Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Field Trip #2 - Old Stomping Grounds

In a fit of "I think I'm making this horse worse not better" I reached out to my old BO and asked if she had time for us to haul in for a lesson.  She said she could fit us in on Saturday, so with a good productive Friday lesson under our belt we packed up on Sat for another hopefully enlightening workout.

That is until Prairie threw a fit and didn't have anything to wear (on her face).

Because she snapped her halter (again). While I was wrapping her.

Yes.  again.  She snapped it once Friday evening, but there was one hole left, so I buckled the torn end up (not classy, but functional). I had her standing in the cross ties while I wrapped her hind legs for the trip, when she got annoyed, stepped back, and ssssssssssnnnnnnnnnnnnap.  Bye.  Halter done-zo.

Fortunately I keep spare halters (for just this situation) in my trailer, but sadly, they are all normal horse size, not Prairie-the-boat-face size.  Closing in on our "ideal departure time,"  I started ransacking the barn.  Grabbing spare halters from known friends who I was pretty sure wouldn't mind.  But, Goldilocks the giant-faced-horse couldn't fit her snout in any of them.
 Anyway, I finally found an old leather halter in S's office that worked, so off we went.
looking embarrassed in her travel hat and makeshift halter...
P2 hauled well and came off the trailer exactly like she did when took our trip a few weeks ago to the park.  Ears up and a bit looky for a minute... but dozing in the sunshine after we walked about for 2 minutes...

Given all the halter-snapping and the fact that I apparently had zero functional spares, I politely asked The Boy to hold the mare while we tacked up, which went great, until she stomped on his foot.  (uggghhh).  Of course, add to this my mild anxiety about wanting approval and accolades for my fun new horse and I was a little edgy before I even got in the saddle.

Finally I got on, and it was more of the same from the Friday lesson.  Though the old BO is a bit more demanding than S and less appreciative of my bad habits.  She immediately forbid me from touching my inside rein which meant that Prairie thought she had full permission to look around and waggle her llama neck all over the place.

No matter.

I was to ignore it.  Boots on, and just the SLIGHTEST contact on the outside rein.  So much for us looking like rock stars.... the video confirms that we basically looked like drunk toddlers totally captivated by any passing bird/shadow/dog/cloud...

But I was determined to work through it, and eventually we did.  We repeated my Twister game from Friday... shoulders back, boobs out, butt under, hands up and together... WAH.  Who would have dreamed my bad habits would have reared their ugly heads so horribly in only 6 weeks!?

But we made progress.  After 20 minutes we even earned the right to trot! Just as ugly and disconnected as the walk, but eventually we got somewhere.  I know I can't "rely" on my inside rein, but I became painfully aware of how often I use it to reinforce the bend, keep Prairie's head down/in/focused and how much that in turn has been allowing my legs to go on vacation.  Old BO (old because she's not the current BO, not old as in... old) did make me feel less tragic in that she thought my "grabbiness" on the inside rein is probably a defensive maneuver left over from trying not to get tossed off Pia..  Makes sense to me, and I'd rather be acting of of fear and not laziness, so I took it...  Eventually I got more and more comfortable with letting Prairie do what she wanted with her head/neck and really (really REALLY) trying to just push her together with my legs.

Extremely frustrating.  I hate reprogramming my brain and body, even if it's necessary...

I did remember how flipping dreamy the BO's arena is.  Man that footing is perfect.  nicely damp, nice depth, super secure, no slipping and no uneven spots... That arena is certainly drool worthy.  I miss it.

It was also really good to see the BO.  She seems good, and her new horse is adorable and coming along really nicely.  It was hard not to feel a little harped on (not about my position, I deserved that) but in general.  Why don't I ride in spurs, why don't I have a flash on, why is this horse barefoot... and although she seemed to like P2, it was a qualified approval.  Not "she's nice, I'm glad you found a horse you enjoy" but "looks like she'll be a good project."  Maybe I'm just being sensitive, but it feels like the sort of back handed compliment you get from mean-girls in a high school locker room.

Long story short, I am very glad we went.  I got some criticism and pointers that I needed and it reinforced what S was talking to us about from a different perspective.  So that's helpful.  Also, for a second ride in a new environment, Prairie did great.  She's now 2 for 2 acting like a big girl in new places with me.

My hope is to squeeze in one more lesson before our schooling show.  I am gone this weekend, but that leaves June 2nd/3rd as an option to haul out once before we ride our tests. 

