Monday, 30 January 2017

Stuck

Ughh. I've been having the most no-good-very-bad rides on the pony ever.

Long time readers will know that it's been a process to get Bridget even remotely forward and interested. Her default answer to anything resembling work is almost always a firm NO. Obviously, that's not an accepted answer around here, but we do compromise and try to keep things more fun and interesting for her than the average. But, we still seem to go in cycles where that NO answer gets tried over and over.

I feel like I've been winning the forward war...in general. She actually goes now, but I'd still say the majority of the she time needs frequent reminders that coming to a standstill isn't cool. (Think canter stride, canter stride, canter  stride, Bridget: "Stop?", me use leg (50% effective at getting response), me use more leg (75% effective), me use crop (100% effective), canter stride, canter stride, repeat. the same goes for walk...trot we are somehow cool to cruise around. We've been having a bit of a bootcamp on that topic and being much more firm about the time frame the corrections escalate/happen in, also Bridget being much more honest about staying forward to start with. I felt like progress was being made. We had a great jump lesson on Monday where she was excited, forward  and really taking me to the fences.

And...the wheels fell well and truly off this weekend. If you've ever attempted to jump school and been met with your horse attempting to stop/suck back every single stride prior to the fence, over the fence, and after the fence you have my sincere sympathies. Since getting her motivated that way failed, I moved on to just asking for a canter, and a gallop. Just keep it simple. Which resulted in a ton of angry faces and even more bucking. Little brat. I won the battle in that she eventually cantered off with no protests, but I had to compromise on the actual quickness of the response, and she was looking for any excuse to stop. So, pretty much back at square one. She goes, but not happily or freely.

Long saga short, she is wildly inconsistent day to day, week to week. She's always been this way.  I don't know why. My coach says it's  "pony mare" syndrome. I say the inconsistency is driving me nuts, particularly as she's amazing on the good days!


To recap: She's checked regularly by the vet,  farrier, and saddle fitter. We take lessons twice a week. Her teeth are current, her saddle fits, her back isn't sore (just checked by fitter this weekend!), her feet are in great shape, she's never been unsound. she's fit enough for what we ask. I have professional help. I'm not a beginner, the basic expectations for her remain consistent. My own mood, the time of day, the weather, none seem to overly affect her. She does a variety of things, and although jumping is her favorite, that's still no guarantee she'll actually be in the mood on the day. She is inconsistent as well with my coach and other riders, so we can likely eliminate rider issues as the sole problem, although I freely admit I'm likely part of it. Of further interest might be that she behaves exactly the same in the pasture with her buddies. She gets beat up more than she should, simply because she can't be bothered to move away from the dominant horses after repeated warnings. They finally kick/bite etc, and she sort of takes it for a bit before she meanders off with a pissy look and gets more beatings because of it. Pony 'tude - she's got it.
Ancient picture, still representative of an average don't touch me/don't wanna go forward moment.

Since Bridget and I have had multiple discussions this weekend regarding showing up to work, and respect in the workplace, I expect she'll be fantastic tonight. I'll be excited and happy and think my hard work is paying off. And so the cycle continues.

I won't lie, after the recent antics I'm pretty down on  eventing this year. I almost changed focus this winter because I felt like getting her forward and honest enough was always going to be more work than the fun of jumping XC, or even stadium on her bad days. Then we had some good outings, and I sort of talked myself into thinking it's not a super big deal if she doesn't show up to work a few times this season. The times she does show up are fun.

For my own sanity, I'm going to give it one more season. If it's still not fun overall and her work ethic is still crazy inconsistent by next fall we'll re-evaluate things.

Thanks for hanging in for my vent! She's a great pony, and I can't see myself ever selling, because that laid back, intelligent, opinionated view of life brings with it a ton of positive attributes..

However, something needs to change. Whether that's something we can fix with me and/or Bridget, or it means moving on to another ride or redefining some goals is something I'm going to discuss with my coach.




19 comments:

  1. Rico was sort of like this, I almost retired him for it, it's sooooo frustrating. I did end up being able to fix it, but he's not a pony or a mare so this might not work but I figure I'll let you know what worked for him!

    First, about 30% of his lethargy was caused by ulcers, so I scopes and treated those. Then I assessed his diet and made a couple minor changes (put him on Core Builder, but we were at I1 aiming for GP so on another horse I wouldn't do it, but good to assess diet).

    The thing that helped the most was a "GTFO" button. I essentially taught him to take off with me when I lightened my seat and both legs went back. Warm up was a lot of cantering around, then both legs back and smacking him if he didn't down shift. This helped so freaking much. If he went to stop, all I had to do was give him that aid. It became essential to half halts, pirouettes, and piaffe- three instances he loved to interpret as "whoa." Changing trainers also helped to reinforce this, my previous trainer didn't value energy as much as my next trainer did.

    The other major change that helped was getting him freakishly fit. I used upper level eventing fitness plans and he cantered for a total of 30 minutes every day. All of this is documented in my blog around May-June 2014 btw.

