I used to feel with Carmen that I was always knocking on her door, trying to get her to let me in.
Believe it or not, I actually was able to ride twice this week. Friday was warm and everything was thawed. My ring was actually perfect. I tacked Carmen up but she was not so sure about the whole thing because she was without Irish. Irish was really sweet though and stood up by the ring dozing in the sun.
I wasn't sure if I was going to ride but I tacked her up anyway with the plan that just exercising her with lunging would be good regardless. The wind was up and she was pretty wired. My goal of lunging is to move forward but with relaxation not tension. Carmen is super good at moving forward and being tight. Side rein might bring her down but I haven't found that they help her stretch. Once she spooked and tried to bolt but she won't pull me away (unlike a few years ago). She slammed to a halt but still had energy so she reared up. Kind of like Silver on the lone ranger. I stayed still and simply said 'kinda over dramatic don't you think?' She looked at me and then we went back to work.
|Look at my ring. For Jan 31 this is amazing|
In lunging I can find the spots that are worrying for her. My goal is to get even the smallest level of relaxation and then we go away. This really helps her confidence and when we return she relaxes more quickly and to a greater extent. In the past I would be really frustrated by this. Now I shrug and realize that my opinion that she should just be over this is not helpful.
I think I lunged about 20 minutes. I looked at her contemplating mounting. Now even 6 months ago I don't think I would have. While she was more relaxed I could see that she wasn't fully relaxed. But she was tuned in to me. I also realized that I had the tools to deal with her mounted. Which might be a bit arrogant and I realized that I could be wrong.
Turns out I wasn't wrong. Carmen was definitely worried and tight. But I find that I am really much better about not buying into that tension with my own. I used my core to be in the saddle (not tight and hovering above it by tightening my thighs so that's progress) and gave her rein. She gave a big stutter-stop coming by troll corner and I just said 'oh hi, what's up' and we carried on. Once she froze and I saw a piece of plastic blowing in the wind. I relaxed and let her look, then asked her to go forward. As soon as I felt even the inclination to go forward I took the pressure off. Within a minute we were walking by it on a loose(ish) rein.
For the ride I focussed on being clear with my seat and soft with my hands. I really want her to reach for the bit, not duck behind or try to grab it out of my hands. It feels that we are making progress.
The next day was also nice (not quite as friday but still good). Julia and I rode in the afternoon. This time I decided to not lunge. I love that I'm feeling more confident and that that confidence is not based on physical strength (in the sense of outmuscling her). When I was adjusting the stirrups and getting organized she had her head low and relaxed. I reached over her neck and started to love on her. She stayed there drinking it in. Honestly, Carmen has never been comfortable with me reaching over her neck like that.
I hopped on and right away she showed me that the bank of snow was a bit worrisome (also close to where the plastic had bene the day before). I repeated my approach and soon it was a non-issue. We had a good schooling session of trotting, leg yields and playing with contact.
|highly suspicious snow bank|
We watched Irish and Julia for a bit finishing up.
|they were in the zone|
We dismounted and were chatting while a light snow fell around us. I was smiling at Irish because he's looking so good this year. Carmen turned to him and pinned her ears.
What is that about? I asked her. Carmen then took three slow steps forward to stand between me and Irish. Then looked pleased with herself. I honestly think she was making sure I don't give him too much attention.
Carmen: After all, it's all about me.
I am so grateful that I signed up for the TRT method. It has given me tools and principles to work through things with Carmen. Now, even when she's worried, I can knock on the door and she will let me in.