I am toying with the idea of dropping my First Level test.  But I keep going back and forth.  On one hand, it feels like we are so far from having lovely well balanced lengthenings ad 10m half circles to show for ourselves, but on the other hand... it's Dressage.

The worst thing that can happen is that we get a semi-tragic score.  It's not like I'm leveling up at an event before we are ready and I'll scare/hurt my horse by over facing it.  I suppose I can always just not lengthen our canter if it feels like Prairie will come unglued..

So, in that sense I sort of feel like why the hell not just leave us entered in Training 3 and First 1.  Ahhhh decisions decisions....I can feel my brain flip-flopping even as I type this.

Without further ado, here's a short clip from our lesson (before The Boy went to go take a nap).  You can see that I have a better contact with Prairie in my outside rein and that she's right between my legs.  But you can also see that she has learned I am not using my inside rein and that she can flip her head around however she wants... this behavior diminished during the ride, but didn't go away entirely.

Also, for those curious, there's a nice shot at the very end of her trotting away from the camera and you can see that she moves straight even with the uneven wear on her hinds...makes me think her feet are (mostly) fine and she's wearing them as she needs to.

Oh yeah - and when we got home, while I was taking off Prairie's wraps she sat back and snapped S's halter too.  MARE! That's three halter snappings in less than 24 hours.  Unacceptable.  And also embarrassing...

here's the video:


  1. Despite her llama moments, she looks lovely and elastic (and you looks very calm). And as for the comments, haters gonna hate. I agree that it sounds a bit like a mean girls thing to say. Prairie is young and your partnership is new... And, I for one love seeing people ride dressage WITHOUT a flash. Jeepers, people!

    As for the halters? Might be time to stick her in something that WON'T break!!!! Cheeky Mare!

  2. possibly time to buy a rope halter for that girl!

  3. Damn that mare is NICE!!!. You two make a lovely pair. I say show First Level. Ride like you own it and I bet you'll be surprised. :)

  4. You know, I've had the same "He needs shoes" or "You need a different bit/bridle" comments. I try to give the person the benefit of the doubt, because you know, ALL dressage horses *need* shoes and they ALL need flash nosebands, right? I mean, that's just the way you DO things! I have learned to politely ask why they are making those recommendations. "Why do you think she needs shoes?" The person will probably look at you blankly. Same with nosebands - I was looking in the Dressage Extensions catalog yesterday and I COULD NOT find a single snaffle bridle that did not have a flash on it. Um, no wonder people think you need a flash for dressage - you can't buy a bridle any other way! Mind-boggling, really.

    I agree with Kate - sounds like it's time for a rope halter for Ms. Thang.

  5. I must say she is beautiful! So flow-ie and nice. I'm very jealous. I can't believe she has broken so many ding dang halters. It's crazy.

  6. Ug, my mare learned to sit down and break halters too. She wasn't scared at all, she just figured out that if she sat on her arse that it would break! I took a pretty harsh line with her about it - I was scared she would flip and crack her head open (I've seen it before). I just used my dressage whip, let her start to sit down again, and gave her one big wallop to make her jump forward and stop leaning on the halter. I think I had to do it maybe 2 or 3 times over a couple of days and she has not tried to do it again. It is disrespectful of the halter pressure and I started to have trouble loading her on the float and leading her places she didn't want to go, which was not safe or acceptable.

    I know that is pretty harsh and hitting a horse with a whip like that is borderline but in that situation, with my horse, I deemed it necessary to curb her dangerous behavior.

    1. I wacked her on the bum FYI to make it perfectly clear not to sit on it!

  7. I think you both look great! Everyone has bad habits they have to work on. Don't beat yourself up about, just enjoy the journey of improvement in both of you. :D I bet you'll have fun at the show!

    One thing I wondered watching the video is would more impulsion improve the head tossing? Impulsion from behind is what is supposed to make them work over their back and fixes the neck. I dunno. I'm grasping at straws. It's been so long since I've ridden dressage I probably have it all wrong.

    As for the halter situation I would definitely address it asap before it becomes a habit. You could do as Lisa suggested (or if you don't want to spank her you can make a loud noise and scare her because if sitting back scares her she will stop, doesn't have to be pain) or you could use a rope halter. That comes with risks since it won't break, but Chrome learned pretty quick not to lean on it and so doesn't in his flat halter either. He's never broken one though. I hope you can figure it out soon.


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