I am trying to take some horsemanship advice from an author I am currently reading. If you have a horse with a problem, and you are willing to work the horse and see him through the problem, you have to go into it with some humor. Especially when you are on their backs. And now that I am training myself to actually breathe in the saddle, and laugh a little when Chief blows up over nothing, I am becoming much less scared.
I always feel a different energy inside me when I know Chief is up, and could potentially have a blow up. But instead of being filled with dread and terror, I am now experiencing some kind of (maybe insane) curiosity. I always want to figure out where the blow up/fear/pain??/damage is coming from inside my horse’s mind. And I think Astrid and I are doing a pretty good job. 99% of the time when I get on him he is totally ride-able… And really willing and wonderful. And that 1% of time he is not it is when there is a new situation we are dealing with and we haven’t figured it out yet. He has his quirks, but usually with groundwork, we work those out before I get on him.
The book is called, The Gift, and it is written by Barbara Schulte. Her advice is really sound, on point, and drawn from experience. Although much of it is pointed to people entering the show ring, it is totally transferable to those of us who do not show, and just are looking for some guidance.
Since I last wrote, I have probably ridden Chief about… 8-10 times I would guess. And 5-6 of those times he was an angel. I am stressing the point that he was HOT! It was hot an humid out , I am sure he was totally low on energy. He really made me proud because he worked hard and really put himself together and did everything I asked of him.
- Picking up the correct lead going to the right at the canter. He has a hard time with this, stumbles a bit. But majority of the time we can get him to correct it on the 2nd or 3rd try.
- Keeping his head and mouth calm when we are practicing turn on the forehand (and just trying to improve them in general.)
- Master the leg yield (which I am not very good at yet), but I think I am getting less awkward at it as I practice more.
- Small things, controlling tempo, nice upward and downward transitions, soft asks, and helping him pick up his feet.
This weekend was beautiful, 70’s breezy temperatures, and Chief was up. He was spooky at things that would not have bothered him a week ago, but overall I am proud of both of us. Once last weekend he had a fit on the ground like a baby. But calmed quickly.
Fast forward to this weekend. I worked him Saturday day, Sunday day and Monday night. Saturday he wigged out. I tried to get a grip on him but he reared and ripped the rope right out of my hand. But I dropped the flag as soon as he freaked as not to scare him more, and got him under control. I found my inner lion, and took the upper hand and calmed him. I walked hard at him asking him to back up and he submitted and started licking to calm himself down. I waited until he took some nice breaths then worked him authoritatively but calmly on the ground. Moved his feet. He calmed down, and we had a really nice ride. Sunday was similar without the freaking out on the ground, without the bucking and rearing. I was really proud of him Sunday because I could see him trying to control himself when he wanted to beast. He was trusting me more than the day before, but was still tense.
All of his freak-outs come after I cinch him up or tighten his girth. I do this gradually. One hole at a time, and then I work him. On the ground. If I were to take him up to the tightest part right away and get on him, it would be a disaster.
So Monday night he was a little forward. I could tell he wasn’t totally relaxed, a little nervous, but we did good groundwork for the most part and some nice canter and trot transitions. It was beautiful out and a little breezy (which usually does not bother him.) But something we did a little differently, was I asked Astrid to tighten my girth while I was on him. This does not bother him in the heat, we do it all the time. But for some reason, last night it made him have a hissy fit. But, I DIDN’T FALL OFF! I stayed on, calmed him to the point where he stood (he was not relaxed, but he stood still) and I dismounted and we worked his kinks out through groundwork. When I got back on him, we had a really good rest of our lesson, and even got him to pick up the correct lead to the right on the 3rd try.
So overall I would deem it a success, I am happy I stayed on, I got a “Good job Renee,” from Astrid, which is a big deal for me. and Chief was visibly calm during the second half of the night. Working the kinks out.