The Road Trip (of a life time)

To read the notes I took during the clinic, go to “Notes from the Charlotte Dujardin clinic“.

Post about how I got the tickets for the clinic: Once in a Lifetime

Although I only had one ticket for the clinic, my wonderful husband ended up going with me. Lucky for me he did!

Hubby was driving, and we had just pulled onto the off ramp when he casually says “We have no brakes”. Totally calm about it. I, of course, have 20 seconds of “What’d he just say?” followed immediately by extreme panic!

Hubby got us safely off the highway and coasted into a gas station. That man can seriously drive!  And then he was able to patch the brakes up enough to allow us to carry on with the road trip.

Yay!

The awesome handy man!

Brake fluid trail

Plugging the leak

He was coated in brake fluid afterward. Poor guy. Head to toe covered. And he broke his favorite tool. Not a good trip for the poor hubby, but boy was I glad he came!

The entire drive there and back took much longer than we anticipated. We left the house before 10am Friday. Google maps said it was less than a five hour drive to the clinic. That should’ve put us there about 3pm. Clinic rides started at 4:00.

Plenty of time…

Well, even though the brake issue took up an unexpected 30 minutes of our time, it still took us 6 hours and 42 minutes to get there. That included one short bathroom break and the brake line fix.

It was such a loooonnnnggg drive!

Since my hubby is a night owl,  we headed home right after the clinic.  He can’t sleep at night anyway.  Plus,  I was antsy to get home.

The ride home wasn’t much shorter. We ended up getting home about 4am. Left the clinic around 9:30pm.

The other funny thing that came out of that trip… I had asked the next door neighbor (who also owns horses)  if she could feed mine Friday evening while I was gone.  I set all the food next to their doors so that all she had to do was dump each bucket in to the feeders (access from outside of the stall) and kick the hay in.  Quick and easy.

However,  I knew my neighbor’s boarder was also coming. Nice guy, but he loves to get in Ava’s stall and pet her.

If I’m there,  I can usually nip Ava’s evil side in the bud before she escalates. When I’m not there, Ava can be downright evil.  I didn’t want to come home and hear about how Ava kicked him,  or bit him,  or trampled him…  (all things she’s done with other people before). So I left instructions for the neighbors not to go in Ava’s stall, at all.

The other two horses? Knock yourself out. Hang on them, lay under them… do what ever you want. Those two are saints.

Ava? Nope. Kick the hay in, slam the door. Do not go in.

So… Of course they went in anyway.

I didn’t find any dead bodies when I got home  — as if i wouldn’t have immediately implemented the “Shovel and Shut Up”  protocol if I had!

Ironically, I only knew that they’d gone in to Ava’s stall because they made sure to specifically let me know they’d gone in Ava’s stall.

Oh, and they were offended that I’d asked them not to.

tenor

 

 

Horse people are freaking NUTS! 

 

 

 

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Notes from the Charlotte Dujardin Clinic

Part one: Once in a Lifetime

“If you fall, it’s sand, you’ll bounce” – galloping a horse to create forward desire.

“Slap the rider, pat the horse”

Stages of training:

  • First – Leg Yield
  • Second – Shoulder-In
  • Third – Travers

Straightness:

  • Keep VERY straight.
  • When too bendy on one side – straighten. On side that is less bendy – bend more.
  • “He gets stuck because he’s not straight. The inside hind comes inside” (fix with shoulder-fore).

Forward:

  • Forward/back in canter – allow the forward in the hand. Bring back enough to where the leg is on loose, the hand is on loose, and the rider just sits there without holding. SOFT.
  • When you get the forward, have a loose leg. No clamping. Take leg off.
  • Quality of canter improves just from forward. Create forward and use half-halts to re-balance.  Use forward/back transitions in gait.
  • You want the horse thinking forward.
  • If you have a lazy horse, legs off. A hot horse, legs on.
  • To start work, Charlotte said she starts in canter instead of trot. Then works in trot after that. She said it makes the trot work looser and more supple, and it’s easier to get the engagement.

