We’re on the cusp of June, and I still don’t have Joy hauling yet. I’m disappointed in myself and my lack of progress. It’s my fault. I’m scared/nervous to take that next step (actually haul her). Joy’s ready, I just need to make that leap.
So disappointed in myself.
New goal… take Joy on trailer ride around the block this weekend.
I’m already anxiety riddled!!
This next part is probably not interesting, but I wanted to write it down for my own benefit.
I’ve been riding Joy rather consistently, but I’m not sure how to recap it. I had hubby take video the end of April, and video a week or two into May, and I realized I had turned Joy into a nervous ball of tension by focusing on canter and canter departs so much. So I backed off on that. I’m working on bending and trying to get her equally bearing weight on all 4 legs (instead of loading the left more than the right). A lot of leg yield to the right with oomphf to get her to evenly distribute the weight. But mainly bending. I’m having a heck of a time with the bending. I don’t know if it’s because she’s so compact, or so crooked in her body, or her rider suckers (probably that one), but wow.. it’s a long, slow slog, Every Single Ride, to get her to loosen up and bend through that short little back of hers.
Because of this, I reintegrated Shoulder-In and Haunches-In to the program. Still at the walk. These seem to really help her overall. Not only does it make her think about what she’s doing (she’s got an active mind), but it also seems to relax her while focusing her.
I also introduced Shoulder-In to Renver at the walk. And by golly, she got it after the third attempt. I thought it would blow her mind, but nope… she handled it like a pro. That one seemed to really help her suppleness through her body. Her walk afterward was much bigger and more swingy.
I’ve just started introducing SI/HI in trot again the last two rides. I played with it a bit last year, and earlier this spring, but it was not good. Last ride though, she gave me a few nice strides both directions. It felt like it was easier for her, like she could hold the bend and the forward better. It wasn’t as stilted. Nothing I’d want to show anyone yet, but it’s getting better.
I did notice that in Haunches-In to the right she was tilting her head (both walk and trot) quite dramatically at times. She doesn’t seem to do this going left. After trying everything I could think of to fix it, I finally stumbled on counter flexing her just slightly, and that seemed to help. Then we went back to true flexion and her head stayed fairly straight. I’m not sure if it was a symptom of losing her outside shoulder some, or if she just needed to release her poll a bit, or maybe counter flexing caused me to release the death grip I had on the inside rein. Not sure…
The other thing I tried with some success was when going to the right, I was circling Joy in every corner and her left shoulder kept escaping (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little). So I tried a fellow bloggers idea of holding that outside rein a bit stronger, really steady, and then really pushing her into the left rein with the inside leg. We struggled with that for a few corners, I was about to junk the idea and move on when suddenly it worked. She bent! The shoulder stayed under her, she quieted her chomping, and she navigated the circle smoothly. We moved on to something else after that, but I’m hoping I can duplicate the results again next ride. I’m worried about using this technique again though because I’m not entirely sure I understand the why of it. I’ll have to research it some more. I can get too strong, and this technique could totally play into my need to death grip the reins.
All of this bending work helps Joy’s trot. We start off pretty pathetic, but towards the end her trot feels a lot nicer. A bit more impulsion, she’s not rushing, she feels more balanced and like she’s finding it easier to carry me. Oh, and she’s able to respond quicker to the seat/leg aids. Which, duh! but, sometimes I have to crawl my way to the answers…
Having said all of that… I still really need to get that canter tuned up, refined. Heck, I’d settle for sort of balanced half the time. I keep hoping that the stronger and more supple I can make her, the easier that canter will get for her. But the other half of me is like “Canter will only get better if you canter!!”. Yet, cantering really gets Joy nervous. I don’t blame her. The arena is up/down and on a slope, she’s not balanced, we’ve no room to go straight at any point in the arena… it’s really hard for her. I may have to bite the bullet and take her out back to the field to canter on a straight line. The main issue is that *I* get nervous out there, by ourselves, cantering next to the woods where the deer like to crash through the brush and send Joy skittering in the opposite direction.
Oh, I almost forgot… we’ve also been playing with walk pirouette. Sometimes we get a few steps that are nice. Most of the time I bungle it. She gets the idea of it, but we lose momentum because she’s not really in front of my aids yet. I was happy that she understood the idea of what I was asking for. She tried, and she didn’t get frustrated or upset about it. So that was good. I can’t find a good happy point of being “in front of the aids” and relaxed. We’re either FORWARD to the max and super tense, or no go button but relaxed.
Other than that… we’ve been a few trail rides. Joy surprised me one particular day by throwing a mini-tantrum when I asked her to leave the other horses (to go home). She literally jumped straight up into the air with all four feet. The neighbor who saw this said we got about a foot off the ground. I figure if the pony can toss herself and my fat ass into the air that high, then she might make a decent dressage pony yet. Of course, after that we couldn’t just go home and quit, so I took her back out to the field behind the neighbors house and worked on a big forward trot with connection (which surprisingly she gave me), then I took her home and worked her a bit more in the arena trying to find that sweet spot of long and low yet connected (still super iffy on this. Not going so well). Our following trail ride was a very calm experience, and Joy had no issues leaving her buddies once it was time to head home.
Last thought… Joy is deathly afraid of the big, black muddy puddle on the edge of the neighbors property. Not that I blame her, but it’s not like I asked her to walk through it.. I just wanted to walk PAST it. Instead, she threw herself backwards at light speed and we almost crashed down the embankment behind us. I think she’s afraid of the water. I already know she hates black earth, but combine black earth with water and Joy loses her shit. So yesterday, we had a dark, water logged, muddy puddle in the yard and I made Joy walk through it several times. It took me jumping around in it like an idiot for a few minutes before Joy joined me, but she finally did. Not sure Eventing Pony is in Joy’s future….maybe… we’ll see.