.. which it turns out is irrelevant because the NATRC ride we were supposed to go to was cancelled. We’re not off to a great start this year.
If we’re going to go with our Specialized, I should actually ride in it sometime before the ride, right? I tacked up in full endurance gear (minus boots and cantle bag) and aimed for a brisk ride.
The good: Confetti was not explosively enthusiastic.
The bad: She was so pathetically behind my leg and lazy that I am now questioning her actual fitness level, which is ridiculous because I know she’s not that out of shape. This is almost exactly how I want her to be before the ride, not running off with me. I would, however, have preferred a bit more responsiveness to my leg and a little bit of forwards when I asked for it. We did make it seven miles or so, but it was SLOW.
In fairness, I was having a pretty rough day personally, and I was not on my game either. The park was busy. Fetti was bored out of her mind and not particularly responsive to my leg cues. I wasn’t being insistent enough, and I wasn’t mentally together enough to make a point of.. well, anything. This is not the headspace I normally ride in and she was really quite kind not to take further advantage of it.
My knees hurt, but only somewhat as opposed to completely miserable, and her back looked and felt good. Our long trot did not exist one bit and our downhill was absolutely awful but otherwise, it wasn’t too bad.
New saddle syndrome: I should keep fussing with it to see if it’s workable! Treeless saddle, different crupper, regular breastplate (same adjustment as for the Specialized), barrel-sized Woolback pad with the new inserts. Why not, right?
The ride got off to a great start when we argued about going out on the trail. Oh, pony. That was a sign of things to come. She continued to be behind my leg, but with the shorter pad I could at least get some leg on and insist that she sort of respond. I wasn’t persistent enough, but it was a slight improvement. We did our pathetic lazy trot a little ways into the park, then came to a very polite halt as a deer came towards us on the trail – paused – and came FURTHER towards us:
to leap into the brush mere feet in front of Fetti’s nose. My very polite and very lazy pony stood there, shaking her head a bit at the flies, totally unbothered. The fawn, however, thought the headshaking was terrifying. It refused to follow its mother’s lead and darted off in the opposite direction. We waited a minute, then carried on down the trail. They’d figure it out eventually.
Back into a lazy trot, my stirrups definitely too long, and dodging various hikers and tourists, we made our way eventually towards the river crossing. We’ve had trouble here before. I’m starting to think we need to make this ride a weekly thing. 45 minutes to go down 8 steps and get into the water. I kicked persistently, I swore, I escalated gently, I let off as soon as we found any forwards.
Here’s the lesson to learn: I haven’t been insisting that forwards means GO NOW. I’ve been saying ‘forwards of some sort please?’ and that needs to end if I want us successful this weekend. Game plan:
1. reinstate flexion drills before/after rides (bend + move off leg)
2. at next two rides, reinforce leg cues with immediate whip if there is not prompt yes-ma’am forwards. Work w/t only – either we’ll have the canter or we won’t, but that’s a separate issue and I don’t want to confuse it.
On the way home, I reinforced the immediate forwards idea with great success, though it probably helped that we were heading home. Only problems? The hills and the treeless setup were not agreeing with eachother. I was not happy with how far back the saddle was sliding (breastcollar not tight enough.. and I wasn’t willing to change it for just one ride) and our worst uphill really did a number on the positioning. Shortly after, I dropped my phone. There are no good mounting blocks on this section of trail. It would have to be a ground-mount or close to it. I’m not great at those to start with, and really not comfortable doing those in a saddle whose stability I don’t 100% trust. There are also a lot of uphill sections before getting to the next viable mounting log.
The logical answer, then, was to teach Fetti tailing, effective immediately! This is 100% worthless for NATRC, we have absolutely not tried this before, and I’m not sure how to actually train it. So: snap rein to halter, run rein through stirrup, one hand on rein, one on tail, use whip as ‘driving’ whip to cue occasionally, praise pony for not spinning in circles and trying to follow me. Tailing experiment: success. In a ride where a lot of things were not going well, it was really nice to have something go right.
I don’t actually think she 100% knows how to do this, and when insufficiently motivated (i.e. going away from home) I don’t think she’d bother going forward, I think she’d stop to eat instead. But! This is enough that I can feel semi-accomplished and know that I could do it in this particular set of circumstances again.