Stretchy Trot:

  • Aid for stretching is low, wide rein. To pick the horse, hold hands higher and closer together.

Transitions:

  • When too much hand, horse will be abrupt in transitions and fall on forehand.
  • Transitions should look super smooth from canter forward to walk.
  • Hind leg forward!
  • No hands. Hands make horse shut down in transitions. It’s the last step of the transition where the horse was always shutting down (stutter step, or stopped completely).
  • Transitions are so important. Need to be done right.
  • Do LOADS of transitions (correctly).
  • 1,000’s of transitions a ride. Not just a few, not a dozen, thousands a ride.

Leg Yield:

  • Push the rib cage into the other rein.
  • Can also do Leg Yield with counter flexion.
  • When the horse is straight in the leg yield then the horse has to “Push” using his hind to move over. If too bent, the horse falls over and doesn’t get the strength benefit from the exercise.

Leg Yield in Canter:

  • Good to teach horse to move away from leg sideways.
  • The zig zag starter – 6 strides leg yield and 6 strides leg yield back. (broken down its 4 strides over, 1 straight, one change)
    • Easier to do this in leg yield to work out ‘how’ to do it. I believe she meant so rider can learn how to ride the zig zag without complicating it with half-pass.

 

At 7 years old, the horse should be able to do canter/walk/canter transitions in order to develop the muscles that will help with the sitting work. Transitions will help develop him.

Canter/walk/canter on a circle:

  • Bad transitions: Gait too big for downward trans. Have to set the horse up. Canter has to be small and has to be on the hind leg and balanced.
  • Round with soft hands.
  • Keep energy
  • Allow him to step forward into the walk when transitioning from canter to walk (too much hand causes horse to jerk or not step forward into the walk).
  • Circle 10m helps collect the canter.
  • Exercise: For the canter/walk transition, do a 10m circle along the wall, when coming back toward the wall again, ask for the downward transition. The wall acts like a half-halt, makes the horse back off or shift back. Makes it easier to get correct transition to walk without pulling.
  • You need to have a really good canter/walk/canter transition, where horse is stepping forward into a walk, prior to teaching flying changes.

 

Shoulder-In:

  • Active! Round and loose in hand. Want to see shoulders turn off the track.
  • Not bent in neck, but flexion in the poll. Move the shoulders not the head and neck.
  • When going to the right “Right Leg, Left Rein” mantra.
  • Should stay in the angle you put him in.
  • Do a test by counter flexing in Shoulder-in (should have a renvers feeling).
  • Mantra for shoulder-In: Inside Leg to Outside Rein. Repeat.
  • Shoulder-In is from the shoulders, not the rein.

Travers in Canter:

  • A test to determine if your horse is supple. If he really bends. Do this before teaching, trying Half-Pass.
  • Weight on inside
  • Inside leg by girth, outside leg pushes hindquarters in.
  • Do forward and back while IN travers (3 times down long side forward/back in HI).
    • Push hip in, then forward/back.
  • If you can collect in canter Travers then it’s getting ready for canter pirouette.
  • Do on 20 meter circle – round on outside. This is thinking pirouette without the massive strain. Way to build up to it.
  • Then move between travers and Shoulder-Fore on 20m circle. Push quarters in and out to teach how to ride between both legs.

 

Collected Canter:

  • Test it by pushing hands forward. Horse needs to stay in collected canter without rein. Push the hands straight forward, if horse speeds up or quits, then not right.
  • Ask for collection and expect the horse to hold it.
  • Don’t keep nagging/asking with each step.  Ask and expect the horse to hold it until asked for something else.
  • Need to get collection in a soft way.

 

Flying Changes:

  • Need to have a good quality canter/walk/canter BEFORE flying changes.
  • If you don’t have a good canter/walk transitions then you’ll never have a good canter/halt transition.
  • How to teach Flying Change:
    • Doesn’t teach in a wide open area (like diagonal)
    • Uses a figure 8 type exercise at one end.
    • Example of Figure 8
    • This exercise uses the turn off in the corners to keep the horse engaged.
    • Most issues are a straightness issue.

