Monday, March 30, 2015

Getting Back Into the Swing of Riding

Over the last two weeks I've been riding what I've dubbed "The Shea Monster". She's a 7 yr old OTTB who needs retraining and has a lot of potential for eventing. Our rides consist of go straight, try to bend around the corners and circles, no running, no head high in the air, no curling, no falling on your face, no stopping, and no turning around and bolting to get away from other horses in the arena.
"Do I look cuter with my tongue out?"
So she sounds like a mess right? Well she kind of is, but she's super bright, has a lot of try, and has all the mare attitude and more that you would ever want. She's going to be something nice, for sure.

She also likes me- I went to get her out of the field and she nickered at me :-)

"Please bring me in. I'm from Ocala where it's WARM."
By the end of my barn sitting weekend (3/21-22, trainer went to a show), I had Shea working through and soft in walk and trot for most of our rides. I had ridden her all week beforehand because my trainer was prepping for her own event and her young horses got the week off. Things had been going well, so I tried to canter Shea on 3/21, which was a disaster. No wonder my trainer said, "Don't worry about the canter. Do walk/trot hell with her." She wanted to run into it, which I wouldn't let her do, even if she's a baby. It's not her first canter. I finally got a canter and had to pull it up halfway around the arena. Or rather try to pull it up. She went around with her head in air like she wants to do in trot, but tried to pair it with running away, shorten the neck, etc. I wasn't alone in the arena, and I wasn't in complete control, especially if she pulled her sideways freak out, so I was more concerned with getting her pulled up than fixing the canter.

My trainer rode her on 3/23 and said, "She's so much better! Good job!" Yay! I haven't spent a lot of time on green things in a long time, so I wasn't sure if I was actually helping the little mare. Green ones weren't always around, or available for me to ride if they were around. But right now my trainer has 3 young horses of her own to work, in addition to her 3* horse (Cody), and her many training horses, and I am short a horse, so I can pick from her list of horses and ride something (Cody is becoming less of an option the closer we get to Rolex).

She tackled Shea's canter a little this past week and said it wasn't as bad as it was, but you have to apply the same strong half halt from hell, force her to go through instead of inverted, and then soften and give as soon as she does. I'll give that a whirl this week when I have the ring to myself.

I rode this past Saturday while lessons were going on, and I ended up sitting on her for an hour and half, then she stood in the indoor for another half hour. She was going well, then lost her cool again when I trotted a circle at one end of he arena, the lesson cantered a circle at the other, and we passed head on. She spooked right, so I nailed her with my right spur and she stopped immediately. We had the spooky thing happen a few more times before it subdued into: shoot right, block right, move left, block left, shoot forward, block the running away, stop dead, kick on. So she melted down into stopping, prancing in place and trembling.

I got her working again, sent her in trot over some poles for something to think about, and then quit partway through the next lesson (Ed was back for a lesson with our trainer) when she had at least tried to go back to work. I decided to sit on her in the middle of the arena and watch. I ended up getting off when Ed's owner wanted to get rid of her jacket, and we wanted to see if Shea would freak out with it near her face.

Nope. Trainer rubbed it on her face a little first to make sure she wouldn't completely melt down, then literally tossed it over Shea's face. Covering ears, eyes, nose, everything. That wench didn't flinch or even think about moving her feet. We did that a couple more times and she kept cool as a cucumber. If I had my phone on me I would have taken a picture.

Other horses in the arena? Not cool with Shea. Cover her face with a jacket? No problem. Whenever you're done using her as a coat rack is cool with her. Wench. I guess that's mares for you. Pick and choose what and when it upsets them.

I think this graphic from Horse Nation will apply to Shea:

I hung out in the arena with her, fully tacked up, and lined her up near the canter poles to force her to stand there while Ed worked around her in his lesson. Coming up behind her, coming at her head on, circling, etc. She eventually reverted to pinning her ears instead of spooking. The logic is she's got to be able to handle a XC warm up ring, so she's going to spend time with other horses in the arena. Our barn hosts 3 hunter shows throughout the summer, and my trainer said "She's going in every single flat class." I asked, "How many are you going to be dismissed from?" She laughed and said, "A lot."

Ed's owner offered to let me try him after her lesson was done. He's not the best mover but he's very safe and sane, but turns like a tractor trailer. As in, if you want that 90 degree turn across the school, you had best plan and start turning much sooner than you would with any other horse. In his downward transitions and circles he tends to lose the outside hind, and his bend. So I'm good at getting the bend back, and using my inside leg to support horses that fall in during downward transitions, but he threw me for a loop where I needed to support more with my outside leg in the downward transitions. Neat guy. I'd like to spend some more time playing with him because once I got that worked out, he was soft and through and very pliable.

A quick side note, while my trainer was gone, I taught a couple lessons. Here's a picture of 18 hand Ed before tackling the poles from hell on 3/22:

Ed and his mom evaluating my poles from hell.


  1. My favorite little TB mare tried to literally CLIMB OUT OF THE ARENA the first time I rode her with other horses in the ring. Time and staying confident really helped her get over that. Last weekend she went out of was a star at a local horse trials. Good girl. :) You guys will get there!

    PS, those poles of death are making me sweat, just from looking at them.

    1. Haha!! I know it's totally not funny while it's happening, but the imagery is great. I've never had this problem with any of the other TBs I've ridden. They sometimes get quick or move away when they're passed, but never outright try to spin and bolt (or climb out of the arena). She'll get over it eventually. I'm glad your little mare did too! I love seeing them succeed in their new jobs, especially if they were difficult.

      The poles weren't that bad, haha! I took one of the more experienced eventers in the barn through the poles after Ed's lesson. He's a cocky boy with the experience to go with it (prone to rearing when he doesn't get his way), and after a round or two through the poles he had a meltdown and was hopping on his hind legs. I got him working again and forced him to go through the poles over and over (with mental breaks) to force him to learn some patience. Ed and his owner's other horse did really well through the poles- they figured out they needed to stay through with a consistent tempo and watch their feet. Very good for all of them!

    2. Haha! That would be Pig, hopping around on his hind legs!!