We didn’t keep it together for the rest of the ride though. As Lucky felt more and more stressed about the boggy monsters outside the ring I rode her stronger, but not better. Our first trot circle my focus was just to keep her at the trot because she wanted to break to the canter. The higher her head went the more my hands became like human side reins. I got her to listen to me for the second half of our trot circle and had hopes that we would still be okay when we headed back towards A. Whatever she was seeing was still there and she totally ignored my seat and legs, which of course made me go super handsy, which made her just block me out. It was UGLY, and I was ridding TERRIBLY! The more I used my hands, the worse my riding got. By the time I went to switch my diagonal on the change of rein part I basically slammed myself in to her in a last ditch attempt to get some reaction out of her. She did react…by shaking her head from side to side.
What I should have done was sit back, relax my arms, and stop fighting Lucky. Instead I tilted forward which took away my seat, let my legs bang her instead of a gentle squeeze at some weak attempt at forward, and shortened her already way too short for training level neck. Even just writing this disgust me. Lucky might have been having a hard time, but I was doing everything wrong and just making it worse and worse as the ride went out. Our first canter wasn’t terrible, she even came back to the trot when I asked her, but I had no connection, no roundness, no suppleness, no forward, and no flexibility. I tried to show a stretch during the stretch circle and that was really the beginning of the end. She threw herself on the forehand and started breathing like a dragon. Even our free walk was a mess of her taking choppy strides and shaking her head.
Picking her up after the free walk was a disaster. I literally was yanking at poor Lucky’s mouth at the same time as giving her leg. My poor Lucky was already stressed and now she was completely confused. The only good thing I can say about the whole walk series is that we didn’t end up breaking. So by this point in the test I have a choke hold on her mouth, sloppy legs and no seat. Great riding right? So I know what I should have done at this point is lighten up my contact, sit deep and really use my body in the trot. Instead I decided to force Lucky to pay attention by asking for everything at a 10. I am such an idiot! I used way to much of an aid to ask for the trot and of course she lept forward, causing the extra confusing reaction of me praising her (she listened) by patting her neck with one hand and pulling back even more with the other.
She did do a circle when I asked and even managed to launch in to the canter at the appropriate time, but as soon as she started to canter I knew I was in trouble. We have been working hard on her canter and while she still tries to pull down on the forehand, normally she can hold herself up for at least a few strides. At the show it was a beautiful uphill transition and then it was like she was pulling me down to China. The canter to trot transition is on the long side…going towards whatever she was looking at. I started to ask for the trot even before the rest asked for it…and got nothing. I tried again, stronger this time…and still got nothing. Funny thing is that I wasn’t freaking out, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop her, but I also knew she just wanted to canter, not bolt off. She was just stressed and wanted to put her energy in to going faster. I just wanted to try and end my test on a not so terrible note. I knew I had to do the emergency rein if I wanted her to trot, so I put one hand in her mane and the other back and my fit Lucky turned about 90 degrees in a stride and thankfully slowed to the trot. It was such a dramatic move that on my test the judge had thought Lucky spooked…not that I was being a bad rider. By the time we trotted up the centerline you could see the foamed up sweat all over my poor girl. I was afraid to walk towards the judge after my test to thank her because I thought she would yell at me for being such a jerk to Lucky. I have manners though so I went up and the judge didn’t even look up from her furious scribbling and responded with a “um hmm”. You know you are a terrible rider when the judge can’t even stand to look at you. I didn’t have much time to think about it though because Lucky was still upset as we walked out of the ring.
To be Continued…