Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tractors, chainsaws, barking dogs and monsters

Seriously.  Those were the distractions we faced during last nights' ride.  *sheesh*

But we've lived to tell the tale!  Neighbor Bob was on his tractor mowing, moving logs, cutting those logs into firewood, and providing plenty of nervous distractions for me.  Eagle was good with all of that.  Mostly.  Me?  I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof.  Oh, and I forgot the goats.  Eagle nor I were too concerned about them.  They're always coming through our fence and cruising wherever they want to go, whenever they want.  All good stuff right?  Well, tell my poor old heart that, will ya? My back is actually a little stiff from tensing up so much.  Oh, and it was our first time riding in the big, outside corral.  Shouldn't have made a difference, but remember we're dealing with my head here.

The distractions that did prove to concern Eagle were the "monster" that lives in the brushy area near the apple tree in one corner of the corral; and Charlotte, who was barking continuously at the injustice of having to stay in the yard while we had our lesson.  Occasionally, she'd come up to the fence line and bark, making herself invisible in the tall grass.  That proved to be Eagle's un-doing. He spooked, rather shied really, a couple of times.  One time he did the stop and drop deal.  Neither was a big deal, both were good lessons for me, but still.  Let's just say, a relaxed ride it was not.

Jessica praised my efforts, told me I'd done well, but I know better.  I so wanted to quit.  I was tired.  I was not having fun.  But I hung in there.  Bless Eagle's heart, he was doing his best to take care of me.  I know he was.  Jessica said as much to me as well, so I know it's the case.  But, he made me work for every little movement the whole time.  Good grief!  We had no rhythm, no cadence at all - even at the walk.  Eagle was so tentative in his movements, just wanted to stop, which meant I had to work for every little bit of forward movement the entire time.  He stops just fine.  No doubt his favorite thing.  I really had to struggle to keep him straight between my reins.  Who am I kidding?  We had no straightness!

The previous nights' ride in the round pen had been my best to date.  I thought so anyway.  I was totally relaxed, had some confidence too.  Eagle was working fairly well for me.  Still makes me work for forward, tries to root his nose down, but it was a pretty good ride.  I guess they were both good rides though, I prevailed and ended on good notes both times.

An issue that seems to come up fairly often is while travelling to the left, he likes to get strong and go to the inside.  All the time.  I really have to use a lot of inside leg and outside rein to try and keep him on the rail.  After a while my arm gets tired and I just try to use leg and ask for more forward to keep him moving.  Jessica would like to switch bits, I'm not certain at all that's the answer. I just don't really know what the solution is.  Keep at it I guess.  Seat deep, heels down, eyes where I want to go.  Breathe.

I'm already questioning my instructor's approach.  Not good.  Certainly not everything, just some. The problem is, I've learned my methods from the best of the best.  Now to me, that's not a problem, it's the best way to approach horsemanship.  The problem is, most trainers/instructors don't necessarily follow how I've learned.  In part they do, but in part they don't.  Presents a challenge.  In my head, I know the answer is not a different bit, or any kind of gadget.  It just never works in the end.  Truly, the best way is to work with the horse's mind to control the life in the body, through the feet.  Simple enough right?  However, it's more difficult in practicality.  The approach is everything.  I run short on how to, really quickly.  I'm not getting discouraged.  Not really.  I just want to stay true to what I know is right, and find the best way to get Eagle to stay soft, and continue to get softer through his body, but liven up his feet and lighten up his body.  He feels heavy.  He feels strong.  Just don't know how else to describe it.    He is soon to be 16 years old, and was in reality, started at 15.  He's not had anything done right, for most of his life.  Truthfully, he's been treated unfairly, unkindly, was starved, neglected and mistreated.  My promise to him was this.  No more pain.  Ever.  Nothing that is unfair.  I just will not treat him in any way, but respectfully.  How do I accomplish this when I need help from someone for me?  For my confidence?  Nothing's ever simple is it?

I've ridden 5 times since my last lesson.  I have a little over a week to make some change for the better before our next session with Jessica.  I'm certain of only one thing.  The problem lies within me, not with my horse.  With time and consistency, Eagle will improve and learn.  He's super smart and willing, if he's got a good rider aboard, the odds are stacked in his favor.  I just don't want to compromise the standards for my horse, for my sake.

I need to put my big girl panties on.

In between rides, I guess it can't hurt to brush up on a little reading.  It's supposed to start raining tomorrow, that will likely cut into my riding time, but as I keep trying to remind myself - there is no time clock here.  I just need to keep at it.  Like that tiny trickle of water that over time will carve a crevice through the rock...

be like the water.


T.L. Merrybard said...

How you describe how Eagle is going rather reminds me of those priceless kids' ponies, you know, the ones who only go as fast as they think the kid is ready for? Seems to me that once he is truly sure you are feeling safe, he will speed up.

Also, he is kind of like a green horse even though he is older, in that he will need some more trail miles to really learn forward. They all do. Forward in an arena doesn't mean much to them. They never get anywhere! An exercise that might help is to put in some barrels or other markers and target them. Then reward with a treat or rub and rest when you reach them. It makes more sense to a horse. You can increase that to more than one in a row, or going around one and back to another. All sorts of games can then be played!

