After our good lesson, Amber and I have had some par-for-the-course rides. Most good, some in between.
Since I mentioned it in my other post, I’ll start with our “off” ride sometime mid-November. Amber had been really good the day before. It was nearing our 3 weeks post-injection, so I wanted a bit of video of how she was moving to show my vet. I’d gotten good footage the day before, and wanted to show him 2 days of riding in a row. Well, I hadn’t known my cousin was visiting, so in the middle of our ride when they wanted a few pics of me and the horse. Someone had been eating an apple, Amber was very intrigued. We got our canter footage after, and then when I continued to ride, they watched.
After the photos, Amber seemed to get in a Mood. I think part of it was smelling the apple, but mostly people were chatting at one end of the arena, laughing and having a good time as they occasionally watched us, and Amber wanted to be in the thick of it. She did NOT want to work. It was the first time in a really long time she really told me no. She wouldn’t settle, she wouldn’t move off of my leg, and then she’d collapse to a walk when we’d pass by people.
It was also dusk, and I set out cones, so I kept in mind that this may have affected her – the cones reminding her of the past lesson, and dusk since she’s been bothered by it since our last facility. But, despite keeping that in mind, and despite me giving her lots of opportunities to say yes, she blatantly refused. The biggest ways were not wanting to come off of my left leg, not wanting to bend, and blowing through all that I was asking her. I’d bring her to a walk, or a halt, reinforce what I was asking, but no dice. She’d race down the long side to get to the group, and practically slam on the brakes when she got there. Usually, I’d work her butt off in that area, go to where she doesn’t want to be and stop. But really, she just wasn’t listening all around the arena. It’d come and go in patches, so I just kept going around, circling when she’d get too fast. I’m sure I perched forward like I tend to do which didn’t help, but the circles helped us both.
As much as I’m sure there were things my body did that wasn’t helping matters, at the same time, even if I’m not at my best the horse needs to do their job. She knows her job. Even though some of this is new for her, what we were doing (serpentines, circles and whatnot) is not new. She was also great the previous day and got those things down pat. This horse knows that I expect her to do her job, and she gave me a big fat no that day. Usually, I don’t mind when Amber tells me no. It’s always for a very good reason when she does that, and usually she’s trying before it comes to a “Mom, I really can’t do this!” reaction from her. I’ve been especially mindful recently to make sure whenever I get hesitation from her that she understands or is physically able to do it. That ride she was always distracted, would always flop her head and ears in the direction of laughter. She was just not tuned in one iota, really. So I got it a little better, since by that time it was really getting dark and I didn’t want to overwork her muscles. But it was definitely not a pleasant ride.
I never mind if she’s in a Mood (god knows I get in Moods too so I can hardly be critical) but she at least always tries, and I scale back the ride if that happens. But, since this was a different mindset, she still needed to know that that behavior was not okay. So she got tied after the ride with few pets or attention. I let Amber go before feeding everyone but still, very few pets.
Looking at the the clips of me in the royal shirt, it’s hard to believe the rest of the ride right after that wasn’t great lol Also, there’s a quick shot of Kahlua at the end of the video moving the rabbits away from her food lol
That was Sunday, so I gave her Monday off since it was also my long day, and planned for Tuesday. It was a new day, so no hard feelings. Same approach of patience. I just really hoped she decided to listen. Spoiler: she did.
Last year, I purchased a dressage whip so that the few lesson horses I rode would actually freaking go. After the once or twice of using it for those horses, it sat, barely being used. So I snatched it up. My spurs aren’t harsh, and I was having to work way harder to get her to move off of my left leg than my right. Since our lesson she’s been fantastic with the right. But she’s been like a lead weight on the left. So, she needed more incentive to get off of my leg.
Amber hates whips and ropes. I know she’s never been hit with them, but it’s always been something that makes her jump out of her skin. The snap of a lunge whip is terrifying to her. She’s always been a brave, gregarious horse, so I’m not too sure where it’s come from. Not that I’m complaining tho lol. I’ve never ever ridden her with a whip, so I wasn’t too sure how she was going to react considering she hates the things. But, she didn’t even seem to notice it until I started to work on her ribcage while we warmed up. Just like I hoped though, she kept her head, and really didn’t seem all that bothered by it. I used our warm-up walk to move the inside hind underneath – left, right, left, left, right. She was doing very well, and barely tapping the whip on her left or right haunch helped me to get my point across without the cue getting muddled.
She got a little more wary of the whip when I tucked it against her left shoulder as we trotted, but she stopped worrying too much about it since she was trying very hard to do what I was asking. I was super pleased. She still got really stiff at the left, to where it feels like she throws her weight to the left side. But I just brought her to the walk, reiterated the bend with the whip, picked the trot back up. Not much later, I was able to do that at the trot. She certainly respected the whip, but there was no change for the worse in her pace or mind. More like it really helped that light bulb to go off in her brain. I cantered a touch, she was amazing, and even better she had no other thoughts for cantering when we proceeded to trot again. I did the serpentine once. It was just a bit better than the previous ride, but she tried so much harder this time that we only did it once. The walk break was again reinforcing that bend, that when my leg goes here you do this.
We only trotted for a bit more, and she was a very good girl. As I walked her out I again reinforced it, dismounting at her least favorite part of the arena. I made sure to give her lots of praises, grab her face for lots of pets, and she definitely took to heart the previous ride with little physical or verbal praise from me. She was extra cuddly, wanted extra reassurance that she did well. She definitely deserved the extra praise, so I hung on to her face a little longer, and she sighed happily.
Though the ride was great, I still tied her. But she knew this one was different. I just wanted to cement the ride in her mind, and every time I passed her as I mucked, I’d touch her or kiss her nose. She even got treats when I let her go.
With how much the whip helped, I do think that she may not have quite understood the cue, and that had something to do with our off ride, but at the same time, I don’t think it was the major cause. I think that and a few other things contributed, but it was the attention that was the main cause. That was just not the horse I normally get. Even when she’s having an off day herself she’s not like that. Either way, it was a good reminder lesson for her, and it was good for me to approach the issue a different way and offer an easier way to understand what I was asking. It got better, so that’s a win-win in my book!