So last night was a mix of the beautiful and the frustrating.
I went out to the barn thinking life was good, all was right with the world, I had a lesson scheduled with an amazing trainer for today, had everything arranged and was going to be organized and ready. I also had found out that Jennifer would be able to take Vanya, my older gelding, in a pair pace coming up. Everything was just wonderful. I did some planning with some people at the barn for the pair pace and the upcoming show, and went and caught my horse. I admit it stresses me a bit when I have more than one person who wants to ride Vanya in a night, and that was the case again, but I determined a course of action that made pretty much everyone happy (Nicole can ride him bareback while Jennifer works her other horse and then Jennifer can ride him).
I caught Strider and got him tacked up. He was being super affectionate and sweet and as I looked over him when I groomed him everything was great. I took him in to start lungeing him though and as soon as he started to trot I noticed he was a little off. I though he might warm up out of it since he has shown stiffness before, so I did some stretches with him, gave him some more walk time, and then tried again. He seemed a little better, so I asked for a canter. He seemed alright, then he came back down to a trot and it was back. He was off again. I stretched him a bit more and then walked him around mostly on a loose rein since he was very comfortable with that and it seemed to make him happy. I then put liniment on his legs and put his standing wraps on and let him hang out in a stall with his hay bag while I went to help Jennifer.
While I was worried about Strider, Jennifer was having a horrible time with her horse, Dundee. I had suggested she try a flash on him, since I had seen that he liked to gape to avoid the bit. I helped her put it on and made sure it was still pretty loose. His bridle is actually too big for him I noticed so both his nosebands were actually pretty loose, so he wasn’t being overly restricted by adding the flash. However, Dundee definitely wasn’t too excited about this. He was walking and trotting around looking more like a giraffe than I had ever seen a horse look. I could tell Jennifer was trying as hard as she could and doing her best and as I lunged Strider I was trying to giver her help on what to do to help him listen and relax. It was all to no avail. By the time I was done with Strider Jennifer was incredibly frustrated; with good reason. I got on Dundee and got him walking forward on a 20m circle and asked him to relax and bend to the inside and accept contact. It took him a few circles, but he finally did. I had him maintain the contact for a time or two around the circle and then changed direction through the circle and did the same thing going the other way. I really applied what I had learned from my lesson with Jo and focused on staying centered, relaxed, and breathing. Once I felt he was listening, I had Jennifer get on again.
At first she still struggled. I coached her to what Jo had explained to me. Focus on center. Relax the shoulder but sit tall. Follow with the hips. Still Dundee ignored her requests to bend and give and accept the contact. She kept at it and I reminded her to consistently focus on just what she could directly control and each individual moment and to breathe and be patient with Dundee; trust that he would eventually listen to her. I explained that she couldn’t impose her timeframe on the horse: she wants him to accept contact now but he will do it when he is ready. Finally she understood. She was still frustrated and was on the point of giving up. Suddenly, Dundee relaxed and accepted the contact and softened and bent. It didn’t last long, but Jennifer was puzzled. She said she wasn’t doing anything at all. She asked him to do what she wanted again. More resistance. When she relaxed and just followed his motion but maintained contact and stopped asking, he accepted the contact and softened and bent. She was baffled. She wasn’t doing anything she repeated. Of course not. Sometimes, when we need to get the most done with our horses, we struggle, we ask, but we have to quiet ourselves and let them be and just ride them as best we can. We may feel like we are doing nothing, just following them, but that may be all we need to do.
It was an important realization for me and for Jennifer. Sometimes, you may not feel like you are doing anything or getting anywhere, but if you are centered, balanced, and following the correct lead, you will achieve what you need. An interesting thought.
I admit I am still really frustrated about having to cancel my lesson for Strider being off, but I don’t want to push it. After had the wraps and liniment on for a bit he was improved but I m worried about him. He has had off days before; it is probably because he is about due for his next trimming as I cannot locate any heat, tenderness, or swelling anywhere, but it still worries me. We’ll see. Since Jennifer had to go, I hopped on Vanya bareback and just enjoyed being with him. He is such a joy and he teaches me still every time I ride him. So, even though last night was frustrating, it was beautiful in many ways- I learned a lot.
Hopefully tonight will be a night I can apply what I learned without the frustration. We’ll see. Until next time…RAWR!