One exercise that really helped me with a horse that wanted to fall in on a circle was outward spirals. Small circles are hard work, so they like it when you ask lightly with the inside leg and allow that circle to go bigger while still keeping the nose lightly tipped in. I don't actually think outside rein will help with this, it just gives him something to set against. What you need to influence is the inside shoulder. If you can keep the shoulder balanced and moving out, the circle will be good and the nose will come in. Might be easier at trot at first because you can keep your forward momentum. When you reach the outside of your chosen circle, come to walk or halt, reward and do some straighter stuff, then into your next small circle and spiral out again.

All the other lateral stuff will help with lightness to the leg too, and that will reflect onto your circles and corners. Side passes, turns on the hind quarters, stuff like that.

Solidly built horses find this stuff hard, so go in baby steps and reward plenty. I'd use a clicker and treats for some of it but a stop and a rest and rub will be good too. I've had some pretty darned heavy types of horses learn to listen to aids light as feathers and I never used spurs, so I know it can be done!

Ps a change of bit could be warranted if he has a shallow palate or for some reason he is uncomfortable with your current bit, or because you want a more direct rein line to his mouth, but not to try and force his head correctly into the circle. That shoulder will fall in every time.

aurora said...

Lorie, you are doing so great with Eagle!! Happy for you! When I have less then desirable rides, I remind myself not every ride can be blissful. Just like life, we have good days, not so good, and bad days. Doesn't make it any more desirable, just acceptance that it's all part of it. Any ride you stay in the saddle, is a good ride! Those distracting monsters are practice for inevitable trail surprises, agreed far from relaxing. As you know, the key is to not let them bother you. Easier said then done. I struggle with it too, much harder with an active mind. Eagle & Koda have some similarities in structure & response. I highly recommend getting off the rail & spending time working in the middle of the arena. Mix it up. When you do go back on the rail, you should feel a significant difference.

There are a lot of good reasons for changing bits. Ask why. Question her reasoning with whatever doesn't sit right with you, and share yours. It can only help with understanding each other. Be flexible, you don't have to compromise your core belief. You always have a right to say no, and then it's up to her to find a way as the instructor to work within the perimeters you set. Just remember there are no perfect instructors, not even the greats are perfect. The bests ones would be the first to say so themselves. As long as she is coming from the right place, it doesn't hurt to try. You might be surprised.

C-ingspots said...

Thanks you two. I really do appreciate it when advice is given without reservation. If I didn't want to listen to suggestions, I wouldn't write about it. So, thank you both so much for talking from your experience and trials. I will do my best.

Linda said...

Sounds like you're experiencing a lot of what I am--and longing for the same thing, too. I've been out of the saddle with Leah for 2 weeks following our last, not so great, ride. She also drops her shoulder to the inside, and I have to guide her with the outside rein. My instructor tells me to always be concentrating on a point to move to--even in the circle, so I know if we're staying true. You may have seen it in that video. She yells out a point on the circle to make her "look at"--like, make her look at the buckskin!, now the barn!, now the cattle!, Now the blue truck!, now me, now, head is spinning, but it works. After a few times of expecting an honest circle and guiding with the outside rein (if necessary), Leah starts to travel true.

The partnership, however, was evading us. I do wonder if it's because of her age sometimes--like you do with Eagle. Hard to say. I also wonder if it's because we're constantly in arenas--which sours a horse. I remember when Cowboy and I were always in an arena and there was lots of butting heads back then. The breakthrough for us came when I started trailering him off alone--just me and him--and going on long trail rides. Everything in him softened when we hit the trail. Maybe you'll experience the same thing with Eagle when you get to that point!

Keep up the good work!! I love that you're on the same journey I am--at the same time. I hope to be back in the saddle tomorrow. :)

Gail said...

I admire yours and Eagle's courage. I just gave up on my courage.

Glad I brought you a smile.

C-ingspots said...

Me too Linda. I so appreciate reading your posts because we do strive for the same thing. Unity and true partnership. Trust. And all I really care about is having a safe, relaxed and confident (horse & me) trail horse. I like to enjoy my horse, nature, take pictures, stop for lunch, wade in the creeks and just take in the peacefulness of it all. That's what I long for. I'm not sure what video you're referring to, but I will go look for it. And thank you for telling me about looking for points of reference, I will try that. I do follow along reading your blog posts and appreciate your instructor's advice and through that, it helps us. Thank you so much! I am very happy that we're on the same path, at the same time with our horses too. Having a friend makes it easier!

C-ingspots said...

Thanks Gail! Although most of the time I don't feel all that courageous.

T.L. Merrybard said...

Hi Lorie, I'm glad you enjoyed the first chapter of my book! I have to go out with the fireys today but will see if I can draw you a diagram showing what I mean about riding the spiral tomorrow.

T.L. Merrybard said...

Hi Lorie, maybe these two links will help?

Hugs, Tina

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think you're doing wonderful with Eagle. No time in the saddle is wasted time. It's a time that you're always moving forward (even though you might not think so) and a bond is being formed. Both of you are learning about each other. I give you a lot of credit for being a little apprehensive about some things but doing them anyway. I'm guilty of over- thinking things too much and I wonder if we all don't do the same thing at times. Maybe we should just go with the flow and ride the best we know how. Anyway, remember to just have fun.