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.