Thursday, 26 March 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure


The clinician the other weekend made several comments re: Bridget's lack of willingness and me being too tolerant/forgiving of it. There were also a few comments saying I should be riding at a higher level than the Midge can get me to. Rather than give us exercises to work on or tools to get us on the same page, I felt like she was saying Bridget just isn't worth the effort and I should be riding something else. I could brush that off since I had my own thoughts about the clinican and also no big dreams of being a dressage star with Midge. Then, some other people in my life were there and took that as their opening to weigh in re: the pony as well. It was kind of awful. Ever since, I've been thinking about each and every comment. I know everyone means well, after all. Life really would be easier if I owned a pony that could do it all (and wanted to do it all!). Of course it would be nice to own a horse who really wants to please it's rider and found things easier. Yes, horses are too expensive and time consuming to 'waste' your time on the wrong one. Of course I wouldn't mind something I could take to a show tomorrow. Maybe I do deserve better. Maybe I should sell her and suck it up and ride Ginger instead if I want to show. And most shamefully, hmm yes it would be nice to not always have the horse every one else is saying "thank goodness it's you and not me riding that"!

So today, I saddled up my little Bridget mare and didn't invite anyone else along. I needed an hour or two on  my own with the pony without all that external feedback and second guessing. We went for a nice walk down the road, then diverted to a forest trail that takes you out to a logging road that sort of loops back around to the road again. It's about an hour and a half loop if you walk/trot it.
Trotting on down the road



The first trail portion ended up being extremely mucky and basically submerged in water in a lot of places. My plan for some relaxed thinking time was quickly shelved. Midge was unsure about some of the deeper sections, but found a safe way through without getting panicky. She was also spooky about a couple of the wooden bridges, since it seems like someone's been in there working and it looks a bit different. She went when I asked though and got a big pat. We ended up having to jump the final crossing, but again she was careful and sure footed, even with a muddy approach and landing and some tree trunks waiting to catch my knees. I did this same trail with Ginger a couple of weeks ago and it was a lot more 'exciting' even though the footing and water situation was way better then. Midge gets the gold star for extreme off roading.
One of the nicer sections.

Our little adventure just reaffirmed for me how great this horse is, and all the uncertainty over being competitive and showing was gone. I was back to plan A and had S's homework in mind - namely, cantering on the trail as much as possible to build up Bridget's strength and confidence. We popped out on the old logging road and Bridget was immediately thinking we should trot. I took her up on that and off we went at a nice clip, even through the big puddles and over the rockier sections. I focused on not nagging her, just reminding her now and then to stay straight on my contact and keep the pace. When I asked for canter, it was so immediate and forward I was surprised and got slightly left behind. Yay for better transitions :) We spent the remainder of our side road loop doing trot/canter transitions and Bridget was totally 'on'. We walked the last little bit on the busy road home on a loose rein and just enjoyed the sunshine and saying hi to all the neighbouring horses in their fields. All in all, a good ride - she was pretty spooky and 'up' but this was also the first time where I've really felt like she's been consistently taking me along with no encouragement, even at the canter. It's nice to feel like there is always more gas in the tank and another gear there waiting should you ask!

About a second after I took this picture, I asked Bridget "Are those your canter ears?" And she obediently cantered off  part way through the word canter. And I nearly bit it since I was unprepared and my hands were busy putting my phone away in my jacket. My question wasn't as funny/sarcastic as I thought.
Final thoughts. Bridget is a keeper, of course. You'd have to pry this pony from my cold dead hands. I wouldn't want anything hotter or more forward than I had today. I wouldn't want anything less surefooted. I certainly don't want anything more spooky! It's nice she's not herdbound. Wonderful that she needs no shoes and is generally very easy to care for. I love that she's essentially fearless. I've never, ever owned another horse I would happily tack up and take out for a random trail ride on my own through tricky terrain and along busy roads at W/T/C.