Half-Pass:

  • Keep the rhythm
  • Shoulders move.
  • Round and loose in the hand
  • Rider has to position the horses body from the body and 2 reins, NOT the inside rein.

 

Pirouette:

  • If pirouette whips around then it’s because horse is not off the riders inside leg..
  • Exercise for pirouette:
    • Half-pass from the corner to X, X down center line in shoulder-fore  (to almost C) , then do 1/2 of a 10 m circle and half-pass back to X.
    • piroutte exercise
    • Make the half of a circle at the end smaller to increase difficulty (mimicking pirouette). Can get it to shoulder-fore down center, with large pirouette to end up at quarter line.
    • Always do different sizes so the horse can’t anticipate and rush.
    • Need to be able to come down the center line and not have the horse take over control in anticipation of pirouette.

Tips:

  • The short side and the corner set up the next movement. A bad short side and corner leads to a bad movement.
  • Short side is used to collect, activate, re-balance the horse.
  • A horse at PSG should be able to collect on the spot. Shouldn’t need several strides to achieve it.
  • Working Pirouette:
    • Hip in and do smaller and larger circles in traverse
  • Rider hips to rider hands
  • Keep the energy. Keep the work easy in order to keep the horse keen.
  • ALWAYS outside straighter.
  • Always do hard side first. Otherwise, have to do hard side after horse is already a bit more tired if doing it second.
  • The leg is NOT there to keep him going. That’s the horse’s job.
  • Activate the canter. Have to go forward in order to be able to collect.
  • When the horse is strong, make that correction and then SOFTEN.
  • Charlotte does stretch work and transitions dedicated days.



Other:

  • Charlotte said she thinks all lazy horses should be police horses.
  • Short  reins.
  • Bum down – horse has to be in front of leg.
  • Keep the rider’s upper body soft. The movement flows through the upper body.
  • Let the horse make mistakes and then correct. Pat the horse for effort.
  • Difference in what it takes for a horse to “sit” or to “push” i.e. passage is push. Horse is usually better in one than the other.
  • The horse was jumping into a canter when asked for a more forward trot. Charlotte said “she canters because she’s on the forehand”. The horse couldn’t go forward, so broke into canter which is easier than actually pushing from behind to go forward.

First Jumping Lesson

I went to my first jumping lesson last Wednesday night. No pics,  sorry.  I went by myself. 

I was so nervous before it started! Really nervous! Sweaty palms,  heat racing, type nervous. 

They brought up 2 horses, and a pony. Guess who got the pony? 😂 

Actually,  it was a super cute pony who was about the size of Joy. 

There were three other ladies close to my age in the class.  All at about my level of riding (bit more experienced in jumping).  I was worried about riding in front of them at first,  and making a fool out of myself,  but they were so incredibly nice.   

I haven’t 2 pointed in 30 odd years. I couldn’t seem to get the mechanics of it down.  It seems so simple,  and yet I was either tipping forward or falling back.  I couldn’t stop posting in 2 point.  What’s up with that?!? 

Instructor had us go over a line of poles on the ground first.  The lesson pony,  Willow, handled them with ease. I just clung on and focused on my body position while Willow did all the work.  

When the instructor was satisfied with our pole work she let us jump a single cross rail.  

I had mixed emotions about going over the first jump.  Excited, with an undercurrent of feeling nauseous.  Part of me wanted to quit,  but the other ladies there weren’t scared.  They weren’t even phased.  It made me feel like I could do it too.  

The first lady rode over the cross rail easily and then it was my turn.  Those jumps seem so big when I’m on the back of a horse.  They also seem to get massively larger the closer I get to it.  What was a 6 inch jump, started looking like a 4 foot oxer in my mind by the time we got to it.  

I closed my eyes. 

Willow jumped over it easily and with a nice fluid effort.  Easy to ride it.  I got scolded for ducking my upper body down (oops),  and i made a mental note to fix it next jump. 

