An Epic Battle at 20 meters…

Sorry for the lack of posting as of late…I have been very, very busy. That doesn’t mean that my ponies are getting neglected though. In fact, I have riding more than I have in a long, long time. I have a lot to tell you about, but let me start with my ride yesterday…

So I have been with Lucky since May of 2010. As we get close to the year mark my guards with her are starting to melt away and I am really loving my crazy old mare. Most of the time. As I mentioned in the story of her rescue she is, hands down, the most stubborn horse I know. I know that can be a good thing, but some times, as was the case yesterday, it makes me want to scream!

So I have had a few people ride Lucky (I know, I know, I need to do a post on that) and the general consensus is that I need to really work on getting her forward and rocking her back on her hind end. Lucky also has a hard time with leg aids…in her mind if a leg (or two) goes on the only answer is to move forward. Slowly I have been working on that, but the progress is slow. She is also still rehabbing from her tendonitis so my rides need to be carefully planned out.

Since we want to keep pressure off of the leg I have not been using very many figures. I don’t want to do any tight or small turns which might hurt her. I have just been trying to use my normal corners more effectively. As she has been getting better I have started to do things like large figure 8s and even the occasional 3 loop serpentine. Well, yesterday she finally felt good enough that I was ready to try a 20 meter circle. My expectations were not high. I literally just wanted to her to do the circle with her shoulders and her haunches traveling on a similar line (i.e. I didn’t want her twisted or leg yielding). Well, apparently that was too much for my suborn old mare.

The first time around when I made the correction of “No, shoulders need to at least sort do close to the circle” she tried to canter. I quickly got her back to the trot and got off the circle to use the whole arena. I figured that I just wasn’t being clear. I asked her to walk and tried to do another 20 meter circle. This time she flung her shoulders, but her haunches were totally out of control. As soon as I tried to correct she started to get upset.

I had a choice. Should I let it go because I am rehabbing or should I try again. I stupidly tried to correct the problem. Lucky is older, and not having been a riding horse almost all of her life I feel like she is stiffer than most. I decided that her resistance was coming because she didn’t think she could do it. I wanted to show her that she could indeed do a proper 20 meter circle at the walk. Every time I asked and she said “I can’t” by doing something like stopping, speeding up, or turning into a giraffe I just tried to stay still and ask her again.

The more dramatic she got (including a few grunts of frustration) the more I tried to focus on what I was asking for. I swear if you would have seen us from afar I must have looked like I was torturing my Lucky!  I sat up tall and used my seat bones. In the past Lucky would have gotten me to twist myself in to knots, but I have been working on that. Instead I kept a very light rein contact and focused on my body. After 6 bad circles I was starting to sweat.

I didn’t want to hold the figure any longer, but I knew she could do it for a normal corner so that wouldn’t have been a learning experience. I was really concerned about what to do (keep training for her mind or to stop because of her body) when all of a sudden Lucky sighed, relaxed started listening to my aids!!!!! I kept my position and made it very clear that I wanted her shoulders and haunches to come around on my 20 meter circle. And guess what? THEY DID!! Woohoo!!!

After 2/3 of the circle I knew she got it so I asked her to halt, turned around and went out of the ring for a hack as a reward. I know we have a long, long way to go and that we will have many more dramatic moments (they had been repairing a fence while I rode and stopped to watch Lucky carry on because she was such a diva about the whole thing) but it was good for me to learn that if I stay persistent, quiet, and correct my Lucky will come around and listen to me.

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