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.
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.
But she recovered and everything was fine.
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.
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.
- 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!