Second jump was easier.  Jump seemed a lot smaller this time.  I kept my upper body as still as possible.  I had issues holding 2 point though and wobbled backward a bit. I wasn’t quite in balance. 

Then the instructor changed things up and had us jump the first cross rail the opposite way, and continue down the line to the 2nd cross rail.    
I tried to watch the other ladies as they did their jumps.  They made it seem easy. 

Then my turn…  The first cross rail went well,  but as soon as the pony landed she started cantering.  I’ve never cantered over a jump before and the second jump was coming up very fast!  I was freaking out.  I was mid-debate with myself about pulling the pony back to a trot or not when suddenly we were at the next cross rail.  It seemed so massive.  At least a 6 foot wall.  I grabbed mane.  Pony soared over it and landed gracefully on the other side.  My heart was thudding in my chest.  I almost wanted to quit at that point.  And yet..  OMG it was fun.  Scary,  but fun! 

Instructor had us come around and try it again.  This time it didn’t seem quite as big of a jump,  nor as terrifying when the pony cantered up to it.  Not quite the smoothest approach to the fence,  but I felt like we stayed in sync a bit better the second time. 

We did that line a couple more times and by the end I felt a lot braver about jumping.  

I’m still not really confident in my 2 point position.  And I had issues with keeping my upper body up when I closed the angle of my hips.  I think it’s lack of strong back muscles.  I was really feeling every back muscle after I got off the pony.  Those were the only muscles that felt sore afterward.

I go back for my second lesson on the 11th. I’m really excited about it.  Really fun group of ladies and I get to challenge my fears and learn new things.  I can’t wait! 

Oh,  I was really pleased that the instructor praised me for staying balanced when the pony jumped the second line of cross rails. She said the strides were off,  or something,  and so pony had to jump from a bad spot.  Instructor said I did a good job of staying out of the way and not messing up the pony’s balance.  I was thinking..   “My motto in life: stay out of the way and keep the peace” 😂 

All in all,  a fantastic group of ladies to ride with,  a safe and well trained pony to learn on, and a knowledgeable instructor who pushed me just outside my comfort zone but not beyond. It waa an exhilarating experience.  Scary, but exhilarating. 

Once in a Lifetime

I do occasional volunteer work for the USDF Region 2 Director (few hours a month, not much).  It makes me feel like I’m still a part of the dressage community. Makes me feel like I’m contributing in some small way.

Anyway, a month or so ago the organizer for the Charlotte Dujardin clinic approached the Region 2 Director about advertising for the clinic at the end of September.  I happened to see that the organizer was offering free tickets in exchange, so I may have pressured the Director to follow up on that.

Totally altruistic! 😉

No really, I had good intentions. The plan was to give them away to the people who volunteered to help out at the Region 2 Championship show. Unfortunately we didn’t get the tickets in time.

Then we tried to give them away to people who would volunteer to work the Annual Convention.

No takers.

So there we were… sitting on four free tickets, for an event in just a few days.

.

.

.

The Region 2 Director asked if I wanted two of the tickets.

ME?!

OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!

YES!!!!!

But I’m broke. Capital B – Broke.

I don’t think I can afford the gas down there. It’s a 5 hour drive. The clinic doesn’t end until after 9pm. It’s a 5 hour drive back. I can’t afford lodging. I can’t afford gas… I can’t afford this. I shouldn’t go! 

I decided instead that I would ask one of the up-and-coming, local, dressage trainers that I really admire if she’d like the tickets. I emailed her and waited.

As SOON as I hit send.. my heart sank. I immediately regretted it. I was depressed. The whole world sucked. My life sucked. I hated everyone.  [insert extreme self-pity here]

Ha! I didn’t realize how badly I had wanted to go until I realized I couldn’t go…

And of course, the lady responded in less than an hour. Yes, she’d love to go. She’s thrilled. Great opportunity, etc…

Of course she wanted them.

I couldn’t go…

[extreme sad face]

.

