Friday 24 July 2015

Pesky Training Scale

I've had a couple more halfway decent rides on the Midge since my last post. EC and barnmates are away in Montana, so I'm being left to my own devices as far as figuring out what I need to do to achieve our homework.

Where that has got me:

Several rides with a wiggly, resistant pony. Back braced, head in the air and legs going every direction but forward.Slightly improved by end of ride, but I cheated and went back to babysitting her a little on a looser contact so we could end on a good note. It all finally led to one ride with me being a huge mean person and essentially dropping my contact and just focusing on moving forward NOW! Don't care where or how fast, just move. It was awful and took about 45 minutes to get to where I could ask her to trot off and she would do so in an acceptable time frame without wiggling a million different directions first. I also waited until she was honest about keeping the trot for at least one side of the arena without a reminder to keep going. It was frustrating and I was very discouraged.

Old pic, but this is what our last month has felt like.

Since then, I've been using that friendly reminder as my warm up. We don't do anything until she's moving forward off my leg. I give her a total loose rein and don't worry about anything besides her moving out. I used to do this at the start of our rides, and I have no idea why I stopped. In the process of rediscovering that tool, I stumbled on something that may hold a key for us.Yesterday, after our warm up where all I asked was forward on a loose rein, she was about as loose and stretchy as I've ever got her, and I was able to pick up a bit of the contact and have a halfway decent ride with some really nice canter transitions and a super fun mini jump school. A fun, not frustrating ride. I'd almost forgot those were a thing :)
Our mini jumps

My half formed thoughts;

We obviously need to work the relaxation angle. To be quite honest I tend to ignore it thinking that she's lazy and the last thing we need is more relaxation! It's easy to ignore because she fakes it well. She never does anything super reactive or feels really awful, but the rare times when I actually get true relaxation from her the rest of the problems with being unfocused/pushy/inverted/sucked back disappear. I know that's not breaking news as far as horse training goes, but I think myself and everyone that meets Bridget just mentally ticks off the 'relaxation' box on the training scale and looks for other issues. Bridget is very good at convincing the outside world she's cool as a cucumber and just being 'stubborn' and 'lazy'. I think particularly as she is a pony, and a stocky little Welsh Cob, people expect to see the more showy up and down 'pony' trot and the higher neck and maybe don't think it signifies anything. In reality, when she truly relaxes her topline, she's got lovely big horse gaits hiding in there which to me is an entirely better, although different ride.

More apples for good ponies
I still believe Ms Bridget internalizes a lot of anxiety. She's the type to look and think it over, rather than react, but she's not 'dull' at all. She's very interested in everything going on around her, and the more distractions, the more inverted/sucked back/tense she gets. It's a fine line between the point where she is still willing and cooperative and where she just kind of gets overwhelmed and shuts down.I need to be better at reading that, and remember that just because she's not going all Ginger drama about it, it doesn't mean it's not real.

Speaking of which, I have a lesson booked with the Ginger mare tomorrow. Fingers crossed we all survive ;)


  1. I think our ponies are related!! One thing that has worked wonders with Dino has been to KEEP the contact instead of getting exasperated and letting everything go and make it a fight for 'forward'. Light contact, not mashing the pony into a frame or anything, but staying in touch with the bit to say "You can still move when I'm touching the reins." And then just taking it sloooooow until he decides to move forward all on his own. It's a long process but it helped us so I figured I'd share! :)

  2. Very interesting! I'm happy to hear you had a fun ride...those frustrating ones are so draining sometimes.

    I hope you and Ginger have a good lesson :)

  3. I agree with Alli! I feel like my pony is related to both of your ponies. She also just gets soooo tight and then feels like everything is difficult. When I get her to relax it makes everything easy. She does way better when I'm riding more regularly and so that's the goal as soon as my non-horse life calms down a bit.

  4. oh your ring is so gorgeous - and glad you're having fun rides again!