School of the horse soldier
|April 5, 2016||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
So was the School of the Horse Soldier weekend a success? I have really mixed feelings. There were times of great brilliance, there were some awful bits, and overall we were both pretty mediocre. I’m a little disappointed because in a lot of ways it highlighted how far we have fallen from our high point of taking lessons two or three times a week five years ago to now. I also learned more about Farley in the single weekend then I probably have in the last five or six years. These feelings of conflict are probably good. It means that I went outside my comfort zone and try something new, and that’s a good thing.
The first day there were no official horse activities but I had hoped on bareback with a halter to get from point A to point B. Point B ended up being only about 15 yards later when I got bucked off. I literally watched her buck out from underneath me as she bolted/bucked forward (it apparently IS possible to both buck and create forward momentum..).
It really wasn’t her fault. No, really.
Hindsight being 20/20 and all perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen to get on her the way I did after she hadn’t been ridden for a month, and when it was cold, and breezy, and she was faced towards a wide open 40 acre pasture.
Yes. Hindsight being 20/20. Or in my case something much less then 20/20 *sic*. :).
Day 1 concluded with me being completely nonweight bearing on my ankle and wishing that someone would ask me to rate my pain on the stupid pain scale so that for once in my life I could confidently tell them that it was a 9/10 AND TO PLEASE GIVE ME DRUGS. Unfortunately when I tried to explain to my mother how this rated a full two points higher then childbirth it earned me…Tylenol. I also discovered I had neglected to grab the second stack of clothes off the bed during packing which meant I had one tshirt and two pairs of jeans (but plenty of underwear!) to survive this event in. Wonderful. Absolutely freaking wonderful. *sob* no riding tights.
We begin mounted activities on day two and while there were moments of enlightenment, overall it was a day of frustration. Ferley never really settled down and at the end of the day and after being decidedly mediocre even during stuff we had practiced at home (sword work….) and after briefly showing a bit of brilliance during formation riding….she completely lost her shit.
I’m not exaggerating. I’m not being dramatic. She threw a hissy fit of the likes I’ve NEVER seen from her before in eight years.
I didn’t come off for a second and third time that weekend probably because she’s 17 and getting a little stiff. It was BAD.
How bad? First time she did it I thought that a major tack malfunction had happened and something with the crupper or the girth had gone horribly wrong.
When it was apparent that there was no tack issue I tried to ride back in the formation and when she repeated the exact same bat shit crazy behavior seconds later we took our conversation to the round pen.
Was she lame? In pain? A tack issue? All I could sense from her was this low level stress and frustration and just that she was done for the day and couldn’t cope with anything. She was mentally DONE.
So we made a deal. I got back on and I didn’t ask her to get back into formation and we just followed the column around and I tried to wrap my head around everything that had happened in the past 24 hours.
On the third day I briefly considering completely wimping out and not riding at all. The LAST thing I wanted to do was to jump a questionably sane horse for the first time in five years, combined with the risk of excessive wear and tear on her front flexor tendons that have previous injuries.
I decided to get back on, the eternal optimist a bit skeptical but willing to give it a go.
I’m still not 100% sure what caused her bad behavior but that morning, vastly humbled by the previous two days, I focused on what I needed to do to take care of her. This seems like a simple and obvious thing, but in eight years she’s been a mostly “point and shoot” horse that hasn’t asked for concessions. Here’s what I did:
– I didn’t ask her to ride in formation. Most the horses there were part of a big standardbred herd and they know each other really well. There’s a very distinct social order in that herd which is around 30 or 35 horses. I think that she was under enormous stress as these much bigger very pushy horses were having conversations with her. In many cases the horses weren’t inside of her bubble, but they were constantly reacting and signaling from a distance. So I dropped out of line and didn’t do the formation riding on the third day.
– The weather was contributing as it was typical coastal weather which I couldn’t do anything about (overcast, breezy, cold). It was what it was so whatever. Get over it little pony
A big stressor was getting on and standing around so much. It was great training but I don’t think she ever felt like she really warmed up. It’s really tacky (and usually downright forbidden) to get on your horse in this sort of school without being ordered to and there’s not a lot of time or ability to ride independently. On the third day instead of just trying to manage her restlessness by making her stand under saddle (and play nicely with new horses in close quarters, AND ignore the weather, AND assimilate new activities and situations) my approach the third day was to lunge her in the morning then do lots of walking around as needed in hand while waiting for everyone to assemble during mounted activities. I also decided to try and let her walk around more in circles under saddle if we were just standing in a group and not under specific instructions.
– I acknowledged that I have never tried to do so much new stuff with Farley in a weekend. We all have limits to how much new stuff we can assimilate at one time and I found hers. I didn’t even know she HAD a limit. But of course she does.
– Perhaps the most important, I resolved and verbalized aloud to several people that I intended to ride the horse that I had that day not the horse I had yesterday or the horse I expected to bring to this event.
The result? We had quite a nice time the third day including the jump clinic!
In many ways this event did exactly what I hope for it to do. I have a new resolve to work hard so that next time I do this sort of thing (if there’s a next time) I’ll be better.
There were things that I was out of practice with that there’s no excuse for. I could not release over bigger jumps for the life of me and that isn’t an issue I’ve EVER had before but it was there and it was ugly. It’s obvious I need to incorporate more variety in my work – not just dressage and trail but also some Cavaletti’s and crossrail work too. Not true jumping but enough to expose some of my flaws and keep me working on them.
The event humbled me and built confidence at the same time. Did I have fun? I’m not sure. Was it worth my $200? Probably. Personal development is never comfortable and each mistake I make with Farley that she forgives me for is hopefully one less mistake I’ll make with MerryLegs.
PS I typed this on my iPad. The whole thing. It was awful. Can my computer hurry up and get here now?