Monday, November 1, 2010

In *running martingales* we trust

Well, as they say, all good thigns must come to an end... and so Friday brought our nice string of relaxed rides to bucking, crashing halt.  Yet again, I owe my intact spinal cord to that lovely forked piece of tack we all know and love - the running martingale.  (mind you I am the only girl at an otherwise dressage only barn, who throws on a brown, raised, martingale for our flat rides.. :) )

Friday was frustrating.  It felt like 18 steps back, and it left me in a bad mood.  I intended to give the mare Saturday off regardless, but I ended up giving her the whole weekend and just keeping my mental space away from the barn.  I didn't really mean to, in fact I spent all day Sunday "planning" on heading to the barn after "one more thing." but I realized about at about 4pm (after a tragic Seahawks loss..) that I was just fooling myself and I really had no intention of riding the mare at all.

All in all it was fine.  Yesterday was as gorgeous as fall gets around here, so The Boy and I headed off for a big walk, found some salad and beer, stumbled into a movie (holy god Secretariat was disappointing..) and walked slowly home.  It was an ideal Sunday, so I really don't feel too guilty about ignoring the pretty Miss Pia.

So.. back to Friday.  Friday was a lesson, one that I had high hopes for after our Wednesday and Thursday rides and their increasing relaxation.  Such was not the case.

I tried to replicate my "good vibes." I mentally committed to a calm session, I opted to walk on a long rein for a long warm up instead of lunge, and I worked hard during our warm up to get her between my aides and reaching for the bit. 

Our work started well.  Good increases/lengthenings.  Decent bend, and some good transitions.  Baby lateral work was ok (shoulder in/haunches in.. both off the rail).  Then we worked our half halts a bit, and reaaallly making them obvious.  Pia was not a huge fan of that exercise, but she got it and was only fussy a couple of times before doing pretty well at it.  P did start hre old tricks.  Diving, refusing to go forward, blowing through my leg, the usual...

But, the wheels really came off the wagon when we started back up after a walk break for some counter canter.  Once again, we never even GOT to the counter canter, because mare-face decided to tie one on about her transitions.  We abandoned the counter canter and just worked a ga-zillion canter departs.  Multiple departs on a circle, simple change on a figure-8, from the walk (!?!) you name it.  She was snotty to the right when we were on the open side of the circle, but in reality we got some decent transitions, both up and down.

Thankfully the weekend of football, beer, and fundraising has clouded my memory, but essentially, Pia threw two MASSIVE fits.  The first, I think was while we were in the canter, but I wasn't asking for much.  Like nothing.  I wasn't getting after her, wasn't asking for a transition, or for her to sit back.. nothing.  She just went bonkers.  Bronc-bucking-hopping-bonkers.  BO made a dart to get out of the way (since we were popping all over the place), and honestly Pia almost got me off.  She didn't, but she tried (again), which pissed me off.  Also infuriating? when I wrestled her to a standstill she was so amped up I couldn't even whap her or kick hard for fear of getting murdered. 

So. I took a deep breath, requested we return to the trot and let it go.  45 seconds later? BLAM-O, same thing.  Buck-twist-kick-rear-buck-kick-twist-twist-bitch.  That was it.  I stopped her, flew off and prepared to lace her across the ass, when she beat me to it and flew backward knowing full well what my intentions were.  So I let it go.  Stopped, patted her, and proceeded to attempt some half steps on the ground.  She was fussy and all freaked out, but she got it.  We managed a full lap at the walk, with half steps every 10 meters or so, before I patted her, and got back on. 

We finished with some decently nice trot work (getting to be a theme), but we didn't push the canter again.  If she hadn't pulled those two massive fits, I would have felt pretty good about the ride.  Aside from them, she was a twit about a few things, but ultimately put in some great work, and tried pretty hard.  The bum out really was that I couldn't even think on the decent work, because I was so upset about the two fits.  I sorta get why the mare explodes when I'm asking her hard questions, but the fact that she pulled two of her largest fits when we were just trotting merrily along? It's disheartening and makes me feel like I don't understand her nearly as well as I've led myself to believe. 

