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.


  1. don't worry about what other people think. usually they have no idea what is happening between horse and rider. I know you are not abusive in fact quite the opposite. It is important in training to push yourselves out of your comfort zone. It takes your riding to the next level. You do a lot of trailing on your horse which keeps him in good shape. Yes he has some health issues that need to be dealt with. But really don't we all (both human and equine). Don't let comments good or bad judge your horsemanship. Be true to your beliefs and your horse that you know so well..

    just my thoughts Karen...

  2. They only see a short moment in time. If they're the type to judge from that, they're not who you should listen to. Yeah, maybe asking one more circle made Ashke mad, but you're totally right that he has enough stamina to do it, and to finish as YOU want to. A few days ago I did a ride at the lake. Anyone watching would wonder why I circled and backed my horse repeatedly, he was just trotting along, right? No, he was pulling like a freight train and not listening, so he got schooled. You do the right thing, look at Ashke's improvements to remind yourself.

  3. Would have been interesting to get off, hand her the reins, and see how she dealt with him. People need to learn to mind their own business. They had no clue what got the two of you to that point and he is more than fit enough to work for an hour in the arena.

  4. Welcome to the club of being judged for properly conditioning your horse! This is the story of my life. Back with Cloud, the BM at that barn thought I overworked him because I rode him 5 out of 6 days of the week...the program I had him on had been carefully run by my vet and it was done to help control both his weight and his arthritis, since he had absolutely no turnout at that barn. With Lily, I had a BO that didn't understand my sport and spread rumors throughout the entire barn that I had road foundered the mare while conditioning for endurance...when she in fact had sole bruising from BO's horrible field management...which developed during a period where she had been given a 2-week break due to the awful wet weather we were having at the time. At another barn before that I was criticized for riding my horse in sub-40 degree weather. Really? If I didn't ride when it's colder than that, we wouldn't ride for 6 months out of the year! I'm sure I'd be judged at my current barn if there were enough people around to watch: most of my arena rides with Lily involve a million walk-canter, trot-canter transitions and 10-10-10 reps. We spend 2/3 of our arena time cantering.

    You are the bestest horse mom. Don't worry about what other people think. I see so many riders that get on for 10 minutes, trot around and then get off thinking they really worked their horse for 45 minutes because they don't bother to wear a watch. Most people don't have a clue how to properly condition and maintain a horse's fitness. You do. <3