We followed our “everything is terrible can’t cross the river without major drama” ride by
working really hard going for a leisurely trail ride in which we mostly walked with our pony friends. I had just found out about the ride’s cancellation and my motivation was pretty well trashed.
Later in the week, however, our solo trail ride reinstated my faith that we might actually be able to do this thing.
First up: bending exercises. She will supple to the rein. She will yield her hindquarters. That didn’t go particularly well, so over to the round pen we went, where I unclipped one side of the reins. She promptly bolted out before I could get the other. Ideally, our bending/de-escalation techniques will let her work out this energy without me getting off, but I knew how hard we hadn’t worked two days prior and decided to choose my battles – which yes, did involve asking for a proper halt so I could retrieve the reins actually off before she went flying around in circles for a few minutes. Oh, pony.
Next: bending exercises, round two. This went better. Brain engaged, feet largely with me. We socialized at the barn a bit and got our weekly dose of Funder and toddler O, which always leaves me feeling brighter afterwards!
Could we head out on the trail without drama? Yes, yes now in fact we could. Forwards always, insistent, persistent. She deigned to do a respectable 7mph trot on the trail (as all you other endurance folks laugh) and I pushed her to stay there. Forwards. If we cantered, it was only briefly and to get her thinking in front of my leg. The trails were quiet, no hikers to stop for, and we easily knocked two minutes off our usual time to the midpoint of the steps. That’s not yet two full miles in to the ride, so to carve off that much time on the flat was pretty incredible.
Onwards, upwards. First I’d planned on just a gallop set or two, but what’s another twenty minutes? We headed down, down, down to the river crossing, working on a balanced forwards downhill walk or even a balanced downhill trot. I know you’re not supposed to train at speed on downhills, but I’ve got to convince her to sit back and move properly, and I need her to do it at the trot too. So: we trot when she’ll do it right, and walk when she flails on her forehand.
I kicked, swatted, and spun her in a circle when we got near the river crossing. We were going forwards and through there. She fussed the tiniest bit and I swatted again, hard. This was my line in the sand. There is no sense coddling her forwards through attitude. She quit and we walked down all the steps, no stopping. She hesitated at the river, I kicked and swatted, and within a minute or two we were in. Progress. We didn’t go far after getting across, but I’d made my point.
We zipped our way back home, still insisting on a forwards trot and respectable walk. I did not drop my phone this time! Overall, we did not make it quite to full competition speed, but it’s the closest we’ve come on that section of trail.
Onwards and upwards. We’ll keep on working at it and do something similar this week.