Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Full Speed Ahead

May was a hard month for a while there. The weather shifted constantly from hot to wet to cold and never really segued into summer. We dealt with a couple potential flare-ups that fortunately didn’t require too much time off. And there were a couple really bad rides when Sofie was unable to bend or do what I wanted and I was unfair to her. I somehow lost sight of everything I’d learned, and I overcorrected with my hands and tried to correct everything at once. I wasn’t kind to her, and I felt sick about it afterward. The next time I saw her she was lame, which made me feel awful. I had hoped that I was the only one still feeling the consequences of my actions, but she was too, and that really wasn’t fair. It’s fine to be ambitious and try to improve my horse, but training is only beneficial if I pay attention to how she’s feeling and respect her when she tells me she can’t. I lost sight of that for two rides, and she paid for it. There wasn’t anything I could do but give her a massage, cry into her neck for a while and do better in the future.

Thankfully I did start to do better. I limited sugar in my diet, which helped me level out and not be such a psycho bitch to the ones I love. Sofie’s lameness went away quickly and within a few days she was rideable again. I started out with some light rides, just going down the road one day and then starting to work in the yard again. She responded to light rein aids and didn’t get worried. She forgave me and trusted me. Our bond didn’t fracture; it held. One day I went out to the mare’s turnout area and Sofie was lying in a sandpit. I had to put a fly mask on one of the other mares so I went to do that. In minute or two Sofie came hurrying over. She stopped and pivoted to face me, making sure I didn’t take the wrong horse. It’s so cute when she lets on that she likes me. She’s been walking toward me more often than not when I go to catch her, and I love it.

Our rides have been awesome. She may look a bit off when I free school her, and she may start out feeling a little stiff or slow but she has been doing everything I ask. I haven’t been carrying a whip as she seems to anticipate and get chargey when I have one. She’s been listening extremely well it. I’ve really stepped up and am giving her more confident direction, and she’s paying attention. I don’t always have flexion or bend, but if she’s steady and I have a connection with her mouth I don’t worry about it. We’ve been emphasizing “forward” lately.

The most exciting thing is that I have a canter cue. I have half halts. Basically, I have so much more control than I used to. I can now trot her through all the places she used to like to canter in, and I can keep her from charging or taking off. She still picks up the canter on her own sometimes, maybe once every other ride or so, but the majority of our canters are my decision. The last three rides she cantered from my leg alone, no whip, without bucking. She will canter away from the barn, straight and forward, and I can’t even describe how awesome that is. I’ve always loved cantering her, and I feel like all our work is coming together. It’s exciting. I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not afraid to go fast, I’m not afraid of her reactions, I’m not afraid to take charge. I’m not afraid, and she’s not crazy. It feels like we are working together now.

I have been mostly riding in the yard, but I did ride down the road one day the “other” way. We had only been that way once before and Sofie was very relaxed. She only got a little nervous at the very end (we hadn’t gone that far the previous time).

We still have a lot to learn and work toward, which is exciting in a way. I’m trying to learn turn on the haunches (or at least some version of it). I want to continue our road work. Each ride I work on eliminating her drifting, and our bending always needs work. I haven’t been able to get her to pick up the canter on a bend yet, or canter a full circle. And the right lead remains elusive for us. I haven’t really worked on it yet as I think she needs to be fitter (and very sound) before I attempt to correct it, as I think it will take quite a few canter departs for us to get it right. As it is, she’s very adept at counter canter, and I don’t really mind. She prefers to take the left lead both ways when free schooling also. I did get her to take the right lead once while free schooling recently, and I also got her to change onto it twice. I also might have gotten her to change onto it while riding, but I’m not sure. I will need eyes on the ground when I do attempt to correct her lead preference issue.

There will always be improvements to be made, but we’ve both come a really long way and I’m really proud of that. I’m happy.