Yesterday, I got to the barn super early, and the ring was empty so I switched up our routine and let the mare free lunge for a moment before grooming her up. She tore around like an idiot, got some bucks out then promptly returned to me after about 5 minutes of playing around. My idea was to let her loosen up that way, and skip the regular pre-ride lunge.
I popped on about 15 minutes before our lesson to give us plenty of time to walk around and loosen up, which went pretty well. Pia was tight, but not anxious, and we were able to get a good solid lap of quiet walking in both directions. This is such an improvement over where we were two months ago, that I'm sort of beside myself. Our trot work was great too. We worked more of our increase/decrease stride lengths and P seems to really enjoy it. I only try to hold either gait for about 6-8 strides at a time, which prevents her from getting too unbalanced or too stuck in either mode. In fact, the increase/decrease exercise has proved to be our best reset button should P get too stuck/stressed/freaked out or just plan combative. Something about it makes her relax, calm back down, and when necessary, shove her eyeballs back in her head.
We touched lightly on leg yields, popped over some cavaletti (still confused as to whether we trot or canter through those..) and then went straight to canter work.
This is when P started to pitch a fit.
We know that she hates canter departs (especially to the right), but so far giving her a nudge of shoulder in before asking seems to set her up nicely, and results in quiet, normal upward transitions. Of course today we worked on some nice shallow canter loops, before going full bore into counter canter circles.
That just fried her little brain circuit. The first couple were fine. Then she started to anticipate the painful balancing exercise and got really heavy on her forehand, then she started just flat out ignoring me, running through my hand/bucking/acting like a general pig.
After a few reps, her head was so wound up that we stopped, relaxed with some trot work and reversed direction. Asking her to hold her left lead to the right just about caused a meltdown, so we got one "decent" circle, and called it a day. I haven't seen her work herself into such a tizzy in months. I couldn't tell what it was a combo of, but she got so short and stabby with her left hind that I was worried that she had maybe tweaked something a bit.. and given the Wobbler's that is lingering I didn't want to push it.
As I digested the lesson, I thought that maybe our free lunge contributed to the tension, and maybe she was tight after her day off.. but who knows. regardless I decided on a different approach for our second lesson and opted for light lunging before I got on.
Well, as soon as we hit the ring, the mare was all sorts of puffed up, antsy and overly concerned about the rain on the roof, everyone else eating dinner and cars passing by. I had some stern words with her regarding ground manners, snapped the side reins on and started to lunge. Aside from a serious tempo change whenever she was headed toward home, she was a good girl. relaxed pretty well, definitely listened, and there was no sign of the stabby left hind I had felt at the end of Tuesday's ride (whew).
I still don't love that she goes from tracking up perfectly at the walk to a stilted, crappy, sewing machine trot on the lunge, even if it is something she works out of after 10 minutes... I would love to get to the point where she is able to skip the step of antsy, crappy trot and go straight to relaxed and swinging, but I recognize that I'm just being a little greedy about that right now.
Anyway, I got on, and she was immediately waaaaaay more tense than Tuesday. We could barely walk without jigging, and Pia was already ignoring my seriously aggressive half halts... fantastic.
Our trot took about 15 minutes to really warm up, then we were back to canter departs.. followed by some tragic attempts at 10 meter circles (I can't even discuss that failure yet) before we revisited our counter canter. (crap).
This time, our plan was to immediately downward transition to a trot as soon as Pia showed any hint of falling out of balance or racing wildly around the corners... great theory.
Of course, it's not totally P's fault, she's battling my position, which still isn't great, and between her sensitivity, my desire to "pump" with my shoulders and the wobblers... we don't have a snowball's chance of completely a counter canter circle unless I seriously get my act together and keep her super light and super straight.
Which we did, about twice. Other than that either I was falling in, or she was falling in, or we were both collapsing in a tragic heap. But, the victory was in the fact that P tried really hard, she only bucked once during a transition, and by the end of our ride we were fairly balanced and never hit that "maximum brain load" that we seemed to trigger on Tuesday.
I've taken a cue from an old pony club friend and started dismounting for our cool downs, so that P maybe will start to figure out that when I'm on, we're working (even at the walk) and when I'm off, she's done. Who knows if it'll help her, but she gets so sticky after walk breaks, that it can't hurt any...
On the fun side of things, P's pretty new cooler/sheet thingy came today and I LOVE it. It was a total score on Tack of the Day and I'm so so so glad we got it. It looks more like a robe than anything, but it's super luxurious, pretty and absoutely the last thing this mare needs. Lord knows Super-Mom loaded us up on a full wardrobe, but apparently I too, am a huge sucker for playing dress up. It's so adorable though, this thick suede on the outside, and fluffy fleece on the inside??? It's a wonder I didn't curl up in it after our ride :)
P seemed to like it too. Although she was significantly more interested in the apple I was holding in order to get her ears to perk up for a picture...
so cozy. can't wait for it to be colder out :)
Oh, on the super fun side, I was down visiting one of our branch locations where I always get to talk horses with the manager because he keeps a couple SERIOUS pack horses who he takes into the mountains every weekend with his wife. One of these summers I'm going to have to join them for a ride cause his pictures look just too fun...
But my favorite picture? One of him riding an OTTB he rescued for $400, on top of this rad mountain ridge and perfectly sunny skies. What's even cooler is that you probably know the Plain Jane TB, though he now goes by Poggio. Yeah, Poggio, Amy Tryon's Olympic mount, four star eventing machine, just got retired and is beloved by eventers everywhere, Poggio. That one.
Yup, one of my managers bought him, rode him, then sold him because he "was brave, but his feet didn't like the trails."
I guess we all have our calling, right?