P was being mostly good on the ground, but was a little snarky about her girth area and I decided that I was sick of her chest bite/ears pin when I'm grooming her.
Yes she's allowed to be sensitive, but no, she doesn't get to throw a hissy fit.... So I grabbed a whip and just held it. And you know what? magic of all magic, the mare stood perfectly still, relaxed ears and didn't express any displeasure at her continued grooming.
Mind you, tacking up with a dressage whip tucked under my arm takes some of my usual grace away, but we managed. P kept a nice look on her face, but the sourpuss came out as soon as I set my whip down to pad her up and whatnot.
Okay... so... whip back up, awkward saddling to commence.. and she stood nicely and quietly and didn't so much as flick an ear backward during the process.
It was a calm day, so I threw her on the lunge (sans side reins), to loosen her up and see what I was working with. She was a little stiff, and kept popping into the canter instead of opening up her trot, but she was very obedient, and after about eight minutes she started to loosen up and lengthen her stride. At that point I figured she was calm, loose and ready, so I got on. Her walk was relaxed, and oddly she moved right up into the trot with no stickiness whatsoever....
But then, she stopped. Stopped and refused to go forward. I gave her a kick (nothing). And another kick (nothing). then a boot and smack with the whip - MASSIVE STANDING BUCK. (witchy mare)
So I hopped off, laced her across the butt with the whip and tossed her on the lunge for a VERY stern, VERY angry 5 minute session. lots of canter/walk/halt/trot/walk/canter/halt. She stepped up and listened quite nicely at which point I got back on.
And she was good. I had mentioned to the BO that given Pia's weird objection to the canter recently, maybe we should put down some cavaletti to help pop her into the transition. So, out came the cavaletti, two to be exact, and the fun began.
Breyer Brenda shows off her stuff...
First, I stuck one pole on the bottom level, and one at the mid level, then smooshed them as close as possible across the centerline, so that they made a little baby "ramp" of sorts. P's ears immediately flicked forward, her trot got bouncier and suddenly there was no objection to my outside leg supporting her.
We trotted a couple times over them, then I started asking for the canter transition over the cavaletti, and she bounced happily into it. She missed her lead a few times (favoring her almost-always-stickier right lead..) but she was forward and happy, plus I was able to maintain her canter afterward without her falling to bits.
Essentially I ended up trotting down the longside, turning up the centerline, popping over the cavaletti, continuing our canter down the centerline and transitioning to the trot for our return trip. We managed to work both ways, sometimes opting for a canter circle after the cavaletti, sometimes staying straight.
Then we rolled the cavaletti apart, making them a small bounce (both cavaletti at the highest setting) and Pia just about died with pleasure. Super upbeat, super responsive, no diving and very balanced. At this point, the BO and I were somewhat mystified and very appreciative of her attitude shift.. so we just went with it. Both directions, both leads, small circles, straight lines... P played along.
Finally we rolled them closer for some trot poles and after Pia figured out she didn't need to jump them all at once, she settled in nicely.
We finished with a some big stretchy trot figure-eights, which I dare say were our best yet. Nose on the GROUND, poked out in front of the vertical, and maintaining her own tempo (mostly). I barely recognized the mare.
We got five solid minutes of stretchy-stretchy work in, and I got off with big pats and a hand walk to cool her out.
Then, just to keep us guessing, once we got back to the barn, Miss Pia pooped three times (THREE, 3, three..) and peed. In the aisle.
No idea. Everything else (aside from the ride) was normal. So I chalked it up to excitement over her cavaletti and called it good.
So... What do we think caused the happy friendly ride after the early antics?
- Still living outside, and I think it's helping
- New saddle? (I'd love to think that it makes her as happy as it does me, though if she really wants to be a hunter I wish she'd told me before we bought the fancy dressage saddle..)
- Cavaletti? Maybe the mare is just somewhat sour with flatwork, in the ring, all the time?
Who knows. I'm off to the barn again shortly for another quick ride before I get whisked off to the awful world of trade shows for the next 7 days. We'll see what happens....