Clearly I am in contention for the title of 'most negligent blogger'.
It's January and riding/training is slowing down. The weather has been relatively mild (for January) but my ring froze shortly after my New Years Day ride and just thawed this past weekend. I've been okay with the downtime- after all I've done a lot of schooling this year.
Sunday Julia came out to ride and, just as we were heading up to the ring, the heavens opened and the rain came thundering down. We untacked them and were just putting the tack away when the rain stopped and the sun came out. Deciding we would regret it if we didn't, we took the two
longsuffering equines horses out and tacked them back up. During our ride it rained off and on but Julia and I ignored that.
|Carmen not so keen on working in the wet, wind and cold|
and hoping that I appreciate her forbearance.
When I do ride I am trying to keep is quiet and simple. I don't see the point on riding hard when I might not be able to ride for a few weeks after. I think it's hard on the horses. Especially a horse like Carmen. So my rides are more about enjoying the moment.
I have an understanding of Carmen now to know that I can't let do all the dictating because she will decide that she gets to make all the decisions.
And honestly, she doesn't always make good ones.
So the rides are quiet and if she ramps up I deal and then we go back. I'm getting so much better at not spiraling into the negativity. For example, yesterday I was riding with Julia and we were just warming up on some long rein 10 metre figure 8s. I like this exercise because it gets her bending and responding to the aids as well as using her body well. It's not always pretty but we work at it and then go on to the ring. Yesterday was quite windy (we had a massive rainstorm the day before) and she was a bit amped. I had the long rein asking her to circle and she was fixating on some waving grass and getting tight. I wasn't joining her in that and then Irish went by letting out a big fart as he passed.
Carmen gave a big shy, almost unseating me and began to run towards the gate. I grabbed some mane and hauled myself back in the saddle while cackling loudly. I never touched the reins. Carmen came to a halt and gave me her grumpy ears while I continued to giggle hysterically.
I don't care how old you are, a loud horse fart is funny. And a horse that spooks at said farts is even funnier.
|the recent thaw made it possible to scrape |
out all the frozen poop that had accumulated.
Farm life is so glamourous.
Anywho, we carried on. When Carmen got tight I got soft. I've started doing yoga and I realized how tight everything in my body is. There is no way that Carmen did not feel that. Now that I'm getting looser, I'm also getting more control of my parts and it's easier to move them independently.
Yesterday we were riding down the rail and she began to get tight and bulge toward the inside. I put on my inside leg while lightening my outside one. She immediately softened into the bend. I think in the past I was tightening both without realizing it.
I've been working calmly and quietly and not so worried about we go as long as we go nicely and together.
|Guinness would like you to appreciate his |
balancing skills. He works hard to get his toy like this.
I've been playing with focus in the saddle too. Rather than working on getting a good shoulder in I'm working on her attention.
On the ground I can get it pretty easily now: when she's distracted I just need to move to get her to focus back on me. If she doesn't respond I ask her to do something (usually yield her hindquarters), when I have her attention back I stop.
Getting her attention under saddle has been much harder. She is able to stay riveted on whatever else has her attention and be annoyed with me for bugging her. I've been asking for her attention by picking up the rein (or asking for more bend if we're in motion). She doesn't get to ignore my ask- I simply up the pressure until I get a response and then drop it. The mistake I used to make was to not commit to it- if she really resisted I would drop the demand. I think that made it frustrating for her because I wasn't clear.
I recognize that sometimes I missed early signs of her attention shifting requiring a bigger shift and it can feel pretty yucky amping up the pressure to get a response I want, especially if I missed/ignored the early signs. But not working it through it does not work with a horse like Carmen who is pretty dominant herself. So I accept that I made a mistake while I am doing a correction and making sure I'm not feeling a lot of negative emotions about it. It's along the lines of 'yes, I know I missed your worry about that particular goldfinch but now I'm asking you to bend this way and it will all be fine.'
An exercise I have been doing is incorporating the focus work into my rest. It looks like this:
1. Drop the reins and wait for her to relax. Carmen's attention shifts to something else
2. softly pick up one rein
- if her ear flicks back and she softens I will drop it again
- if her neck tightens and she resists the contact while keeping her ears fixated on something else I increase the ask until she softens and bends (similar to the bit flexion exercises but I'm looking for attention, not her nose on my boot). Drop the rein and repeat/
Carmen is really picking up on this and it takes much less work to get her attention. I have to make sure that nothing in my body tightens.
In the past I would get frustrated at the lack of riding and I do miss it. However, I am okay with taking it easy right now and working on our relationship at this point. It feels like this work will pay off when we can start back at regular training.
|at least the winter sunrises are beautiful|