Thursday, July 27, 2017

Discretion is the better part of valour

I'm not going to try to recap all my rides since I last posted -- I'll never catch up on anything, at that rate! I'll try to be more on top of posting going forward, though.

My last two lessons on the horse were challenging; my canter two-point is practically nonexistent. I can hold myself up with my heels down IF I round my back. If I try to arch my back instead, I feel myself losing balance. My heels come up, my weight shifts too far forward, and I end up leaning on her neck for support. This isn't an issue at walk or trot. I also feel like, in canter two point, I'm having so much trouble holding my position that actually influencing the horse in any way feels next to impossible. Last night I was trying to ride circles over poles, and found myself only able to use my inside rein OR my outside rein, as I felt like I had to have a hand on her neck to support myself. Ugh. I think I ought to just be practicing my two point on the rail until it's in a better place, BEFORE I add complications -- like jumps, my favourite thing...

On the plus side, the regular seated work felt easy peasy after all that.

I rode on my own the other night, and didn't practice two point then -- just worked on adjusting my canter seat. If I sat up and back, kept my elbows at my sides, and let my weight drop into my stirrup at the right point in the stride, it felt great. Letting my heels drop absorbed a lot of impact, which let my body soften and follow the movement. I rode some half-decent flying changes, too, though not quite as nice as some of the ones I was doing over the winter on her, at the indoor. I am getting a bit better at making the right adjustments to ask for things in a balanced way. Though I seem to cut my corner every time coming across the diagonal. It's like I'm afraid she'll trip or something if I turn her too sharply so I'm lax when I shouldn't be. Need more practice, clearly.

I was also having issues with my right leg coming out an forward again, at the canter, like I used to when I first started riding again. Not sure what was up with that. Maybe still tired from the ride two nights before? I'll keep working at that. I've also been doing basically NOTHING to work on my fitness, other than my bits of riding (which haven't been as frequent as they should be, due to all this stupid rain) so I'm sure that's not helping anything. I went for a run this morning, which felt good but was NOT full of energy or stamina, that's for sure. Really need to get that working for me again. I've also started getting my studio cleaned up enough that I can, hopefully, be able to use the floor to roll out my yoga mat and do some stretches and core work.

I also made a difficult but, I think, wise choice regarding the pony I've been helping with. I essentially resigned, though I'm still going to keep at some of the training with her. She's proven to be a lot more anxious and unpredictable than expected. And even though she's come a long way with things like her separation anxiety, some of her spookiness, and he manners in things like leading and general handling, she still has unpredictable, explosive behaviour that makes my gut say that, no, I should not be riding her. The desensitizing work has been really interesting and I've very much enjoyed doing it -- what's not to love about torturing a bratty pony with a scary plastic bag on a stick? -- but, even after an hour of getting her to NOT react at ALL to a specific scary stimulus, she'll still pull weird random moves like spooking and pulling back because... the BARN??... was scary. She also bolted a couple of weeks ago and dumped her owner's kid in the dirt. It was seemingly unprovoked -- and happened WHILE she was being led! Argh! Too many traumatic memories of Java coming up to the surface. I don't want to ride a horse that's going to make me afraid to ride. The downside of this is that I will have to start paying for my riding again, but that's the fair choice anyhow, as the pony hasn't measured up to original expectations of being useful as a lesson horse, so there's no longer any benefit to my coach in me working with her. My coach agrees that she's not a safe horse to do much with right now, and that the right person for her is going to be one of those devil-may-care, will-ride-anything crazy teenagers who'll ride through the crap and maybe, eventually, turn her into a solid citizen -- or at the very least just put up with all the weirdness. If she were mine I might consider putting her, and keeping her, on a calming supplement, but she's not mine and I don't want to complicate things by paying for something like that with someone else's horse. So. I think I'll stick to groundwork and lunging, take her for some walks, hit her with some fly spray, etc., and who knows. Maybe she won't have a bad end, eventually, but she's a long way from being a safe lesson pony, that's for sure.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Catching up

Whoops! I've had a few rides (four or more?) since I last posted here, but life has been kicking my butt and I haven't made the time to sit down and write about them.

