I went and got my lunge line and took off her bridle. After some ground work she began to relax and seemed rideable.
Shanea got on and again, Carmen was full of feeling and thoughts. Most of them involved the word 'no'.
This is literally the best she became:
On Saturday I took her up to the ring with just a halter and lunge line. I had no intention of riding until I was able to get her relaxed in the ring. It took a while but I got there. I then put on her tack and got one. The rideable part of the ring had been reduced to 1/4: essentially X to C and down the long side to B. The rest of the ring was nope. I rode her encouraging her to go to these places and I won't go into all the boring detail. Essentially I kept up pressure and then relaxed it when she gave. The was bolting, spinning, head shaking, etc and I rode through it all without feeling at all afraid.
But honestly, it's depressing: 'yay, you can go to F without losing your mind, just being super stiff'.
I think that there are many things playing into this dilemma:
1. I no longer am riding with Irish and so she's feeling less secure.
2. fall weather
3. the grass (with the cooler weather it gets higher in sugars).
Today I took her up to the ring in a saddle and halter. I hung the bridle on a hook but I really wasn't planning to ride. In reviewing the ground work I could see some holes in what I was doing. I am not sure how to phrase it all so bear with me:
- Carmen is not truly giving me her full attention. I can get it but really, to her mind, I am not important, even when harassing her (her words) with the lunge whip.
- she will run through me rather than give way.
- I give up too soon.
- Carmen needs to learn how to manage her emotions without me having to force her. I can bully her into things and 'make' her do it but that won't pay off in the long run. But I also can't let her just make all the decisions about how much we do or where we go. I know I'm not explaining it correctly but Warwick Schiller explains it that we can't truly control a horse until they learn to control themselves.
- no matter what happens though Carmen does not act aggressively towards me
- Carmen is used to throwing her shoulders around and getting away and having that door shut is pissing her off.
I was determined that I was going to give Carmen the room to make some decisions but try to set it up so that the release was in the relaxing. If she wanted to run away I let her run but controlled where. I would offer her rest and she could accept it or not. If not I let her go and directed her feet again. If she stood I left her alone. As you can see she has figured out how to stand but not to relax:
I don't have video of later because it's really hard to train and video. However, she clearly began to understand as we went on and, as her focus shifted to me she began to relax. I finished by asking her to walk just behind me, close to the rail. She was not allowed to lag behind, step behind me or pass me. It was amazing how this 'simple' exercise stretched her capacity. She tried first to come behind me and put me between her and the rail. I used my lunge whip to put pressure on her to come back to the rail. She would then try to push past me and circle around. Before I would let this happen but not this time. I used my whip in front of her face to stop it. I would not let her pass and if that meant that she was hit in the face because she walked into the whip so be it. She tried to bump me with her shoulder but regretted that life choice rather quickly.
I know that this all sounds harsh but when I watch Irish with her, he does not let her pass him even when she really really wants to. And she completely accepts this, although not always happily.
I am not riding her right now because there's no point. I will continue to do groundwork. I am also trying to figure out where to go next.
I do know one thing- this cannot continue.