Let me start with an helmet update. I was successful in finding a helmet that actually fits my head- Troxel Intrepid. It took a lot of trying on but this is snug all the way around and it was very reasonably priced ($99).
If you've been following along Carmen has been a bit of a handful lately. Saturday I had a lesson booked and was looking forward to it. The weather was warm and muggy and Carmen was pretty mellow.
She was behind the leg so much of the lesson was spent getting her in front. What I learned was that I need to be clear that forward is required. A thing I wasn't sure about was that I was to take the inside rein and, when she gave, give it forward so that it formed a loop. I've done this in past with Irish and it worked pretty well but it seemed to confuse Carmen. I have been spending a lot of time with her on contact and flexing her to inside that giving it that much felt like throwing away. But we had some good moments and at the end I had a nice stretchy trot circle. It was a long a lesson and when we were done I was surprised that we had been working for about 90 minutes.
Cynthia had come to ride Irish. Originally I was planning to ride again but I figured with she had worked so hard that I wouldn't do it. Instead I waited a bit and then brought her up to graze around the edges. She was happy to graze in every area -even her spooky spots. There was not one bit of concern.
Today I wanted to ride her again. My plan was to keep the session really short - I just wanted her to be forward and soft and I was going to get off. On the ground she was calm but mentally she didn't seem to be with me. I kept working until she seemed to be tuned in and then I got on. My mistake (spoiler alert) was that I was being too 'nice' because I didn't want to work her too hard.
I got on and we started out okay. The weather was sunny but there was a fresh breeze. As I rode she became fixated on the fluttering greenery and there was nothing that was successful in getting her attention on me. She was fighting the flexing of the inside rein. To be honest I think I taught her that it was negotiable. We had a big spook. I breathed and went back to work. We spooked again. And then again. ON the fourth one she began to spiral around and I was rapidly heading to a wreck.
I got off and she was completely ignoring me on the ground. I put the lunge line back on and we then I proceeded to work her very hard. I had too- otherwise I was not there. I had to be the most relevant thing in her life and I needed her attention. I had her going forward and then stopping. I deliberately spooked her (e.g. by stamping my foot or waving my arm) and repeated the actions until she stopped reacting/spooking. When it was clear that I had her full and undivided attention I got back on.
And it started all over again but this time I was determined that we were having our 'come to jesus moment'. I did my best to make sure that I was not overly tense or harsh but I was as hard as I needed to be in the moment and then softened when she gave me what I wanted. For example, I asked for a trot and she would pin her ears- I gave a sharp kick and a growl and when she went forward she got a 'good girl'. I was trotting her down the long side and she decided she didn't want to go by the gate and tried to evade by throwing her haunches in. Okay then, we rode haunches in down the long side. When she realized it was work I would ask her to straighten out and we carried on. When she tried to spin and launch I kept the outside rein and raised up the inside to make a wall, kicked with my inside leg and we f**&() went down the long side. When she went by and didn't try to run out on me I gave her lots of praise.
When she was listening I stopped her and dismounted. Interestingly, I walked her to 'scary spots' and she didn't care. Somehow I have inadvertently given her the idea that when I'm on her listening to me is an option. I need to change that perspective.
After I hosed her off and let her stand in the cross ties while I tidied up. She wanted to be out with Irish but I figured some patience was in in order. I then gave her her cookie and turned her out. she was very respectful of my space.
I do not think that I will be looping the rein for her- I think that only confused her and that she needs the contact (not holding). She's also quite fit because after these last 3 rides I'm exhausted and she looks pretty fresh.