First off I feel like I live in the PNW lately with the weather we have been having. Twice a day I come in from feeding the animals and have to change my cloths because I am covered in mud. I had to get creative and set up temporary a solution for the mini's and goats in the center isle of the barn because of their stalls flooding. I am ready for cold temperatures, snow and the mud to disappear for a while. Thankfully the weather man is calling for just those things. I am hoping that tomorrow morning we will wake up to a blanket of the white stuff.
I had one of those rides Sunday. You know the ones that you say to yourself, "what the heck am I doing trying to train a horse??" It was generally a mess and I don't know that we really accomplished anything. It was the first ride in a long time that I really got Steady frustrated. At the point of frustration I have learned that is when I need to back down and find a new approach. Even if it is caused by the fact that he was distracted and not wanting to paying attention to me I still always either change the subject or try a new approach. Because who can learn in a frustrated state of mind?
It started out with him being really forward yet when I asked for contact he would either invert, brace and got into Llama impression or over exagerate my request and I would loose him nice forward movement and get kind of locked up, up front. Moving off my leg was more work than usual and I could get a shoulder in going toward the barn but away from the barn he would get that locked up(not sure if this term makes sense but I don't know how to explain how it felt) feeling again. By locked up I mean short, irregular strides with los of forward momentum. This is when the frustration started and after a few attempts to 'unlock' him and him bunny hopping(his version of flipping me the bird) I decided this was no way to get progress so once I got a good shoulder in toward the barn I told him good boy and called it a day.
Over all he was just amped and defient. Trot poles meant intermittent attempts to jump and/or run off. A tinsey cross rail called for him to try and run at it then run off afterward. One thing that stuck with me from my very short lessons with Dorothy Crowell was that if he can't handle himself at a canter then go to a trot if he can't handle himself at a trot then walk. Basically when troubles arise that are not being fixed then take it back a notch and go back to the last thing he does now how to do well and start there. Such great training advice and I can't think of a more thorough way of doing it. It can be hard to feel like you are going backwards by doing something that maybe seems elementary to you or you feel they 'should know this already' but it is so helpful to unfrazzle a frazzled young/green horse. You don't usually have to spend long back at the previous step but you do need to make sure you take as much time as the horse needs. Not the amount of time you feel it should take. All tough things for those of us that want to progress, progress, progress.
Last year I decided I would not canter until the spring. So I took a year working only at the walk and trot. Boring? Maybe, but I knew that I needed to establish many things before I went onto anything else. So that is what I did and I found that just by working at perfecting cues at the trot did wonders for the canter and I really did not have to do any work on the canter once we started cantering. So though I think canter is naturally Steady's best gait I also think it is what it is because of the ground work that I laid down first. As I was riding yesterday I started thinking it would be a good place for us to start this winter too. Do I like to canter? Yes actually it is my favorite gait, other than a nice gallop. But when we ride at home in the sloppy winter months it can be dangerous to canter anyways. We will through in canter here and there mostly just to work on picking up leads and transition but I think I have figured out our best place to train is at the trot so that is were we will stay most of the winter.
Karen and I are planning to lesson back to back on Dec. 17 for visiting and taping purposes so I am so excited for that. I realized after my ride that Steady and I are at the place were another lesson would be good for both of us. Help us refocus for the winter and find something new to develop. Ever since Event Camp I really haven't felt we were in the place to take another lesson because we had so much to work on and were making nice progress. I think now we are ready for the next step in this process.