|while I would love her neck to be out more I still quite like this photo|
In my last post I talked about two good sessions that I had with Carmen.
What I hadn't written about was the next ride after that. It was after work and Carmen seemed less then enthused about the whole thing from the get go. However, during our ground work she was tuned in and listening. I was okay with not riding but she seemed to be okay so I decided to get on. When we started walking she was okay except for the far end by the trees (like you see beside us in this photo). I worked her slow and carefully and she seemed to get over it. The issues were on both reins but worse on the right rein.
Until I asked her to trot there. Then is was resistance on top of resistance that kept escalating. Interestingly, I again was not afraid but was getting annoyed. Once she gave half-rear and I reached forward and bopped her between the ears with my hand. we.do.not.go.up.
Anyway we were going downhill and I couldn't get her out of the pattern of balking, throwing her shoulder and running sideways. I finally dismounted, put her back on the lunge and went back to work. By the time that was done she was sweaty and puffy. I hopped back on to walk her out. Again, heading over to the side she was having an issue with as part of the walking. When she stiffened I dropped the rein and said do what ever you want. Funnily enough she did nothing. Sigh. When will I learn to not fight this horse? What is the line between not engaging in a battle but not giving in? After I was a bit discouraged but did recognize that 2 out of 3 rides had been good.
After the ride I saw that my lovely turquoise browband had broken, I lost a lot of beads and it was flapping on her head so that definitely could have contributed. I can also appreciate that the browband I had made to impart serenity had completely shattered while we are going through all this......
Lots of things could contribute to her attitude: it's hunting season and the woods around us are having a lot more activity. Also, I believe that Carmen is associating the pain in her gut with being in the ring. Which makes sense. I know that it was ulcers and those are getting better but I can't expect her to go 'oh, it was my stomach, not the riding? Well okay then. Thank you for the medicine. I feel so much better now and am ready to be your zen unicorn. Grand Prix here we come!' (although, Universe, WHY NOT?)
I had a lesson booked for Thursday and I was curious to see how it would go. In the barn Carmen was much more mellow than the day before. However, her neck was a bit tight so I spent some time massaging it until she relaxed and blew out. I then put on her bridle and headed up to the ring. I started as I have been lately by walking her all around asking her to stay with me and to tune into my feet (if I stop, back up, turn etc). Then we went out on the lunge. She was really good and responsive to my body cues. Shanea arrived just as I was getting ready to mount. I gave her the update and then hopped on.
Walking off Carmen was totally relaxed until we passed A and headed up the far side by the trees. She said 'nah uh' and threw her shoulder in and walked sideways through my aids. Shanea advised me to not argue but set the terms. So I straightened her shoulder and then had her leg yield properly. This way she was going the way she wanted but I was in control of how we travelled.
This was only an issue on the right rein. To the left she went down that side with minimal fuss. Any ideas? Because I'm chalking it up to the theory that 'horses are weird'.
Shanea then set up some poles to give her something else to think about. Going the left- no problem. To the right- problem. I didn't want to escalate this, again.
So I stopped and asked if Shanea would lead us over the poles on the right rein. At first Carmen tried to walk over her so Shanea shifted sides so she was between Carmen and the trees. That worked really well. The exercise was to trot the far side and around the short, ask for a walk, pick up our escort over the poles and then trot off. It was a weird solution but makes sense because it's connects the ground work I'd been doing with the under saddle work I'm trying to do.
And it worked:
Yeah, I know, she's just trotting over poles. Honestly, if you could have seen us on Tuesday as the spinning, hot mess you would realize how much of a miracle this feels to me right now. It wasn't that we didn't have any discussions- it wasn't always great (I wish I had a video of that to show you for comparison) but it was like the walking with her helped her to understand that it was all okay. I also stopped holding her and put my leg on. When she realized that she could go 'fast' through there it seemed to set a light bulb off in her head. Mine too. I realized that I was holding too tight to prevent her from flying sideways. One she tried to 'passage' over them but that didn't work.
I was kinda ready to stop there to reinforce the win but Shanea threw out the suggestion of canter poles. I have done those before and I thought let's try it. As we cantered around I felt Carmen 'lock on' to the poles and go.
Although she wasn't always sure of what to do with all four legs:
But she didn't get pissed off and figured it out:
While I was wondering if I was setting myself up for failure (you know-the 'just one more' that leads to wreck and ruin) but I realized that she was right- Carmen was enjoying herself. For the first time in a long time in the ring.
So I picked up the right lead canter and up we came. Carmen looked at the poles, locked on and dug in:
While it is not perfect by any means I love it. It's been a long time since Carmen and I had fun together in the ring and it made me happy. Shanea and I even discussed setting up a small grid and cross rails for her to play with.
Stay tuned, there may be jumping videos at some point.