    Good luck! I totally feel your pain :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the excellent advice! I'm going to check out those posts. Your GTFO button is exactly what we've been installing. Legs back, half seat, and for now, I do it with my reins dropped. I was super hopeful and it was going great, then pony rebelled big time this weekend and that button = assorted airs above the ground, although technically the dolphin leaping impression part of it was moving us forward ;) I have hopes she'll realize that's a ton more work than just cantering/galloping and it will fade as quickly as it came. Shes currently on timothy/alfalfa mix hay and mineral mix thats supposed to balance as per the hay analysis. I've been trying to research feed for energy, but am not having a ton of luck finding something that isn't meant to be fed in larger quantities and really high calorie/sugar/fat - she's borderline overweight on just the hay.

      We train at an eventing barn and they're horrified at how hard it is to keep her fit and how quickly she loses that fitness. On the plus side, she's now pretty fit for a cob. We have a ways to go before we're TB fit :)

      Delete
  2. Love your disclaimer regarding all of the things you've checked. I think Emi is a bit more forward thinking but she can be difficult some days too. Hang in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think half the problem is how smart these ponies are! I'm sure if it wasn't this, she'd have some other way of driving everyone crazy :)

      Delete
  3. I totally sympthatize... We all know I had the same issues with Pal. She was just a bit more cheeky and sneaky about it. 'i shall give you softness but no forward'. We fought about this a long time until she found a rider who liked her less than forward attitude. Plus you have ponitude lol. Chin up! Your doing great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think of you often as we struggle with the forward giraffe vs round snail dilemma :) I've know ive said it said before, but I think you made a great choice and I won't rule out making the same decision you did.

      Delete
  4. Ugh I hear your frustration loud and clear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol, I am the most persistent and patient person in the world. Until I'm not. There's a funny story about the one and only time I got really mad at someone/something and totally let loose. I feel a blog post idea coming :)

      Delete
  5. That must be so frustrating!! there's nothing worse than a lazy/not motivated ride. It's so good to hear that you've checked and ruled out any pain issues thoroughly. I know if we have lazy horses at work/previous lazy ponies, we get them going nicely then if they show signs of slowing or trying to stop it's an automatic tap with the whip to remind them to keep moving. But it sounds as if that's what your doing already!! Hope you can find a solution for this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the support and tips :)

      Delete
  6. I know I have commented before but I feel your pain. My welsh D also has intermittent forward issues. When she is super fit, I am super fit and she is doing enough work to get some sugars in her diet (all that means is some wheat hay instead of grass hay) it gets easier. For her to be super fit she needs to be doing 5-6km trot in the carriage 4-5 times weekly with 1 dressage ride and 1 or 2 fast work sessions (forest riding canter and gallop). Jumping only occasionally or she starts refusing all the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that! Her fitness is pretty good, but I'm hopeful that as the daylight hours increase I can add on some hills and trotting out on the roads as either a warm up or cool down even on our non hacking days.

      Delete
  7. I sympathize a thousand percent! Megan gave some AWESOME advice - I think I will start to install a GTFO button too! But yeah - fitness and the right feed always helps Dino a lot. I upped his protein intake a ton this past year (alfalfa cubes) and he is already on a very low-starch, high-fat feed, and that's really helped him with his energy level, fitness, and overall muscle development. Taking him hunting and trail riding also helped instill the GO button while doing something he really enjoys, and that's carried over into our ring work. When he was REALLY bad a few years ago, I went through periods where he would plant his feet and just outright refuse to take a single step, so I'd hop off and immediately lunge him aggressively (I had whip & line in hand as I was riding) - make him GALLOP! That definitely helped break the 'stuck' cycle. But yeah - especially at his age, he's never going to be the pony that takes me very far competition-wise. I've found ways to compromise with him and get him on my side as far as forward goes, and I'm honestly having fun at this point! But it took a LONG time and a shit-ton of work and a lot of tears! Hang in there - you will eventually find the right path! Until you get there, you have a lot of support from me! Feel free to email or reach out on FB if you want to chat Bad Pony stuff. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bloggers are the best! I return your thousand percent sympathy...I've seen you with the same struggles, and am loving that you're having so much fun with Dino again.

      We don't have the terrain for foxhunting here, but what I could do is maybe coordinate with barn mates to get out on the roads for fitness work together. B IS much more motivated when she's following another horse.

      Delete
  8. You definitely earned a vent. I really understand the rollercoaster ride a horse can take you on. Some rides make you feel like you can do all the plans and then the next ride they can't even horse. My mare does the canter (can I stop?), canter (I'm gonna stop), (buck, buck, buck/stop). She has absolutely nothing wrong with her except too many opinions and way too smart. I am hoping to trick her into canter practice with jumping this year, but then I am on a hopeful upswing in my thinking so this may just be the last good ride talking! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B does exactly the same thing, my sympathies! I bet jumping will totally help your girl. That's my number one way of tricking B into thinking forward = fun :)

      Delete
  9. Ugh. I'm sorry :/
    That must be incredibly frustrating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're like an old married couple. It's that one argument we can't seem to stop having :)

      Delete
  10. That's so frustrating!! Katai has moments of this but for the most part she's more likely to rush off than to stand still. It always annoyed me but honestly after reading this I think it may be easier to deal with than the absolute no to moving forward. We're both sending positive and cooperative pony thoughts.

    Well, at least I am ;)

    ReplyDelete