I've had rides where she's been sweet and calm and rides where you would think her tail was on fire.
Now it's not unusual for Carmen to get a bit anxious when all the grass and leaves are in and start blowing in the breeze.
I also know that her nature is to be reactive and sensitive. I have zero expectations that one day she'll be completely zen and relaxed. To me, that is as unrealistic as expecting an person with anxiety to 'just get over it'.
|from my lesson last friday- starting off tight but trying|
That said, I also do not put up with her being a completely irrational during our rides. The trick, of course is to find a balance. I try to figure out where she's at and meet her there so we can work through it.
That works the majority of the time.
This week I had a ride that was lovely and then a ride where she was a complete and utter cow. And I don't say that lightly. She was fixated on the far bushes and everything I asked was just too much. She was hanging on the bit and using that for leverage to cart me all around. I had to get quite harsh at times to get her to stop (like I'm glad there's no media harsh).
|not hanging on the bit|
Before you start thinking that I was picking on a scared horse, let me stop you. Carmen has three spooks:
#1. genuine startle and frightening. When this happens so looks to me ' OMG, what do we do?' And when I say 'just this' she settles and listening.
#2. I'm tired and want to stop working. This happens because in the past her behaviour made me back off. It doesn't now and this rarely pops up and, when it does, we work through it pretty quickly.
#3. Anticipatory: it's like she comes out looking to worry and then, when something happens (like a goldfinch flying by) she will give a big spook and then bolt. In this mood she can become 100% fixated on an area and becomes quite unrideable.
#3 was what I was dealing with in that ride. I wasn't even trying to get her to go near the area of worry. I was simply riding her in a circle but she was so fixated and I had zero attention. When she couldn't spin and bolt she would hang on the bit.
From our last lesson, working on half-halts
I picked up a canter on a 20 metre circle and every time she became strong and tried to cart me off I would turn her in a 10 metre circle. After numerous circles (omg, so dizzy) she finally breathed and softened and we could ride.
I halted her and she waited for me to dismount. When I didn't right away she began to paw. I took my dressage whip and every time she pawed I snapped her on the leg. She stopped and then began to try to pull the reins from my hands. I bridged the reins and still sat. Finally she sighed and cocked a foot. I sat a little longer and then hopped off.
In the barn I had her ground tied while I got the hose ready. I saw her looking out the open door.
Go ahead I said, if you leave I'm not chasing you. You are welcome to go find someone else who will look after you better than me.
She breathed and then said fine, I guess I'll stay.
What I realized was that our issue was one of attention. Carmen was attending to me when she chose. When she was interested in something else I was far down the list of things to attend to. It was like I wasn't even there anymore.
The next day I took her up to the ring to do a groundwork session. The goal was simple- to have her attend to me and, when distracted to respond to my request to me. I used her ears as my cue. If the nearest ear flicked to me when I asked I would stop my demands. If she didn't respond I upped my ask. As Tristan would say 'ask a question that deserves an answer'.
It was pretty simple, I had her on a circle. when she fixated on something I gently lifted the whip towards her. If her ear flicked, it went back down. If it didn't I immediately stepped towards her, disengaged her hind end and then sent her back.
It was hard work. I had to be really consistent and very very clear. I played with increasing the pressure but that seemed too gray. So I had it very simple- ask soft, ask strong, get response, stop, rest, repeat.
Today, before I rode I repeated the work from Monday. Clearly she remembered- her shift of attention to me was immediate and fast. When I rode I kept my crop with me so when I needed her attention I waved it and her ear flicked back immediately. The one time it didn't I disengaged her hind end and that was that.
The nifty thing was that by the end of the ride I just had to gently squeeze a rein and her ear would flick back. Even when worried about things, by having one ear on me her tightness and stiffness was not as bad. That's because horses are not good multi-taskers. Of course neither am I.
It's nice to know that she realizes I'm up there.
|even when watching out for trip hazards|
If this doesn't warm your heart you need to seek help
Ugh... I feel you on the distraction thing! Keeping Cisco's attention on me has been a long battle! The most frustrating thing he does is that he's fine in the scary end when there's another horse in the arena, but when that horse leaves all of a sudden the end is terrifying. So annoying!ReplyDelete
I'm sure you are glad your son is back on home ground. Someone always seems to be cutting onions near me whenever I watch those dog reunion videos.
Those dang onions!!!Delete
You do so well with Ms Carmen. You two serve as great inspiration for my goals with my mare Sophie❤️ReplyDelete
True confession: I don't always do well but I do always try.Delete
Oh my goodness that last photo, my heart <3 <3 <3ReplyDelete
I know, right?Delete
HOLY TROT! That picture is amazing, and Im really glad you described your "pay attention to me" exercise. Im sure you will find it a handy tool in your arsenal. And as for dog and son reunion ... makes my heart swell.ReplyDelete
She can carry herself when she wants to...Delete
You know you're giving away the TRT method for free: ) I love it.ReplyDelete
actually the 'pay attention' exercise was one I got from Mike and Nikki during one of my trail clinics and from watching Warwick Schiller on line.Delete
awwww that homecoming video <3 <3 <3ReplyDelete
We were all so happy to see him but Ripley was so excited.Delete
Aww, I'm so glad your son made it home and what a sweet reunion!ReplyDelete
It sounds like we're working on very similar things. Cupid is somewhat like Carmen, but without the sass lol.
I could do with less sass lol.Delete
Wonderful that your son is home...and that video? So awesome.ReplyDelete
Sounds like you are approaching your rides - good or not so good - with a nice calm consistent approach, which is so important, I find. For me, I would sometimes get so irritated if things weren't going how I wanted, then the horse would get more irritated and things would spiral. Working on the calm consistent angle helped me a lot when I was riding.
I know that spiral very well. I still fall into it every now and then but I less so than before and I'm starting to recognize it.Delete
I love that last picture, so sweet and I'm glad your son is back home. Ripley must have been beside himself!ReplyDelete
Ripley wouldn't leave his side for a few days. She was worried about him disappearing I think.Delete
Lack of attention on my was always my trouble with Jampy. I wish I had read your work with Carmen back when I was riding him. Great work figuring out what she needed.ReplyDelete
So wonderful that your son is home! Love that video!
I think attention is a big thing for a lot of horses.Delete
Oh wow, I bet you're so happy to have your son back!! I like your attitude with Carmen. You know her best, and it's your hide in the saddle--gotta do, what you gotta do!ReplyDelete
So happy to have him back. And you are right- the person sitting on the horse needs to make decisions.Delete
Ugh yes, I was very frustrated with Dante when he seemed to be going through an extra spooky phase. He get bored easily so I really needed to keep things spiced up on the regular that winter. Ear plugs really helped me get Dante's attention more focused on the work at hand versus any number of sounds he'd pick up in the distance.ReplyDelete
Glad you were able to get in some good focus work and that your son came home safely.
I might try ear plugs. But I can't show with them so I hesitate. We'll see. I have thought about it in the past.Delete
Annnnd I'm all weepy now. <3ReplyDelete
SO glad your son is home safe and healthy. His pup sure did miss him.ReplyDelete