Tuesday 18 October 2016

Embracing The Suck

I'm sure I mentioned my weekend rides weren't anything fabulous. In fact, I feel like we've been in a rough patch for a month or two now. There's this really awkward place in the training process and we're there. Big time.

The good news: I'm told it's normal. I'm told we'll survive and be much better for it.
The bad news: It sucks. It's not fun. My pony and I are arguing, often.

I'm sure a lot of you have been here. There's baby horse land where we go forward and turn and bend and even go in a nice long-ish connection. Then there's the next step where we want to add more impulsion, we want to be able to collect, we want to take that baby forward and make it powerful. And for Midge and I, that's a really, really hard place to be.

Midge: "This is hard. Let me move my feet faster! Not what you want? Well then I can't go forward at all. I knew forward was a stupid idea."

Me: "No, no Midge, go forward. You're good!" *leans forward, drops contact*

Midge: "Ah hah, see I can go forward, just don't touch me! Good T, I've trained you well"

Me: "Arghh, but we need to contain this, somehow" *Posts taller, sits deeper, takes back contact*

Midge: "NO!NO!NO! This is not how it works! I do not work this hard!" *Sucks back, wiggles, and does best giraffe impression*

At which point, I kick her forward and the cycle repeats.

So, we needed an intervention. We've been playing with collected steps here and there for a while, and I felt like progress was being made. Lately though, Midge has definitely decided the whole going forward into contact thing is optional, and I have been at a bit of a loss how to fix it...she's naturally very balanced and good through her back so she can go super forward all day long (and even look quite correct about it) without giving you much of a feel in the bridle or lifting half as much as we know she can. She is also very, very supple and bendy and quite willing to use that as an evasion, which makes it even more difficult for me to consistently get an even feel between both legs and rein. I wish so much I was a more experienced rider, but I'm told Midge is legit tricky and if I can figure this out and teach her, I'll be able to do it for most. So at least there's that.

"She lies, I'm an angel"

"OK, well maybe I'm partly at fault. But notice I am practicing rubbing out my mane as I reach through the gate and steal others food pulling my own mane as a gesture of peace" 

Thank goodness for our awesome coach.

Se had us looking and feeling great in less than 45 min. With results like that, the lady needs her own infomercial or something :)


-For now, it's going to feel like Bridget's going too slow. That's ok, as long as she's lifting her back and getting those hind legs more active and it feels like there's power and the ability to go forward the instant I ask,

-No big deal if things go haywire. When in doubt, go back to walk, establish the awesome collected walk she is capable of, then go forward into trot or canter keeping the same feel.

-As the rider, resist all temptation to adjust self, fiddle with reins, make any big changes. Stay quiet, keep a consistent, elastic contact. Shoulders back. Ride like she's going super well regardless of what's really going on. Forward does not equal power. Power equals lift.

-She's plenty strong enough, but overall fitness as always is an issue. Work mostly in walk, if she's tired and that's what I need to do to keep the connection and activity consistent. The big thing right now is to establish that we would like her to balance and use her hind end and back that little bit more, consistently, all the time. Leg yields, haunches in, shoulder in, on the wall and on a circle are still my best friends for helping her understand better what we want those hind legs doing.

For a super exciting note to end on, we had excellent canter work throughout, and even a few strides of real, actual, amazing collected canter. It's been TWO YEARS, but I'm almost ready to say my trotting cart pony might actually have a real, consistent canter.



  1. Collection- real collection is truly hard! You guys will get there I'm sure. Thank heavens you have such good help.

  2. Omg "resist all temptation to make any big changes as rider" --> why is this so hard?!?!

  3. I am embracing the suck TODAY, and feeling oh so many of those problems! Don't you hate how good horses are at training us?!?!

  4. Ohhhh I so relate!! Thank goodness for patient trainers!

  5. It's crazy the similarities between what you guys are working on and what we're working on. Yesterday I had a wiggly pony to start out and no forward. I want to start pushing her along but coach told me to just let her be slow, this is hard and she'll figure it out. Looks like you guys are making amazing progress!

  6. Tricky horses always make us better riders! Sounds like your trainer is awesome. Embracing the suck is all part of the fun young horse experience ...sort of :)