|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.
trot poles and cavalleti were instrumental in the early days with charlie in helping change the subject from me picking or micromanaging him, and giving him something tangible and concrete to do. i'm glad carmen seems to enjoy it!!ReplyDelete
also slightly (but not entirely) unrelated to this post, if you shoot me an email at fraidycat.eventing at gmail i have a fun little picture for you, based on your comment this morning ;)
I’m glad it worked for you too. That gives me hope that sit not a fluke. Also, email sent 😁Delete
Canter poles saved Bridget and I! Despite a shattered serenity browband, it sounds like lots of progress is being made :)ReplyDelete
Tell me more about the canter poles!Delete
I love using pole work, glad you had fun with it!ReplyDelete
Definitely will add in more random polesDelete
Great that you guys had fun with the poles! Can't wait to hear how the small jumps go :)ReplyDelete
Cupid has a part of the outdoor ring he likes to scoot away from the rail - not every ride but often enough, and usually only/worst to the left. It's gotten a lot better, pretty rare that it happens at all now and when it does lots of inside leg, and small circles to the inside until he focuses again.
Which is perfectly logical way to work through this. It sometimes works for Carmen and other times causes her to escalate.Delete
Maybe you are on to something here (ie, using obstacles, cavaletti, etc to engage her brain). Maybe less dressage perfection, and more working equitation? She may be bored and trying evasion as a way out?ReplyDelete
I don’t know about bored but they do make her shift her focus which is a good thing.Delete
My MIL's trainer has a theory that horses are more fearful and reactive on their stiff side because they feel that they can't get away from the "scary thing" as well, therefore need to take preventative steps to avert disaster (if that makes sense).ReplyDelete
This came up because I experienced the exact same thing with Murray, and I was like "maybe he's blind in that left eye?" But the trainer said most horses are like this with their stiff/weak side, but obviously reactive/sensitive horses will take it further than others.
Glad this ended on a good note!
Now that is an interesting theory! She is definitely weaker on the right rein.Delete
Interesting observation, Nicole. Makes sense.ReplyDelete
And yay for fun rides! The horses really are amped up with the cold temps and variable conditions. It's hard to know what causes what sometimes.
The weather has been so up and down that’s days.Delete
Have you considered chopping down all the trees? Only slightly joking.ReplyDelete
Poles seem to help my guy at times. Not sure if it's because it's something different, he likes them, or because all I tend to worry about is getting there straight.
Not really- I think it would just shift her focus to the grass roe the trees further off. I agree about the poles though!Delete
I think working with poles on the ground or cavelletti is a great idea. I do it all the time with Rosie. Just this morning she decided it was more fun to jump them. She's never done that before. She's figured out it's easier to jump them than use her back muscles I guess. I also think it breaks up the routine of lessons which they might get bored with. It gives them something else to focus on. Like trail rides or riding outside the arena. Just my opinion. Glad you had fun with Carmen.ReplyDelete
I am so glad to hear about you both having FUN! I have lots of ground pole exercises to work on through the winter months, too, once we move up to the arena (making the most of the last of the grass, first). I love how ground poles keep a fussy horse (even Q!) working with the hamsters on their wheels. No time to be a fussy miserable shrew when you have to pick up your feet constantly lol.ReplyDelete