.

BUT, she only needed one ticket. Not two….

WHAT?!?

No way!!!!

Now the whole world is a magical place! I’m ecstatic! There are rainbows and unicorns dotting the fields. I’m on cloud nine!!

Yeah… I guess it meant more to me then I thought it did.

So, I’m going. It’s still a 10 hour round trip drive for basically a 4 hour clinic. It still means I’ll have to sleep in my car or drive home through the night. It still means we probably won’t be able to eat for a month (I could stand to lose weight anyway). But….

I GET TO GO TO THE Charlotte Dujardin clinic on Friday!!

Something like this is once in a lifetime for me.

[Eminem’s Lose Yourself theme music  playing in the background]

Free tickets, a location I can drive to within a day, AND I already had the day off from work.  It’s fate! Haha

So, Yay! Woo Hoo!

 

Wilmington-Rider-List

 

Broken Ponys

I have no idea what happened,  but both Ava and Joy went lame within days of each other.

The real reason is because I had an event I wanted to take one of them to this coming Saturday. I was really excited about it too. Like, extremely.

Since I didn’t care which mare to take, they obviously both had to go lame. Spoiling the owners fun would’t work unless they successfully went lame in tandem.

Farrier suspects abscess in Joy,  but couldn’t find any pockets.  He wasn’t sure with Ava.

Actually, my big fear was laminitis again.  I don’t think it is though.  Both mares are lacking the heat,  pulses,  etc. Appears to be only one foot in both.  And they had no issues holding either hoof up for farrier on hard concrete.  So,  I think, knock on wood,  that it’s not the dreaded L word.

Ava however is feeling frisky enough to set up a barrage of kicking at the wall. She’s obviously mortally wounded and at deaths door.

Farrier packed Joy’s hoof with drawing salve last Friday. I didn’t see any difference in the hoof/dressing a couple days later, but she’s moving around better. Not totally sound, but not three legged lame either.

Edit to Add: I let both mares out in the pasture last night.  Ava drops,  rolls,  gets up and pushes off into a gallop,  farts,  aims a big buck right at me,  and immediately crashes flat on her side. 😂 She jumps back up,  shakes the dust off,  and casually strolls out toward the field like she meant that.  I might have been more empathetic toward the fall if she hadn’t been aiming her hind feet at me when she lost her balance.  Little snot.  Apparently no harm done.  A minor ding to her massive ego.  😁

Did I link my last video of Joy (for those of you not subscribed on youtube)? If not, here it is:

I have bending issues to the left on both my horses. I’m 99% sure it’s me, but STILL not sure how to fix it.  Example: the walk pirouette left.. had a really hard time wrapping her around my left leg (didn’t really accomplish it).

The Death Wish

I’ve had this wild thought in the back of my head for several years now of trying eventing.  

It’s insane.  I’m petrified of jumping.  

It took me 2 years to get comfortable with ground poles.  I spent the first 3 months of of trotting over one ground pole with my eyes clamped shut every time we got close to it and praying until we were over it.  I still can’t canter over one.  

I’m a chicken. 🐔

But,  a mere 2 years later,  and I can now ride 3 or 4 trot poles in a row with my eye’s OPEN,  at least 60% of the time.   😂 

Anyway,  a few weeks ago I went to a local 3 day event to watch.  My real reason was to assess the jumps,  the riders, etc.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,  but fear and other priorities have always held me back.  

When I scoped out the event,  the course looked awesome.  They had this great beginner level course set up that was literally small logs on the ground.  The riders were so freakin’ nice.  I stopped a few people to ask where to go,  or where not to stand,  and everyone happily helped. Just super nice people.

But,  what I really liked…  All the horses were Normal.  A bunch of unknown origin ponies,  a lot of TBs,  several drafty looking crosses.  The riders ranged from the super athletic looking ladies to the large bottomed,  flabbier,  older adult looking riders (they looked like ME!!).  

So,  I thought,  why not?  I can try it once.

