Thursday, March 24, 2011

Transition Time

As always, Sofie differs by the day. Our last two rides have been strong, and certainly promising. I’ve been able to walk up to her and catch her two out of the last three times, which is an improvement. There is still some attitude I’m detecting there, and I’m not sure what to make of it, but I know my usual strategy of getting upset and taking it personally is not effective, so I’m working on adjusting my own attitude and finding the positive (or at least the non-dreadful side). I do tend to seek out the worst-case scenario and embrace it lovingly, which is something I’m working on. She has certainly been grumpy before, and we eventually moved past it. There have also been fleeting times when she was totally willing and happy and not having any issues (there really have been, I swear). So I know what she’s capable of, which is why I tend to look for an actual cause rather than sticking a negative label on her fuzzy, two-tone butt.

She’s been making such progress under saddle, which is partly why this is so confounding. Sofie is really learning and moving in the right direction, and she seems pretty happy to work for me. I guess whatever issue she’s having is just presenting itself in a different way this time around. I’m very happy to be having good rides, but it does make me question things when I show up and she doesn’t want to come in. It makes me think I’ve done something wrong, even when our rides point to something else entirely. It’s confusing.

When I went to grab Sofa before our second to last ride I found her lying down in a hay pile (and filthy mud…the hay pile wasn’t big enough. Woops.), so I walked over to see how she would react. When I reached her she stood up, I petted her for a bit and she didn’t walk away. She seemed happy to see me, so I had hope that maybe her cranky phase was over. I cleaned her up a little and put the mounting block outside, as the weather was still nice that day. We were mainly confined to the driveway (I did walk her on the high ground in the yard, but the grass went squish, squish, squish with every step so we had to tread lightly to avoid making holes everywhere), but being outside was still way preferable to the dingy arena.

We did our usual work and were able to adapt to the footing and limited space quite well. She never bobbled, even on the hardest part of the driveway, and she took a nice contact at the trot most times. She bent well and didn’t waver too much when I asked her to go straight away from the barn. Her walk was good, and she didn’t anticipate the trot. She also listened well during the downward transitions. The driveway wasn’t conducive to figures, but as I was trotting her around I did have her do a ten meter right half circle on a slope, just to see how she would do. She was round and bending really well. It was no trouble for her at all. It really showed her progress with bending to the right. I like to keep my figures big, but I think it’s good to throw in smaller turns every so often to test her balance and keep things interesting.

We both had fun on our driveway ride. It was nice to do something different. Sofie seemed happy the whole time. Afterward I led her out to eat a little grass. Sofie had been eagerly looking at the disgusting, old grass that had melted out, and I finally had time for a little hand-grazing.

The next day I came out to find her walking away from me again, which was upsetting. I think the reason I’ve been struggling with this is because I consider Sofie a friend, and she has been there for me when friends haven’t. So I took it a little hard.

Once I got her tacked up I led her into the indoor and decided to set up a couple poles. I hadn’t worked her over poles in forever, but I wanted to do something different to make the arena a little less blah, so I put Sofa in park and grabbed a pole. She seemed interested, and abandoned her stationary position to follow me as I dragged a pole out into the arena. Once I found the right spot I set it down and led her back to the pole heap, where I “parked” her again and got another pole. She followed me again looking very adorable and not at all pissed off at my presence. I guess she is a girl, so she has every right to change her mind every five seconds...

I mounted up, leaving my feet out of the stirrups. It was nice to get back to no-stirrups work. I've been riding outside so much that my no-stirrup work had kind of fallen away, since I'm not confident enough to go without outside yet. Something I need to work on. Anyway, after our obligatory walk-around time I picked up the reins, did a little suppling to prevent anticipation, and asked her to trot. She went around to the right with nice energy, and I felt a good, positive connection going on. It was just one of those rides where everything was pretty easy, and it seemed like we knew what we were doing. I was able to keep her on the rail, and we had a nice dialogue going. After I asked her to walk I felt the exertion of going back to no stirrups, but I still felt balanced without them.

She was bobbling to the left at a trot, so we didn't do to much in that direction. She was much rounder, though, and not all tense and inverted. Our downward transitions were much better, and I felt like I had half halts, which have been harder to do without stirrups. She had plenty of energy at the walk and did not anticipate the trot. Our rein backs were a little relucant and wobbly but not bad. And the pole work proved rather fun. She didn't pick up her feet quite enough over the larger pole, but she was much more willing to actually go over the poles than she has been in the past. She used to hate pole work, and this time she didn't seem to have an issue with it.

All in all, it was a very productive ride. She is so much rounder than she ever has been, it's pretty great. She's really learned a lot in a short time. Riding without stirrups is the best thing I've ever done. I'm so much better off now as a rider. I have built strength and balance, and I feel totally comfortable without stirrups now at the walk and trot. Sofie is learning how to be round and taking steps toward a better balance, which she has needed for a long time. All very good things.

Her resistance to being caught is not great, but I'm finding it's not the end of the world. I don't consider myself entirely blameless or anything, but I also can't beat myself up for not being perfect. This phase may be due in part to my asking her for more. She may not be entirely on board, and maybe she would rather hang out with her friends than come in and work. It's spring, and everybody's in transition. Things have changed, in more ways than one. The work is a little harder, but she needs the work. She's moving in a much more beneficial way now. I've started praising her more, which I needed to do, and maybe that will help over time. All I can do is enjoy what goes well, and try not to get too focused on what goes badly. Maybe it's not the end of the world if she doesn't want to come in some days. Maybe it's just another thing we need to work through.


  1. My new horse (less than a week) Drifter walked away from me for the first time today when I went in his paddock to halter him and do some work. He's normally pretty friendly, but I've started asking him to do some things he'd rather not do - like hold his feet up for picking and stay out of my space while leading - and he's sulking a bit.

    Wouldn't worry too much about it - she's got her own horsey interests and life and sometimes she'd probably prefer that to hanging out with you.

  2. Don't blame yourself when she walks away, sometimes they just get moody. Hell, I was bringing my mare in only to feed her and groom her and one time I went out for her only to find her in the FAR corner of the paddock, face in the corner, completely checked out to my presence. Every other time she'd if not walk up to me, at least turn to face me. When I brought her in she was perfectly behaved, but once I let her loose after feeding and grooming, she walked off without looking back. ::shrugs:: They have minds of their own, and sometimes they have deep thoughts, or something. ;)