Current Thoughts:
  • We've had some good rides in the last 10 days (That's Good!)
  • There have been some totally mysterious mare-attacks (That's Bad)
  • Pia is sound and strong and slobbering (That's Good!)
  • My lessons seem to be less productive than my rides on my own (that's good/bad)
  • I had a massive breakthrough in my effectiveness, as I learned (and can feel!) my left hip is ALWAYS pushed forward, regardless of direction, and my half-halts twist the same clockwise fashion (That's GOOD to know, BAD to do..) 
I just want some happy loose rides.  IF there's one thing that's super telling, it's Pia's sweat level.  We maybe work her canter more in lessons, but even at the trot, she gets way more hyped up (and sweaty) in lessons, than on our own.  I think it's an indicator of her stress factor but I don't know for sure.  Regardless, look what a sweat monster she was on Friday, hardly the picture of cool, calm and collected...

PS- Has anyone else seen Secretariat?? I saw nothing but decent fan reviews... but boooooooo, even I was bored.  I thought the horse footage was done well, and I love John Malkovitch as yet another eccentric character, but oof.  I guess I was hoping to see a bit more of the grit of the story.  I mean, really, the "financial strain" was represented by one passing conversation where by Miss Diane Lane stoically turned down $8 million for her big red colt. 
Yeah, I get it, that takes balls.  But I think it took more balls than we got to see.  And also, literally all we see of Secretariat was him as a baby, him as a yearling, then winning the triple crown.  Woo.  What a struggle.  For a two hour movie, I felt like they could have shown us more of the fairly incredible story.  But whatever.  No one ever likes a feature film that touches on their hobby.. I get that.  Rant over.


  1. Do you think something could be wrong - sudden explosions like that are often a sign of some sort of pain, as is balking and refusing to go forward and resistance. You might also want to look into what she's eating - too much of the wrong thing, particularly carbs, will make even calm horses sky-high. Good luck in figuring it out. It doesn't sound like a training/behavior issue to me, or at least I wouldn't say it was without ruling out everything else.

  2. Kate - Yup. I do. But I can't find it. The vet can't find it, she's not stiff, not sore, and there's no consistency to what sets her off. The most consistent thing is that she's a brat until you force her through something, then she's fine.. smooth, relaxed, etc.. I do keep going back to a physical ailment, but time after time it ends up being an attitude thing. I keep hoping to find something that's out of wack, because then I can treat it and stop this damn guessing game....

  3. If she's not in pain (saddle fit is good?) then what about something she's eating? I think I remember you mentioning rice bran recently in regards to her coat...

    Val lost some weight when I first got him, and due to some terrible advice I put him on Amplify, a supplement which is mainly rice bran. He turned into a crazy horse almost overnight. A bolting, bucking hot mess. Apparently Amplify is 14% protein (the rice bran) and he in no way needed that much.

    Now he eats Triple Crown 12% supplement in the morning and beet pulp / what bran mash in the evening + hay. That's it, and he's back to the m-e-l-l-o-w guy that I brought home.

    Sorry for the long story... maybe the crazy behavior is her only way of telling you something is not right. Good luck - I hope you figure it out!

  4. Ugh. A couple of those explosions can ruin anyone's ride.

    Does she seem to relax after the explosions? My mare would have those and just keep getting worse and worse and worse. That was ulcers.

    We've had several other times where she had explosions and they were attitude. She got over those... eventually...

    Is she getting turnout?

  5. Hey guys, thanks for input. Honestly I'm at a loss. She's on a LOW carb (no true grain) diet, and has been her whole life. So I don't think anything is different there, she's been on an ulcer treatment since August (Soothing Pink) which made her much happier initially.. though who's to say at this point.

    Usually after her explosions she's calm again, though sometimes she just goes up, up, up. Last night (more on that later), she exploded, then walked PERFECTLY calmly afterward. Her saddle fits great, I constantly check it and am always poking around for sore spots. Nothing.

    I'm nearing the end of my (not that long) rope.


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