So I have been a bad, bad, blogger. It is not because I don’t have things to talk about…I have plenty! More that I don’t have time to write (because I am too busy playing Frontireville on Facebook). I saw a lot of old friends this weekend when I went to help out at the big Memorial Day Horse Show and some of them read my blog. They all had the same first question, which is the title of my post. I figured it was time for an update.
When I first started with her I could tell what a total Thoroughbred she was. If I picked up my reins she would respond by going faster. If I moved my leg she would respond by going faster. If I sat down she would speed up, as well as if I got lighter in my seat. No matter what I did she thought the answer was to go faster. The only time she would slow down was if I dropped my reins to the buckle, and that was only for a stride or two before she…yup…you guessed it…went faster. The first dozen rides were frustrating for both of us. We were speaking totally different languages.
She was week from 9 months off and I was trying hard to just be steady. I knew that if I could get her to understand that she would be great. She hates being wrong and she really does want to please. One day after a particularly bad ride where we spent most of it going backwards (when she would break to a trot I would halt and back 3 steps and try to walk again) she got it. She knew that outside rein pressure meant to slow down. It was like a lightbulb when off inside her head over night. I went from having a horse I had to run in to corners to stop (slow down was not even a possibility) to a horse who was listening to me. She gave me beautiful trot with her head long and low and was, for the most part, listening to me when I asked her to slow down.
Things went on like this for a few days before I decided to try to canter again. I had held off because she was so weak (and thus would start to buck because she could not hold herself up and go forward) but with her listening to me I figured it was worth another try. Well I was wrong. It was a total disaster. Not only did she not canter, but trying to get her to trot again after the transition was horrific. In fact, the rest of the ride was a total waste as were the next three rides. She thought every time I moved she needed to go faster.
I rode very carefully and tried to stay clear with my expectations and put the canter on the back shelf and instead focused on getting her fitter and to listen to me. After another week she was back to paying attention to me again. After a particularly nice ride I decided to try and canter again. She was wonderful! It took me until this weekend for her to be strong enough to scare herself at the canter, but it was worth the wait. It was still hard to get her to trot again, but she was listening and trying so I didn’t fuss that much that it took her two extra circles to drop down to the trot (although I was worried about pushing her too hard).
After that first canter she was clearly proud of herself. I asked her to walk and really stayed diligent about making her walk when I changed rein. When I felt like she was listening to me again I asked her to trot and then canter in the new direction. She was perfect yet again and was much easier to get back to the trot. It was beautiful! Even better was the fact that she listened to me for the rest of the ride!
I have ridden her twice now since then and I must say, she has been wonderful each time. I really think we had a break through and she at least knows what I am asking her for now. She can still be a challenge to stop, and she is not flexible at all, but after a month of riding her (and with possibly only one month left with her) she and I are finally starting to speak the same language! Who knew I could get so happy to have a horse that slows down with outside rein pressure?? She is just such a doll to be around and such an easy horse to work with…I really am having fun with her!