As mentioned in the last post, we had a bit of a tough ride on Friday. Saturday and Sunday were both continuations of that theme. This is not a pony who forgives you easily! The weather was decent and sunny and I was in a good frame of mind this time, but there were only minor improvements noticeable at the end of each session. I'm feeling a little down about it tonight. Even though I know setbacks can be a normal part of the process, in the back of my mind I always worry I am doing something wrong and "ruining" my horse.
The main issue was a lack of focus. I didn't have hers at all. All the usual tricks I try weren't cutting it and my overly reactive and drama filled pony showed up to the party in a big way. Even a 20 meter circle was a supreme effort on my part as Ginny was wanting to look and spook first one direction, then the next. Something I've had success with in the past are leg yields and spirals, but she was blowing through me, not just forwards, but also through my outside aids. My other trick, is of course, to just ask for more forward. But this past week, Ginny is wound so tightly that I can't really seem to get her relaxed enough over her back to really get her forward and working from behind until after a good long ride. Asking for too much forward at the beginning of a ride is a bit of a balancing act at the best of times - it can go the wrong way and get her even more 'up' and anxious :)
I'm missing having a coach because I'm left making my best guess as to what I as the rider should be doing. The issue I'm having with with the past few rides at the ring is I will ask for what I want normally, but she is distracted and not listening. I immediately ask a little more firmly and she acts like I've completely ambushed her - very over dramatic downward transitions and bolting forward when I am a little more insistent with my leg. No consistency, she's either trying to suck back behind my leg and mess around spooking or leaping forward in front of my leg and rushing. She's also been super fussy with the contact. I suspect my little mare is growing up and there was a bit of testing going on this weekend in addition to that grudge from Friday's ride :)
I ended up doing a ton of walk/trot transitions until she was listening to my seat and leg. I followed that up with turns on the haunches and forehand as a friendly reminder that applying my outside leg is not a request to bolt forward. A previous rider had left 4 ground poles set in a circle, and I ended up using those to help with trot tempo while I asked for leg yields in and out of the circle, followed by some squares. For myself, I focused on sitting evenly, and riding softly, but as accurately as possible. As always, I try to be super consistent with my aids and try not to overreact if she reacts erratically. On Saturday, I eventually had her going nicely forward and straight on the long side.
On Sunday, there were a few other riders coming and going as well as a lady stacking lumber near the arena. Ginny's attention span was even less than on Saturday and she was acting really herdbound and spooky. The other riders felt obligated to give us a wide berth and I felt guilty for "hogging" the arena by taking up such a large bubble. I ended up leaving early, burning off some steam power trotting her up the hill to the trails. I also worked some more on transitions and having her carry herself on the flat sections while we rode the big loop back around to the barn. Not an ideal ride, but I'd like to keep my horsey friends and club membership :)
I think tomorrow I might reverse the process and get her out for a good trail ride before I attempt a ride at the ring - I'm almost embarrassed to say we are pushing the two year mark and I still haven't found a consistent key to getting her to relax when she's in a bit of a state. For whatever reason(s), she's been increasingly spooky at the ring the past couple of weeks - maybe a tired pony will be a better behaved one!
I'm happy to say I kept my patience and don't think I was anxious, I just kept focused on the result I wanted. I know her so well now that she can't really scare me no matter how badly behaved she is. I also know she's fully capable of what I ask, so I feel confident being persistent in my requests. I was actually fairly happy after each ride ( any time in the saddle is time well spent, after all!)
Of course once I sat down to write this blog and started mentally reviewing my rides, I started to feel a bit down. This weekend was reminiscent of where we were at this time last year, and I thought we were well past that, particularly since she has been a lot braver and more accepting of things lately, and I have been feeling like I have a good handle on how she needs to be ridden. Horses certainly have a way of keeping you humble.