Better than always wishing I had and regretting it when it’s too late. 

So I signed up for jumping lessons.  

Then utterly freaked because I don’t have the money.  So i texted everyone I knew asking if they needed work done in exchange for $40. 

I’m pathetic.  

Now I need to find an extra $40 every two weeks over the winter.  Aarrggh! 

I don’t think my friends and family are going to employee me enough to support my riding issues.  

If only I could get overtime pay for overtime work (thank you salary rules 😡 grrr). 

I’ll have to figure something out.  I’d really like to try just one event. At least to know I conquered my fear and made a dream a reality.  I’m never going to be an upper level dressage rider.  Nor do I have the money to afford rated dressage shows.  But competing in one beginner level,  local,  3 day event is something I could cross off the bucket list. 

I may need to start selling blood to make this happen though.  😯

There’s got to be someway I can earn an extra $80/month…

Hunter Clinic

As a poor sap who really doesn’t understand “Hunter land”,  i was a bit lost on the intricacies of the clinic.  However,  man,  was I impressed when the clinician made them all do basic dressage work to start off.  It was nice to see that good fundamentals are fundamentals for everything.  

You know what really shocked me…  Each group lesson was 2 hours long.  

My horse would’ve died.  

I would’ve died.  😂 

Makes me recommitted to doing more endurance work with my horses.  Not that I’ll probably ever do “Hunters”, but mine are exhausted after 20 minutes.  Kind of pathetic after watching these machines go for 2 hours straight. 

Anyway,  first group I watched was rather disheartening.  Didn’t seem able to steer,  stop,  or go.  It was like watching kamikaze fighters dive bombing fences. Scary,  yet mesmorizing. 

Second group was much better.  You could actually see shortening and lengtheing strides,  balancing the horse,  etc.  One of the riders had the most to die for flying changes I’ve ever seen in real life.  Just amazing.  None of the late behind,  shuffle change,  weirdness I sometimes see passed off as flying changes.

Oh,  they even had a few older riders in the mix.  That was cool to see.  One older lady’s chestnut got a bug up its butt and decided to hop,  buck,  around.  That little lady stayed glued to the saddle.  Quite impressive to see.  My heart was in my throat watching it though! 

Hunter world, to me, is a crazed land of perfectionist insanity that both fascinates and appalls me.  😁 


It was interesting to watch the clinic. A lot of good stuff talked about.  Applicable to any horse rider.  I actually learned a few things,  so that was cool.  And as always,  I’ve gained a deeper respect for the difficulties my sister disciplines face.  

Best part EVER… not a single freaking auditing fee!!  *cough* dressage people *cough*  Anyone who wanted to come and learn was welcome to watch.  Even a naive fool like me was welcomed. 

So there I was,  dressage rider,  watching a hunter clinic.  😀

It was fun and educational! 

Catch-Riding 5

Last installment of the “Catch-Riding” saga.

The horse that won’t go…

Read parts One, three, and four here (part two says nothing).

The owner was there for this ride. In addition to the owner, there were several other helpful ladies in the arena who each had a suggestion on how to ride the horse. I don’t think I went more than 2 steps with someone suggesting I do something different (kick, turn,  etc).

To be honest, it was.. uh, stressful.

Riding someone else’s horse in front of them, while feeling judged by half a dozen people who keep calling out how to make the horse actually move… it’s really not as much fun as it sounds.

I don’t think the were actually judging me, it just felt that way.
I think they were trying to be helpful.

Anyway, I had the same issue of getting the first trot of the ride. It wasn’t quite as bad as the previous ride, and I successfully worked through it (once the horse was convinced I really meant it, again). After that, he got right down to work and motored along like he was enjoying himself. He actually seemed more willing to keep going without reminders this ride. I didn’t even need to use my legs except to remind him for bend or capture the outside energy on a turn.

The owner suggested I do several walk/trot transitions, which I had assumed would exacerbate the balking issue, but those worked great at making him sharper off the leg.

Reminder to self:  Transitions done correctly really do work!

