Usually when I hear riders complain that their horses are being stubborn or lazy or particularly difficult or tempermental, I shrug and suggest that they all have good days and bad days like the rest of us, and that it wouldn’t be fair to expect otherwise. As I look over our herd of assorted breeds of mostly teenage horses, I could pick a few that tend on the lazier side, but in my book they are all saints as far as horses go… there is not a single one in the group that is “bad” compared to horses I have known in the past. But without a “bad” horse to compare to, it is easy to think that any less than perfect moment constitutes a horse being bad, rather than just a bad day, or heck, just a horse being a horse, or even rider error or sore muscles! I always try to see it from the horses’ point of view, especially with behaviors that crop up one day and are gone the next (versus an on going training issue), and just call it a bad day.
Well, today it was my turn. I’m still sorta scratching my head, since last Friday I had the BEST rides on both Liam and Remy. Remy learned to canter under saddle last week, like from a good trot to pick up a nice, easy balanced canter, navigate the other horses in the arena, and then transition back to a nice trot… from my seat! Liam and I did a lot of canter work as well (since Thursday we had done a TON of collected trot lateral work), but Liam’s canter work involved walk-canter-walk transitions, flying lead changes, counter-canter, and 10 meter circles in the collected canter he is starting to develop. I was just on cloud 9 leaving the barn, so pleased with both rides!
I didn’t get out to the barn over the weekend because the sore throat I had last week turned into a long day on the couch on Saturday, dozing on and off, mostly either too hot or chilled, sniffling and coughing. Sunday was a little better, but I took it easy trying to shake whatever bug I had. Today I felt better except for a little bit of lingering sniffles. My plan was to ride only Liam today because I just couldn’t go another day without riding, but I was going to just do a light ride, just enough to move us around a little. Liam had other plans though. He came into the arena like he was fresh off the racetrack. I had a very sticky accelerator, and no brakes at all!
Now, maybe this is where it was just a bad day, because usually when he comes out feeling this good, I figure he just needs to get a little gallop out of his system and off we go, and then usually we have wonderful rides where he feels lighter than air and offers me all sorts of wonderful work. But today, still sniffly, I just didn’t have it in me. I tried to talk sense into Liam, going back to a very basic walk-whoa-walk-whoa exercise. And each time I’d ask him to walk, he’d prance off, and each time I’d ask for whoa he’d give me the middle finger. I got frustrated pretty quickly because I KNOW he knows this stuff! After an eternity, he settled into walking and whoaing politely, so we proceeded to trot and walk transitions. We had another whole discussion about doing the transitions without throwing his head up in the air, and then finally got some good work. Then I made the stupid decision to continue to the canter-trot transitions (cause, ya know, if the easy work is hard, the harder work will be…. impossible? yeah, let’s work on that when I’m not feeling well!). Well, once he finally got to canter, he was not thrilled with the idea of stopping, then the trot I got was so awful I couldn’t even half halt it back to an acceptable trot, so I tried to do a walk transition, and what do ya know but that didn’t work either! Ack!
I took a deep breath and went back to walk and whoa. We built our way back up to cantering, then had to go back down to whoaing, up and down, up and down. By the end of our ride, we must have done hundreds of transitions, mostly walk and whoa, and I’d been on him almost 2 hours. We were both sweaty, but he would finally transition easily both up AND down between all the gaits, on the bit, from my seat and not the reins. It would have been easier to let him gallop at the beginning of the ride.
Lesson learned, but, dare I even say? I am actually looking forward to seeing what sorta pony I have tomorrow. Now that I’m over my frustration with his inability to halt, and over my frustration with the fact that my frustration led to the ride that it led to, I’m actually sorta glad that I rode through it the way I did instead of just letting him run around. Since he is feeling better and gaining strength and fitness quickly, he needs to remain disciplined or I will have created a monster. Tomorrow, I’m hoping he is more settled, but either way I should have an AWESOME half halt installed from all the transition work today! I love a forward horse, but I want to be able to do something with all the energy. Maybe if he’s feeling fresh we can skip the gallop around, and go right to the lighter than air dressage work?