Thursday, March 18, 2010

Feel the fear...

and then do it anyway!

My own horse has been giving me a run for my money here lately. He has been herd bound and is just feeling the oncoming of spring.

I decided two things today. Well, maybe just one, but two parts? I don't know. Anyway, I need to treat all my horses equally- theres the one big one. Part one is riding Ari the way I ride the rest of the crew- I don't take any crap from any of the other horses and it works out well. The second is making sure I expect the same level of competence out of the rest of the crew that I do Ari.

I was riding Gracie this morning and lamenting that she doesn't ever halt square. Then I went "Well, why not? What happens if one day you're entered in an event and Ari can't go for some reason, and Brandy is sold and you decide to bring Gracie? She needs to be just as schooled as Ari! You ride her nearly as much!" So I cracked down. Its like I usually expect less of her because shes such a snot... but not anymore!

She did nearly seek her revenge on the way in, though, I had the reins laid over her neck and was just hacking back to the barn. She spotted a tiny piece of green grass that she wanted and put her head down so fast that the reins flew over her head and she nearly flipped over her own head from the momentum she had going forward. Because her neck disappeared out from in front of me, I had to grab with my legs to stay on top (silly inertia!) and actually tweaked a butt muscle, then had to do the old "grab the cheek piece and pull your head up to get my reins back" move. It was certainly a site to behold!

Ari got put on the longe first today because he was acting squirrely in the cross ties. He did a couple buckn'farts and then settled down. I had the neck stretcher, my favorite thing ever, on him when I got on. Loosely adjusted, but man, it helps so much. I'm sure its a mental thing for me, honestly, because I'm not sure I ever saw it engage.

The last time I rode him I gave him a good stretchy warmup and then practiced riding him uphill and on contact without pulling. He was so springy from behind! We lost it at the canter when he got distracted by a tractor by the hay barn. I had nothing left of his brain so I never got any good canter work out of him.

He's been a turd at the canter all the time it seems like, so we've been getting in lots of fights lately. Today I "felt the fear and did it anyway." He is prone to bolting, and usually with a bolt comes a buck or a spin... Like I said, the neck stretcher was on, and I think it mentally let me "let go." I tend to hang on him when he gets quick and then he pulls against me, braces and runs faster and down hill. I rode him like I ride the rest of my horses today (see how it all plays in?). I had a check list-
  • Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. 
  • Sit behind the motion. Lift your stomach. Lead with your belly button. Think german dressage rider.
  • So what if he bucks or bolts (both of which he attempted) RIDE IT. (This is the basis of all- he has been so adept in the past at leaving me in midair, I forget that I'm a fitter rider and he's much more connected and on the aids now- its nearly impossible for him to sneak out from underneath me on the flat.)
  • Don't let him "stall out." (Often, he leans on my hands and then braces his neck- giving him the excuse to stop. I usually get after him after he breaks gate and miss the chance. I was on top of it today, making sure he was staying elevated in the front and soft through his neck- never giving him the chance.)
And success! We had an awesome ride! I'm ready for a jump lesson this week and XC schooling next Saturday! 

Brandy has officially gotten too wide for my jump saddle. I was trying to decide why shes been so anxious lately and in the spirit of instant gratification, changed my saddle, her bit and put her in the neck stretcher all the same day. She's in a flexi mullen mouth eggbutt now and I love her in it.
 She seems happier.

I think the metal mullen mouth was mushing her bars of her mouth.
 She's very sensitive, you know... 

I also put her in my Wintec saddle (fitted for Shasta) with a sheepskin pad to make it fit better. Yes, everything was much better in her world with those changes. I hate my Wintec to ride in though, so I'm on the lookout for a wide tree saddle to borrow for awhile, if anyone has one. 

I also put Shasta in a flexi mullen mouth today. My premise is that they're so squishy and inviting that the horses tend to want to lean on them instead of back off of them, giving me something to work with on the "reschool" horses. Brandy had something like 30 days on her when I got her (I consider myself to have started her though, because she didn't actually know ANYTHING.) and I know they rode her in the... *ahem* "redneck snaffle."
 This is not a snaffle, will never be a snaffle and should be banned. 

Anyway, it made her hard mouthed and fussy from the get go, so encouraging her to lean on the bit a little is teaching her to accept contact and giving me something to work with. We did the same thing with Lyra (fussy off the track mare) and now I'm repeating it with Shasta, who was also a western horse and was taught to be "behind" the contact to be ridden in a curb bit.

She did have a very nice ride in it, of course, and was willing to give me some flexion and didn't take the wrong lead at all. Wonderful!

I also decided today that Ari was going to have to quit being so freaking herd bound and remember how to stand tied, since he's learned that he can sit back and break things.

So, I put some leather strips around the posts in the roundpen and tied him with a trailer tie. He didn't sit back and break the leather, oh no, he bumped on that tie long enough that he bent the clasp and let himself free.

Ari- 1, Lauren- 0

And then he did it again with another one.

Ari- 2, Lauren- 0

So I tied him with his lead rope to the leather strip. Abby reported that he broke it fairly easily (we're talking leather laces here) and as soon as she retied him, he did it again. So, he was loose when I got back from riding Brandy.

Ari-4, Lauren- 0

I tied him again and he immediately broke the leather piece with a simple tug of his head. No effort required.

Ari- 5, Lauren- 0

So I ran the rope around the post and held the end, in case he decided to sit back and try to rip the round pen down.

No, no. He's too smart for that. He just stood there. No problem.

Ari- 6, Lauren- 0

So, I think I have to officially declare Ari a "non-tier." He is not reliable, thats for sure, and the blocker tie rings have just taught him to play the rope out until he can do whatever he wants. He won't tie fast to anything- he'll fight until he breaks away or kills himself. What do you do with that? I'm tempted to tie him to a tree and see who wins...

So, while the bad news is that Ari defeated Lauren today in regard to tying, the good news is that Murray beat Vandy in a last minute buzzer-beater. And while I don't really care about sports, its exciting because its my alma mater vs the local favorite. (and that is likely the last time I'll ever mention anything about basketball on this blog.)


  1. It is amazing how much we can accomplish when we step back, think about things, and make very small changes that lead to big results. I have had to do that with Bonnie a lot (she cantered 4 jumps in a row yesterday BTW).

  2. I know all about the "feel the fear and do it anyway"-- ask Amy about getting me to stay on while I walked back to the barn after my dressage lesson at Jumping Branch! I really, really wanted to just get off, but she convinced me to ride him back, snorting and everything. For me the trick is DO NOT TAKE MY LEG OFF.

    Hey, congrats, Melissa! I can't wait to see Bonnie in action.