Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Attitude

There’s been a shift in Sofie’s attitude that happened within our last few encounters. She hasn’t become terribly resistant under saddle, but she is reactive during grooming, which seems to suggest soreness. She is not lame or even off, really, but I think she’s communicating soreness. She’s reacting to pressure on her chest - a usual hot spot for Sofa pain - and seems to have some right side sensitivity as well. And the main thing is that she’s started not wanting to be caught, which is disheartening. She was hard to catch when I bought her, but I’ve pretty much been able to walk up to her for quite some time now, with a few random exceptions. But on Saturday when I went to get her she kept walking away, so I went with my usual tactic of sending her away (the “join-up” theory, as well as the “make their little game un-fun” theory). She was pretty determined not to be caught, and even kicked at me. Twice. I made sure she knew that was not remotely okay, and I think she got the message because she hasn’t done it since. Eventually I was able to catch her and I managed not to hold a grudge or go OMG my horse hates me! which was good, ‘cause that would have been kind of pointless at that point.

I’m not about to just blame this on attitude, since I’ve learned (repeatedly) that what seems like a training issue is often physically (and problematically) based. There’s got to be a reason for a horse to resist something all of a sudden. Obviously there’s the probability of pain being involved. Her reactivity to grooming indicates soreness, as does that front end “thing” I’ve been feeling for a few weeks. She tends to get sore shoulders from pulling herself around with her front end, which is one compelling reason why she needs to learn how to carry herself properly.

I also know that I have been asking for more as of late, which could lead to a little resistance. Having to work a little harder may have brought on a little soreness. I’m not sure it can be avoided in this case. She has issues, and while this work is good for her (as evidenced by a glowing review from a hard to please Annie when she last saw her), she’s having to stretch herself, and start to use muscles that have been long neglected. I certainly can’t blame her for not being entirely on board. I also don’t want to use her physical problems as an excuse for everything I don’t like. It’s true that a lot of her issues stem from her hocks, etc. but that doesn’t mean I should always rule out other potential causes. And I need to look to myself as a trainer to make sure I’m not a problem. Although I’ve been doing a pretty good job, I have struggled with attitude problems of my own, which I’m sure could be a factor. I have also known for a while that I have been a little stingy with the praise. I just get too focused on the things I’m working on, and I’ve neglected to speak up or reach down to rub her neck when she’s good, both of which she really appreciates. I haven’t been too much of a hard-ass, but I need to do better.

Finally, I think hormones might have been a contributing factor. It seemed like she was in heat last week, and she was definitely feeling it on Saturday. All the mares seemed to have lost their brains a little that day. I will be considering all the factors and working to be more generous with the praise, and we'll see if this little baditude clears up. I think it will.

Saturday’s ride was actually okay. Our walk work was a lot better, and she only broke to the trot a few times. I played around with picking up the reins and putting them down and rode without stirrups the whole time, so I felt like we had a somewhat productive ride. She seemed a little sore towards the end and we still had issues with straightness and the left side, but I was happy with her improvement in the walk. She did get gnarly in the trot a few times, particularly near the end of the ride. I rewarded more than I had been, so I was happy that I’d made an improvement in that respect.

She walked away from me again on Monday, but with less determination and no kicking. It didn't take me long to catch her, so that was at least a little better. It was a stunningly beautiful day, and I really wanted to ride outside, but I didn't know how the footing was. I was undecided as I tacked her up, but I quickly determined that I COULD. NOT. Ride in the indoor. I just couldn't. So we went outside. I figured I'd just walk her at first, and if the footing wasn't good then we'd just walk. But the driveway was mostly melted out, and when I rode her out into the snow I found that the footing was really pretty ideal. We really lucked out with that. I rode her all over the yard, and she was really good. Unsurprisingly, her jaw was a bit locked, but I just worked on it and it got better. She didn't drift badly at all and she wasn't barn sour. I love it! She went where I asked her to go and seemed pretty content. I think we were both really happy to get outside.

I've said it before, but I will be SO happy when we can ride outside consistently again. It's so nice to have room to work. I did some work on the free walk to working walk transition, and Sofie did well with not anticipating the trot. For my main trot work I put her on a huge circle (I like to make my circles waaaaay huge. Yay for large circles! The benefits of bending without the strain of a tiny little figure!) and worked in both directions. She was awesome, bending pretty evenly in both directions and maintaining her speed around the circle without falling and drifting very much. I felt the benefits of my stirrupless work in my stability. I didn't feel all over the place like I sometimes do when we're working outside, and especially in the snow.

She snuck a canter in once in her favorite spot to pick it up, so I kept her on the huuuuge circle and asked her to keep going. She broke to a trot ("Nah, don't wanna canter anymore. You ruined it for me with your enthusiasm.") so I tentatively put my outside leg back, all the while thinking "I wonder if she'll buck. Eh, probably." I could tell she was strongly considering it, but she decided to just pick up the canter without any issues. She drifted out a bit on the circle (I need to learn to keep my outside rein in the canter and not just try to steer with the inside rein) but she was bending and round in her neck. It was very nice, and drama-free.

We've really come a long way in our work outside. The barn sourness is no longer an issue (I even tested it by asking her to trot right by the barn, and she trotted away willingly!) and I'm definitely feeling confident that we can learn to bend flex and go relatively straight out there. I think we'll be able to present a pretty nice picture with some work! My mom was watching the ride, and she said we both looked good. According to her, Sofie was bending well, and she told me my contact was 100 percent improved from last year. All good things! I can definitely feel an improvement from the rather sloppy, disorganized, haphazard way we were going around even last fall. Apart from that, it was just such an awesome day to be riding. At one point I had halted her and I just sat on her for a minute, reveling in the sun and the light breeze. I could've stayed there all day.

Tuesday I went to the barn with a friend. Sofie actually didn't walk away from me when I went to catch her. She might've thought about it, but still, I'll take it. We rode outside again, and I didn't worry too much about "working" since it was really sloppy out and she'd done a lot the previous day. She resisted going into the trot a little the first time I asked, but that was all. We mostly walked around, with a little trotting and cantering (because we just can't help ourselves, apparently). She went through puddles and negotiated the mud and sloppy, melting snow like an ATV.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you get to the bottom of her troubles soon. Sounds like you're on the right track to figuring her out. You've already made so much progress with her.