Sure, I could go buy a great hunter or dressage project and go out showing with my friends and maybe even win some ribbons. That would be fun too and something I'd really love to do. But my current reality is that I live in the middle of nowhere and have a 15 min hack on a busy road to the nearest ring. I don't yet own a trailer. I'm on a budget,  I board and it's fairly rustic. There is no local vet, nor much in the way of local instruction. Most of my friends want to trail ride. I can struggle with my confidence. For all her supposed faults, Bridget fits my current needs very, very well. Maybe we won't amount to much by traditional standards, and maybe our flat work is going to be a lot more time and effort than is 'worth it', but I'd like to think we're still going to have a whole fun finding our own way to wherever we're headed.


On a more humorous note - G is Bridget's biggest fan and when told about the naysayers, asked "What's wrong with her? She's awesome! She's like having a big dog. Don't listen to those people! If you want faster or fancier, I'll buy you a fast car. Slow and safe is good on horses. Just let her walk everywhere if that's what she wants, and be happy!" :)






16 comments:

  1. I love G's comment!

    Don't listen to those people. Some people seem to think that it's all about winning when it should really be about the journey because that's how you have fun. Now when someone questions my choice in equine partner I just tell them that I'm having fun working with her and that's all the matters :)

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    1. Thank you! I hate that I even let those people inside my head. I WAS having fun and enjoying the process until everyone seemed to think I shouldn't be lol

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  2. I am sorry everyone felt the need to weigh in with their negative comments. Anyone who has ben reading your blog for any length of time can see you are very happy with Midge and that she has been a great confidence builder. So what if she is not world class dressage material at the moment; your journey has just started. The best is yet to come!

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    1. Thank you! I think the comments were well intended, but misguided. As you say, I'm quite happy with my difficult little pony :)

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  3. aww i love G's points! and so glad you had an awesome trail ride! a horse that can go out and about like that is really a special horse, and your descriptions of where you are in your riding right now and what kind of horse meets those needs sounds super honest and realistic - but of course at the end of the day it doesn't matter who else you convince bc all that matters is what you think :)

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    1. I would love to be tackling jumps again like you and Isabel and I used to be more into dressage, so I think the feedback was well intended. For now though, yes, my reality is that where I ride isn't exactly a hotbed of jumper or dressage training or facilities and I'm better off with a solid trail horse and something I won't mess up between lessons :)

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  4. Sounds like the ride you really needed. Sometimes it takes an outside voice to say, "Maybe it's not a good fit" for you to find WHY it's a good fit. If I listened to everyone who told me it wasn't going to happen with Brantley, I sure wouldn't be reading this awesome post today. It makes me appreciate my relationship with him more because like you said, some people come out with, "Better you than me riding that thing." Damn straight! She's your pony and that's all that matters.

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    1. You are so right. As I mentioned, I was perfectly happy until everyone seemed to think I shouldn't be. I am glad I took the time to think about all the reasons I am so pleased with her. Brantley is a star as well, you are right, as long as we're happy, it's all good!

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  5. G's response is perfect!
    Who cares what others think so long as your happy and confident with your big puppy ignore the naysayers.
    B is a boss & total keeper ♡♡♡♡ her

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    1. G is so fun and always has the best advice lol
      B isn't going anywhere. Even if I do 'outgrow' her eventually she can still hang out and be my trail riding buddy :)

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  6. It's great that you are able to be honest with yourself and come to the conclusion that your pony is the RIGHT pony for you, right now. Dino is SO similar to Bridget, and while yeah he's not for everyone, I feel like he's the perfect match for me and I wouldn't trade him for the world! A pony you feel safe and confident on is worth their weight in gold. Plus, a pony you can take out on a trail like that all by yourself is SO special. Keep having fun - it's all about the ride, not the ribbons!

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    1. Great comment, thank you! Agreed, just because we could technically ride something different or 'better' (whatever that means!) doesn't mean we should want to! Dino is one of my favorites, by the way - I love him :)

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  7. It's tough when people decide to voice their unwanted opinions. I think it's wonderful that you took time to reflect upon all of the negativity and came out being more positive. Bridget is only five too - that is something to remember. She's just a baby :)

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    1. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get my back up just a little and have a half baked idea of proving the naysayers wrong lol. It's quite 'western' around here so there are 3 or 4 year olds that have a lot more riding and training than B. I think that plays into things as well - 5 seems 'old' to them for some of the antics they saw from her!

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