Sunday, February 7, 2016
Don't Judge Me
The trailer is free!!!! And parked in front of the barn for the moment. It is out of the way but still accessible for us to use to haul out. It only took J and the BO about an hour to free it from it's mud and snow tomb. They used the ATV to plow a path, but also had to resort to shoveling some of the snow. We picked the right day, since it hit almost 60 on Saturday and the ground would have been soup by noon.
While J was doing that, I rode Ashke. We were sharing the arena with a trainer and a young rider. We warmed up at the walk, did a little trot and then worked on our canter. Ashke has progressed, at least in my opinion, in leaps and bounds. He is now able to maintain his balance and although his trot-canter transition still includes more steps and is not as crisp as I would like, his walk-canter transition is much better. We worked a bit on a figure eight with a simple change through the walk in the middle, then did some smaller circles to help strengthen his right hind.
He was a bit sore. Not lame sore, just short stride and not wanting to use his right hind leg properly. We had a couple of moments where he cross-cantered and we stopped, regrouped and tried again. I'm working on him making his transition as crisp as we can on the first request, instead of trotting into it.
Then J came in and we stopped to chat. The lesson was over, there was a new rider getting ready to come into the arena and we had been riding for at least an hour. J and I finished our chat and she went to talk to the BOers about something and I decided to ask for one last canter circle.
I really should have just been done. Ashke certainly thought we were.
Going to the left, he extended his trot instead of picking up the canter. That started the argument. After we had completed our circle to the right, we turned to the left. Ashke had left a pile at the scary end of the arena, which had alerted all of the birds living in the barn to come and feast on the oats that had passed through Ashke. There were about 10 birds all clustered around the pile. As we came around the circle at that end of the arena, they all scattered in a flying mass. Ashke decided that was reason enough to freak out and try to end our ride. He pogo sticked, with his head straight up in the air, fighting me for all he was worth. Instead of stopping, which is what I tend to do, I kicked him forward, trying to maintain our canter. He did until the next time we were at that end of the arena, then he threw his head up and changed leads four or five times in as many steps. I stopped him that time, made him back up, and lower his head. Then we tried again.
The third time we stopped, I was breathing hard. The trainer and her student were staring at me and talking in not quite hushed tones about how long we had been riding (over an hour) and how much cantering we had been doing. I kind of smiled in their direction and said something about how hard it can be to get one last circle. I then said to Ashke, who was acting very obedient at that point (poser) and very put upon, that if he could manage one more circle with a proper left canter we would be done. He then gave me one perfect circle with a proper left canter.
He so understands English.
We were done then.
I felt judged. I felt they were very disapproving of the way I was handling Ashke. It felt as if they believed I was being abusive to my horse in the way we were interacting. (The student had already been appalled at the blanket rub Ashke has on his right shoulder from the heavy blanket he's been in this past week. I'm sure she thinks I'm the worse owner/rider ever.)
I wanted to tell them that Ashke has developed a very bad habit of behaving the way he was when he's decided he should be done, or he really doesn't want to be ridden. I wanted to tell them that an hour of w/t/c is a quarter of what he is able to do and that we can trot for fifteen miles on trail without issue. I wanted to explain about his left stifle and right hamstring and that if we only do what is comfortable for him, he will never relearn how to properly use his hind end. I wanted to explain that cross-cantering is easier for him, but not mechanically the best and he basically has to be bullied into making himself stronger. He has no idea why he can't continue to protect his left stifle and right hamstring the way he has in the past. I have to push him just a little past his comfort zone in order to make progress on this issue.
I don't wear spurs. I don't carry a whip. I don't bit him up and I do ride him in the bit he likes the best. I do have a tendency to get heavy handed when he starts to misbehave. He does get shouted at sometimes, which hurts his feelings. He also gets rewarded with long walk breaks in between his moments of effort. He hears "good boy" when he gets it right. I try really hard not to over do it and to end on a good note. Sometimes it devolves into a fight. It's funny to me that we never fight when we are using obstacles for shaping our flatwork. He stays focused and is really willing to do it correctly. It's just the pure "dressage" rides that set him off. I don't know if it's that he gets bored or what.
Shit happens. I don't like it. It's not my intent. But, I don't need anyone judging me on my relationship with my horse. Sometimes we squabble, like any couple, and then we make up.
He tried really hard for me yesterday, so he gets today off to think about it and to rest his legs. I will ride tomorrow night and hopefully J will come out and take video. Maybe by next weekend we can try one of the new trails we've been researching.