Last year, I made a promise to myself that I would take more lessons if the opportunity presented itself, and that I would actively seek out lessons to fix some of the issues that made me anxious. Resolving anxiety in small and manageable steps, woo!
In January, during the winter dreary awful rainy months, there was a groundwork lesson. I upped my standards (should keep going forward with minimal reinforcement) and we worked on turning her to the inside rather than outside. The turn has stuck; my standards have slacked a little and need to go back up.
In April, I took an arena-dressage lesson on Fetti to address steering and cantering. We concluded that she doesn’t give particularly well to the bit, and my (ongoing) homework remains installing that button with consistency. Related to that, I worked on yielding the hindquarters under saddle.
A week or two later, I took a ‘lesson’ on another horse – mostly this gave me the opportunity to figure out how to canter and isolate ‘horse problem’ from ‘rider problem’ from ‘saddle problem’.
In May, I took a trail lesson that I utterly failed to blog about. We pushed Fetti’s limits separating her from the herd and not rushing back. I needed to know that I could de-escalate and/or ride out her reactions when another horse left, preferably at speed. I stuck a mini-bolt and got her stopped without feeling like I was going to die. I schooled this just a little bit on my own after the lesson, but circumstances have not aligned correctly for further practice and other things took priority. Now, I have tools to work through this on my own.
This is exactly the lesson I was aiming for last year when I tried the then-local-trainer that failed spectacularly to resolve any issues and also refused to ride her through the scary stuff first. My SF-trainer has ridden Fetti before and was perfectly willing to push her buttons, with total confidence that she could de-escalate them and ride them out safely. I just needed to see someone else do it. It still felt scary, but it was a manageable level of anxiety, and SF-trainer did not fall off; Fetti did not completely lose it; she did not escalate to dangerous or bronco-bucking. Ever since getting bucked off hard and with intent, there’s a level of fear and anxiety around pushing her buttons, and this did a lot to reassure me that the tools I have will be enough to keep things under control.
Halfway through the year and I’ve already had more lessons in six months than I’ve had since probably 2012! I took a handful of dressage lessons on Fetti in college, but I’ve been picky about who I lesson with and what we get out of it. ‘Force her nose into a frame’ isn’t going to work for us. Dressage is not my strong suit.. but that doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t get us very far.
So! When I met Kate at the blogger meetup and realized, even through my heat-exhausted and mildly concussed brain, that she is actually based fairly near me? I flailed a bit and shot off an email a few days later. The smart thing to do would have been to mention it in person, but apparently I was not thinking that clearly. Although “hey would you be willing to come ride my sometimes mildly nutty endurance pony that bucked me off yesterday, and oh yeah she has a history of bolting occasionally in the arena” might not have come across terribly well in person. I love my pony and love riding my pony, but…
Kate, then, got the first ride on Fetti post-fall, and also got to deal with me running late (car fire on the highway = I detoured = my ever-tolerant boyfriend tacked up the pony for me and I just had to tweak a few things once I arrived), inhaling lunch while she rode (nope, I didn’t really have an agenda for the ride), and still processing the morning’s doctor’s visit. And helping at the last minute with the other Haflinger at the same time. I just could not get my brain together. Bad student, bad host, I just.. flailed in a bunch of different directions all at once and did none of them very well. Including photos. I didn’t do photos very well, either. Bad blogger!
Initial takeaways, very TLDR: she’s not moving well on the left side, either through her back or off the left leg. I’m not even with my posture/leg cues, so I’m not super-surprised by that: human needs work, horse has been screwed up by imbalanced human. Contact needs work, also not surprised: I either panic and have too much contact, or we go trotting down the trail with minimal contact and total relaxation. Resistance to stepping through with her right hind, noting mainly for future reference: I know she’s not equally strong on both sides. I’m not sure how much of it is strength and how much is physical issues.
If Kate’s willing to put up with the two of us, there may be somewhat-consistent lessons in our future. We can’t make it to rides for at least another month and a half, but maybe we’ll be a better pair for it?