I felt like I was gaining more control of the entire outside of the horse this ride.  Less drifting.  We went were I pointed him and he wasn’t escaping (too much) out the outside.

He felt like he was more honestly powering from behind,  and reaching into the bit (not honestly accepting it yet,  but wasn’t backed off of it).

He was really fun to ride once he was motoring along under his own power. I find it so weird that the horse has such an aversion to forward at the beginning, and yet acts like he really enjoyed working once he got going.

I’m still confused how they consistently get him forward, so I asked the owner again how they made him go.  Like, what special tricks did she have up her sleeve. She responded with that’s why they use spurs.  I think it was a glib response, but then she made the comment that I must have calves of steel since he was going without spurs for me (I don’t actually have calves of steel. More like jello.). I still really want to see one of his regular riders ride him so I can pick their brains while they’re working through his issues.

I was really stressed with all the eyes on me this ride…  I didn’t ride very long and was glad to get off.

After the ride, I got a bit of the ‘barn drama’ from the cast and crew that was there that day.  I wanted no part of that discussion. Ha! It made me glad I don’t board anymore.

I told the owner after that ride that I couldn’t come out as much anymore,  but if she wanted a one time a week rider than I’d be happy to help for another month (it’s a 45 min one way to drive to ride her horse).  She didn’t pursue that option.

However,  the owner did graciously offer to let me take lessons on her horse if I wanted.  I think that’d be fun,  and beneficial, but…. I’m having severe cash flow issues now.  Of course no one believes me when I say I’m broke,  so it’s always interpreted as “don’t wanna”.  I guess it makes sense.  I mean,  who doesn’t have an extra $30 lying around?  Oh right,  this girl…  😕🙁

I really want to see owner and the other rider ride this horse now.  What do they use to snap him out of his “I don’t wanna”  moments.  Learning new tools to resolve this issue could be really useful in the future.

All in all, a massive learning experience and I’m thrilled I had a chance to learn from this horse and his owner and other rider.  Plus,  just being able to sit on a horse of this caliber was a dream come true!  I did find that my self-confidence,  or lack of,  really hindered me in this experience.  I felt out of place and lacking (my own issues at play). I had a hard time staying focused and not being worried how others saw me.  It’s something I’ll have to keep working on.

Catch Riding 4

The horse that won’t go.

See: Catch Ride and Catch-Riding 3

Note: This occurred a while ago, but I left the timeline as is since it follows the other post. 

It’s been 3 rides now,  and I can honestly say I’ve never met a horse that I had so many issues about just GOING FORWARD.

Pre-ride tack up

Last night I rode (our 3rd ride), and although he was a tad bit better,  we still had two rather big fights. Both were related to the very first trot of the session.  After that,  he seemed more amendable. I’ll get to that later.

The Box Exercise at the Walk:

The good stuff: i was able to do a semi-reasonable rendition of the box exercise at the walk when focusing on the shoulders only.  He wiggles.  He drifts.  He thinks half-assed is good enough, but when more precision was requested he complied.  I couldn’t get anything at all the ride before this because I had zero “Go”  buttons at all. This time he at least kept walking and he allowed me to turn with my thigh and outside aids better.

The bad: There was very limited understanding of moving the hind end,  and he has limited understanding of the outside rein.  And he seemed resistant to crossing his hind legs.

In the saddle, when i ask for leg-yield on the wall,  he takes short, kind of hopping strides if crossing the left over the right. For the box exercise, he took short steps to cross his hinds. When I’m on the ground and ask him to move his hind away and cross he does so with big, sweeping strides.   Seems to be an ‘in the saddle’ issue. Still unsure if it’s pain or simply a balance/strength issue…

Halt/Walk Transitions:

The good: i was able to get the walk from the halt with a light aid even next to the door where he got stuck and utterly froze the first two rides.

The bad: the strike off to the walk is still lackluster and without true energy.  He sloths his way around,  exerting the least amount of energy possible.  He falls into the walk and ambles.