Since I last posted, I had one or two pretty pleasant, uneventful rides on the project pony where we did some nice walk-trot, and I had her doing trot to halt really smoothly and nicely. She's much MUCH less distracted and less counter-bent, generally, too, and is getting pretty good at rating her own speed.

I also had a really good lesson on my usual lesson horse, at my coach's place, where everything was REALLY clicking and felt great! She was stepping under herself and her canter was really lovely -- and she was moving well even through some seriously muddy patches. I was highly motivated to keep her collected and lifting -- it was self preservation so she wouldn't trip in the mud!!

This lesson also included the smoothest flying change I've ever had on her. Normally she drops her head heavily and kind of falls onto the new lead, but this time it was *like butter*.

The next week, though, I went out for a quick lesson on the pony, and things did not... err... go so hotly. Usually I either hand-walk her around a lot, or else lunge her, before I get on, and when I do, it's at the mounting block. She seemed to be in an okay mood right after tack-up though, and I know the kids who have been riding her at their place don't lunge her first. So my coach suggested I just mount from the ground right outside the barn, beside the other horse.


That was not a good decision, apparently.

She actually stood all right for the mounting part, but as soon as I was in the saddle she panicked, ran backwards, got her legs tripped up in the manure pile, and actually fell over and half-rolled. I of course fell off, as staying on wasn't a possibility. Luckily I was unharmed, though it could have gone very badly.

We wrote it off as a fluke thing, walked her around a minute, set her up and tried again -- sloooowly, with a few bounces and... same thing but worse. As soon as I was sitting, she flung her neck up and CRACKED me right in the face, and scooted and kind of sat-fell and half rolled again. It was more violent this time and had even more potential to be dangerous. If she had clocked me two or three inches to the left, I'm certain she would have broken my nose. I also hit gravel instead of manure and bedding this time, so my elbow got so badly scraped up it tore the thin running jacket I was wearing to keep the bugs off. It also scratched up the side of my helmet, so -- not that I needed it -- further proof THAT thing is a necessity!!!

I was PISSED OFF so the other girl had a short lesson in the ring while I just angrily lunged the pony for a bit. She was super pissy on the line (not just because I was mad -- I was being firm but not really taking it out on her) so I pushed and pushed her, both direction, and she was pulling and resisting and was obviously not in a work mood. Eventually she settled and started to bend and drop her head.

Sooo, moment of bravery: I mounted her again. But in the way I usually do, post-lunging and from the block, skipping the stirrup. Before I got on, I did some leaning and hanging off the saddle and *actively* tried to annoy her into a reaction, but she couldn't care less, this time. I got on and had a nice 15 minute walk-trot ride while my coach helped and made sure everything was okay. She was actually perfect once I was on -- THIS time. Little twit pony. :(

That was just over two weeks ago, and I haven't ridden her since, as she's been out on loan to the kids who ride her. They've had zero problems with her, at all. Which I'm glad to hear! Next time I'm out I'm going to focus on groundwork and getting her working and thinking -- and also a LOT of desensitization. I want to work on getting her okay with having a rope slid over her, and fly spray sprayed on her, and move up to a plastic bag on a stick. She needs to be way less reactive, because while she isn't generally spooky, she does have the ability to explode when her anxiety ramps about something. I like the analogy Warwick Schiller uses about the cup of anxiety: you don't want to let it get full, because it'll run over. So, I need to do some small things that keep that cup from filling in the first place.

I also don't want to ride her next time unless my coach, or someone to assist, is around. Just in case. My safety matters most. Also, I think her problems aren't related to the riding part -- she's perfectly fine with that. It's getting her mind in the right place. Her general anxiety HAS come down a LOT since I started with her this spring. But as that mounting disaster demonstrates, she still has a long way to go.

More to come on the other two rides since I last posted...