The Ongoing Saga of Crazy Mare

After last week’s lesson, I rode Berry 4 times. Which isn’t riding the snot out of her, like I would have wanted, but 4 times is okay I guess. The last time I rode her, Sunday, she was pretty calm, seemed reasonable, and was keeping a steady pace and not charging around.

I'm dreaming I looked like this most of the week. I get a case of the happys when I remember this day.
While I struggle with her, I try to keep this in the back of my mind. I get a case of the happys when I remember this day. Hard to believe she was only 4 here. 

What really happened was much less elegant, but not too bad I think. Although we did have a moment where she stumbled and it greatly upset her.

berry5

But she recovered and everything was fine.

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In case you are wondering why I look like a hobo that wandered into a barn, I basically wear pajamas when I ride alone. Putting on pants is a huge accomplishment for me. I really am that lazy, but usually no one sees me. That day, Dave surprised me by deciding to come down and take photos. If I had known I would have tried to spruce up a bit.

Tuesday rolls around, and it’s time for my lesson again. The weather in these parts has taken a dramatic turn, and it’s now 60 degrees and misty. Berry loaded on the trailer in less than 30 seconds, so I was sure it was going to be a good ride.

But I got there, and she acted the same way she acted last time, all jittery and looking around. I decided to ignore it, and got right on. This was a mistake. As my trainer and I discussed afterward, I will now lunge her every time she acts like this.

I walked into the (empty) ring, and Berry decided that the judge’s stand was the most terrifying thing she has ever seen, even though she was fine about it last time. Perhaps because there were other horses out there. But fine, whatever, I walk her away from the stand and through the jumps to the most open area of arena. And then the jerk reared up! My “super chill” mare was rearing and spinning. It was frightening, and I was sure I was going to come off. I haven’t had a horse rear under saddle since my last “difficult” horse.

The first time I feared this horse. My reins broke and I lost my stirrups. I came off.
My first thoroughbred – This was first time I feared this horse. My reins broke and I lost my stirrups, and then she rang around the ring bucking. I stayed on for much less than 8 seconds. She’s a story for another day.

Vintage reared a few times when she was a baby, so I have dealt with it before. But when you’re a teenager, it’s funny and exciting, and more like a badge of accomplishment, “Look I can ride a rear, I’m a great rider!”. Now that I’m not a teenager, it was scary and I was positive I was going to fall off. But I leaned forward, yanked her sideways, and then made her spin in circles for what felt like 5 minutes.

I immediately put her to work, doing lots of trot circles and figure eights, while she fussed, tried to dance sideways, and acted like a loon. One thing I use all the time against Berry is that she runs out of energy pretty fast. So after I had been trotting for a while, she became manageable.

When my trainer got up to the ring, we worked on getting her to relax and bend, and it was a long lesson. One aspect of my homework paid off – She wasn’t doing her power trot, her trot was nice and slow! But she loudly expressed herself by being very fussy, tossing her head and ducking behind the bit. There was more circles, and more figure eights.

She did calm down, and gradually she figured out how to carry herself, and what I wanted. She became softer, started bending on the circles and relaxed.

My trainer and I had a long discussion about Berry and my riding. A couple of take away points:

  • Berry was pulled into a frame too early in her training, which causes her not to understand true balance. Work on getting her hindquarters active and getting her balanced without worrying about her head set.
Early lesson
Early lesson – They primarily focused on headset. 
  • I need to not get upset when she gets fussy with her head. Don’t pull her head up when she drops it, push her forward with my legs.
  • When I circle, I need to keep a hold of the outside rein so she doesn’t bulge to the outside.
  • Relax! She has a good brain, and trainer believes that today’s rear really was a fluke that amounts to her sensitivity to the sudden change in weather. From now on, if she’s fussy when I arrive, lunge her for 20 minutes and let her act out her bronco fantasies there. When she’s under saddle, it’s all business.

My homework is to keep her bent correctly, and get her to accept the bit. My trainer said to expect her to be fussy at the beginning of every ride, but the time she is fussy will decrease with every ride.

Once we get her balanced and bending at the trot and canter, we will start poles. Think I can get that done in a week? I want to jump!

With no training, she has such amazing form!! (totally not serious, in case its not obvious)
With no training, she has such amazing form!! (totally not serious, in case its not obvious). 

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  1. I think that it’s normal to have that moment of panic when your horse does something out of character. I was like that the first time Tucker bucked (with me). He’s done it a handful of time since a result of something. It is so not who he is. Regardless of her tantrum it sounds like you had a productive lesson.

    1. Yeah I think you are right – it was just such a freaky moment! It’s not her either, and I’m hoping it will never happen again.
      Lesson ended up very productive!

  2. definitely sounds like it was a little dicey for a moment there – but glad you were able to settle her and get her re-focused. i like your takeaways too – esp the bit about not getting upset when she’s fussy with her head. i really struggle with that too and always have to remind myself ‘leg first!’

    1. I’m hoping I’ll get better with it! It felt so weird when she was telling me to do it, because I was sure she was going to sprint forward, but it worked out perfect haha

  3. The “Homesteader” horse trailer you have your eye on, unfortunately I didn’t see any. Saw every other trailer line, and a few custom builds made from scratch. We’ll be away for a set of three consecutive horse shows, so hopefully I’ll see a Homesteader.

    Sorry, my horse riding advice is rather limited. My daughters are the ‘professionals’ in that respect, but I would say listen to your trainer and do your homework. And, ride a lot.

  4. Keep working at it! I too have a mare that can be difficult, her instinct when scared is at times to rear. Rearing is the most irritating habit, Luckily my Mare does not do it often. One of the exercises that helped my mare with connection, which, to give you some background: she was is very sensitive to rein use, and my weight distribution on her back. I spent a good 2 months just at a 20 meter circle working on spiral-in, spiral-out and working on rhythm control by trotting and bringing her almost to the walk then sending her forward. Then once comfortable at that expand your circle to an egg shape, an important point is to not put my horse on a straight away as she would lose connection. Once more securely connected then try working on long sides. I also found that I was unintentionally changing my pelvic and upper body position that altered to a inaccurate position making my body weight differ than where it should have been. This helped myself and it seems your mare and mine shared some similarities. Keep working with you trainer and it will come together. Great Post hope it works out for you!

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