Walk/Trot Transition:

The good: after the initial issue of picking up a trot for the first time,  his walk/trot transitions became better.  He became more workman like in his attitude,  less belligerent.  A couple of the walk to trot transitions were actually decent and had some energy.   Like Training Level decent…

I have no delusions that “workman like” attitude will roll over to the next ride.

The bad: my first ask for a walk to trot transition,  he planted,  raised his head,  and humped his back with a definite “No”. I pulled him off balance to the side and got his feet moving at the walk again,  I asked for trot again lightly,  nothing. I asked harder and SAME FRIGGIN’ response! Utter No.

Finally I turned him sharply,  booted him hard with both heels,  and popped him lightly with the whip (I was really expecting a big buck).  He lurched into a sort of jog trot,  so i petted him up and told him he was good and let him walk again.   Asked for the trot again lightly, and after that it was fine.

I’m still not a hundred percent sure this is truly a behavioral issue and not a pain response. OR, he had pain that’s now gone, but is still expecting pain… His reactions seem over the top to me.  He apparently has had several medical issues in the past that would’ve caused him pain, but he’s got a really good owner who has gone to great lengths to ensure he’s healthy and pain free now.  So why is he still acting like he’s going to die if he moves?

Leg yield:

The good: he let me move him with just a weight aid both ways after the first one. No calf or leg needed at all (he’s incredibly sensitive to seat).

The bad: he’s drifting his hind behind him.  Bare minimum of crossing behind.  He becomes resistant when attempting to half-halt the outside rein in order to realign his front and back. Assuming it’s not pain/injury related, then I think the hind end drift will decrease once he understands the hind-end box exercise  and outside rein.  And i also think the wall leg-yield will help him limber up more and increase his understanding of outside rein and inside hind.  He wasn’t “bad”,  he’s just not correct. Maybe his other rider has tricks that work better for him. I was operating on path of least resistance, or… however I can trick him into working correctly without hitting his “I won’t” wall.

Trot/Canter:

The good: His second and later responses to a light canter aid were prompt.

The bad: I could not get the canter the first time.  He wouldn’t even give a wrong response.  I got no, zero, nada, nothing response.  He just trotted along like nothing else was being asked.  I assumed it was me. Could be my balance was off,  or he felt unbalanced and refused.  I changed direction, tried to get him as balanced as I could and I asked again. He picked it up no issues. All other trot/canter transitions were great.

All downward transitions were horrendous. I don’t know what his downward transition buttons are. I can’t really half-halt him to set him up, and he doesn’t push into the bridle as a forward thinking transition, so every downward trans looked like a camel. Unbalanced and ugly.  I’ll have to ask his riders next time I see them how they cue for downwards.

My Very Amateur Impressions:

He’s very stiff through his ribs and back.

His right side appears to be less able to stretch when going left,  I think.  Probably because his left hind is weaker than his right.  He seems right dominant.  Stronger on that side.  Tighter muscles.

He slipped on the footing twice at the end of the last ride.  This is super footing, so it’s not a footing issue. Both times the left hind seemed to just spin out from under him.  I’m suspicious something else is going on with him…. Perhaps it’s simply weaker and he was overly tired?

And, either I really suck, or his training level is more on par with Training Level than what I had assumed. I never know though.. I know I’m not the best rider. I’m passable, decent, but compared to some I’m like a toad sitting on a log. I’m really dying to see his other rider and owner ride him sometime. I would love to know if it’s my riding that’s the issue, or it’s the same for everyone.

I bribed him with a couple of treats this ride. When he put in a bit of effort I gave him a small treat.  I was trying to use walk as a reward, but wondered if I could reach him faster by using both a walk break and a small treat. I know some frown on this, but I’ve always used bribes for Ava and Joy while riding. Didn’t hurt Ava’s test scores any.  This horse just seems so… resigned. Not that I really blame him. Who wants to work out? Not me. If I were a horse, I’d be that jerk pony that won’t go above a walk while little kids kicked furiously at my sides. HAhaha