First I must say that this was just my circumstancial experience. Everyone I spoke to really enjoyed their lesson with Leslie and I enjoyed his teaching in the demo but the combination of the situation made my experience less than fun. But this is my experience none-the-less, as the lessons and week went on Steady got more and more high strung. So in my earlier lesson with Peter he started putting his head higher than normal. Thus he suggested a martingale. Which I understand his point BUT this problem was brand new and I have never had the need for it before now. Though I agree that there is nothing wrong with having it there as a safety net. I just have never made it a priority until now. At home or the many, many times I have trailered out for lessons or clinics or shows have I never gotten this sort of behavior out of Steady. Well it seemed it started building but being out on cross country just put him over the top.
I will start at the begining. After my lesson with Peter I went on a hunt for a martingale to borrow. In the process I was offered a martingale along with the bridle that had the reins with the stops on it. It was a figure 8 bridle and I thought I would give it a whirl. Gotta love eventers! They will give you the shirt off their back if they know you are in need.
We get out on the coarse and he has us canter around in a large area together. I could see off the bat that something was different about my horse but I did not know exactly what it was. Then out to jump some jumps. After each jump he would have his head high then flip out his nose all of which was giving me no control. Leslie first said I was coming down on his back and that is why he was doing it. I made sure I wasn't landing on his back and still no change. I suggested the tack may be the issue and he made a crack about "eventers and their excuses". My frustration was building and I was for the first time ever scared to be on my horses back. A few more times around and it was like pressure underneath me was building my control was getting less and less. We removed the martingale finally and there was no change. Then Leslie got on him. He took him around and he had no more luck than I did. I kept saying it has to be something because my horse has never acted like this. My best guess was the tack. At this point I was so stressed and finally Leslie said to go and change his bridle. It was one of the most frustrating experiences, telling people that there is something wrong and feeling like NO ONE would believe me. Like any one of them would know my horse better than me. I have never experienced anything like that before and I hope I never have to again. But later I will fill you in on an expert opinion I got that really helped me.
I felt I needed to go back and changed my bridle but I was so looking forward to cross country. Steady rocks at it! He is so brave and willing at everything and I just thought we would have fun. Now I am walking my way back to the barn, tears coming down my face while everyone else made their way to the water complex. I was struggling to change the reins because my hands were shaking so bad and thankfully two other riders jumped in to help get me back on my way.
I was headed back out but all shaken up. Not to go into anymore details but a couple other comments were made that were probably not a big deal but in my state of being overwhelmed they hurt pretty badly. I made out to the water before they had finished and he had me first walk him through the water then canter him through then over the lincoln log jump. He did it all no problem. Steady was still tense but I could feel the tension slowly decreasing. Though he was not my regular XC rock star he was more managable.
Then to the ditches. We popped over the first small ditch(about 2 ft) no problem. I was so proud since he has never seen let alone jump one before. Then Leslie said go for the big one(about 3 ft) to all of us. Steady didn't even hesitate! He jumped it a bit big but you know there are trolls that live in there and he needed to make sure he cleared it so as not to be eaten by said trolls. But one of the horses refused repeatedly and the rest of the time was spent with them trying to get that horse over the big ditch. Over all I was very proud of my horse and proud of me for knowing my horse and knowing that something was not right. By the end he was still antsier than normal but not where I felt unsafe.
This experience was the beginning of the big epiphany I had about Steady over the next couple days. Now I know my horse better and that he and I are a team and if my team mate is struggling with something it is my job to do what ever I have to do to get to the bottom of it. This was the biggest lesson I took away from all of it. I already knew he was brave, willing and a freaking rock star but seeing him do the water and ditches like they are nothing was so gratifying. I took a horse straight from track life a little over a year ago that was afraid of something as simple as a hill. But he has built so much trust in me that he knows I would never ask him to do something that would hurt him that he will do even the unknown scary stuff with confidence. Oh boy was I a proud Mama! I was frustrated that I never got ANY recognition over any of it from the trainer. I mean I know in my heart that we did awesome but a little affirmation would have been nice. Especially after the start we had.
Sorry no photos of XC and I am having a heck of a time uploading any video :( I may just have to add video later.