Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Do you think we could consider just skipping the teenage years?

Stolen from GRS Blog.

One of those rides. Consider yourself forewarned!

So I generally love riding babies. All the firsts -- first time under saddle, first time without a babysitter, first trot, first canter, first jump, first outside (sometimes before the others!), first trail ride, first show, etc etc etc. Love the feeling of accomplishment when they get it -- whatever 'it' may be and the entertaining speed bumps along the way. And since I was a teenager I've ridden babies almost exclusively (with the odd side-line into OTTBs, which are their own challenge -- in some ways way easier because they've seen everything already and in some ways way more challenging) so I understand what's involved.

But I can't help but think of how much, at this point in my career, I would really love a season on something that already KNOWS what it's doing. Something that's happy and confident in their job that could let me see what *I* could really do. hahaha ah well, we all know that's not likely to happen *sigh* I guess just frustrated at yet another show season shot by a combination of spinny greenbean not ready to compete and said greenbean being off for the entirety of July :( I'll take her out to do the dressage portion of Cedar Run but I'm not asking her to jump (even if we navigated the course successfully -- which we probably would since it's only entry -- it'd completely blow her little mind and would take me weeks to get it back. So not worth it.) and then we're done for the year. Will try and school most weekends in hopes of *next* year being reasonable but I have to admit to being somewhat frustrated by this one. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore her. And once she understands something and gets it, she's an absolute sweetheart to ride -- so a few years from now I fully expect her to be a packer. But getting her there is proving to be a much slower process than I've been accustomed to in the past.

For instance, before her month off, she was confidently jumping PT - T level courses (schooling only of course -- off property's a whole nother game!) But still, at home anything I pointed her at we went over and she was *most* days hoping around like an old hunter schoolie. Occasionally we'd meet the OTTB and have a ride n a half, but generally she was jumping really really well.

Take the entire month of July off due to injury and the start of Aug due to pilot vacation. Then start over. First little while, super high. Ok no surprise there. But then she was coming back and doing ok and then one day, random meltdown. Since then, her anxiety level is off the charts -- esp when we're alone (which is most days). Suddenly my essentially bomb-proof horse is shying at anything she can think of to shy at, and every single fence is scary. Most times she'll go over it -- but overjumping everything by ridiculous amounts and tension just radiating from her. N that's at the TROT. Canter's almost unrideable. Significantly better with other horses around, but even then a LONG way from the superstar pony of the spring. Almost like I'm getting at home what we had at that horrendous CT at the start of the year. Not nearly that bad actually, so suppose I should be happy about that, but a moderated version of it.

So I had a lesson this am. Still going high off last week's lesson, and I've gotten much more comfortable with the new language. Warmup and coach is running late -- which means he actually gets there on time (he's usually super early). So by the time he got there Si was properly warmed up and working. He walks in "wow, that looks great. How warmed up is she?" Very. "Ok well let's jump then." hahaha graduated from DQ world. Yeah us. Except I actually had a couple 'new language' type questions so ran those by him first and got a little help on the flat. Did get tons of bonus points for having done my homework though *g* Doesn't matter how long I've been riding, how many lessons I've taken or who I'm riding with "that looks great" from my coach is still enough to have me high all day. hahaha esp when it's actually something I've been working ridiculously hard to make happen.

But then of course it was time to jump. And at first Sienna didn't *know* it was time to jump because, well, she wasn't paying attention when we were talking about it. I often shorten my stirrups and then don't jump anything specifically so she never learns to put those cues together. So I trot her around and she's still in the same mindset as our flatwork. All good. Turn towards the first fence and all of a sudden her body radiates tension. Fence was maybe 2"6. Not the least bit scary. And she jumps it almost every day. There was no feeling of hesitation, I never felt she was going to quit, but I also wasn't the least bit surprised when she cleared it by a solid foot. Form was beautiful. Textbook. Just waaaayyyy higher than necessary. Coach calls me over and asks me to analyze, which I did. This is not new. And on the plus side, I've actually been riding well (I swear that's not ego, just fact *g* I know and acknowledge fully well when I'm riding like I've never sat on a horse before, but the last couple weeks have been good from an eq and a timing perspective :) so I know it's not that I'm causing the reaction (which I can do -- if I get ahead of her and she deigns to still jump it, it'll be that kind of jump). Coach agreed with me. "She's just a little sharp." hahaha and that's fairly accurate. I would never have thought to describe it that way, but that's essentially it exactly.

There are these two purple boxes - not huge. Maybe 2'6". With hideous pokadots on them. They're great in a horrendously tacky way. Sienna HATES them. With a passion I've never felt from a horse before. Lots of horses will look at something that strange at first, but all the rest of the ones I know get over it pretty fast. Every. Single. Time. we go to this fence she'll hesitate and then clear it by a mile (assuming she goes over it that is -- that's not always guaranteed.) So today they were set as wings because somebody else was jumping the fence and wanted it lower than the box allowed. So my coach pulls the two boxes out together and makes them a wingless, poleless, skinny. Lovely. Actually an exercise I'm all for. Use it a lot. Entirely believe any horse should be capable of it. But doing it with the one jump she despises at a time when things are not going well was, ummmm, questionable. But there is absolutely no reason she can't do it so... Trot towards it in a positive manner. Horse: "You've got to be friken kidding me!" Stop. Spin. Bolt. Rider: *sigh*. Second time we actually made it over -- twice the height it needed to be, but over. Did it a few more times and she got better each time. Ok, progress.

So coach moves one of the boxes back under the jump where it originally lived (adjusting the pole accordingly). The other one gets moved to the middle of another box jump (that jump has three boxes, that aren't scary, side by side. He removed the middle one and replaced it with the purple one). Now you have to understand, that other jump was the one she'd been jumping *best* all day. Holding a perfect line. Quiet. No tension. Really good. Yeah, putting the purple dots under it changed that significantly. We got over it, but calm, quiet and straight it was not.

Ok attempt the *other* purple box. Now it is exactly where it's *always* been -- from the day it got moved into the sandring. With the same wings, the same pole on top. Only difference is that now there's one box where previously there had been two. I understood the other box being scary -- it appeared with the wrong jump, but this one...? About 18' out she quit. Really quit. Like snorting, 2 hands taller, explosion trying to happen quit. N I'm thinking you've got to at least go up to it. Yeah no. Can't spin or go backwards, what's left? Up. Waayyyy up. Now up's been her thing since before I ever got on her. But usually it doesn't even really count as a rear. It's semi-impressive to those watching, but really nothing to it. She comes up to about the angle she'd have taking off for a 3'6" fence. Feet are around her shoulder height and she hovers for a bit and then comes down again. No biggie. This time her feet were over my head. She's never gone up anywhere near that height with me on her before (although I have seen her do it playing in the field). So we're hovering up there and she starts to loose her balance -- one hind leg is still significantly stronger than the other. And as she shifted, it threw me off balance too. Making the situation much worse as my weight was now in a position to pull us over.

So I'm sitting up there and time slows, as it does. N my first thought is "this is very bad. I don't want her to learn this trick because I *hate* dealing with it." Then I realize she's really having trouble holding it and it's "well I can hop off now and let her fend for herself or I can pull us both over backwards. The second option's going to hurt both of us a whole lot more and probably wreck my saddle." Seriously -- had that whole conversation with myself. And then swung off my horse. Basically just let go and let gravity do its job. Does it count as a fall when it's unplanned but intentional? I landed on my feet, perfect dismount really, still holding the reins. N without me throwing her balance off, she was able to come down on all four safely.

Other than when I was learning to vault and we were *told* to hop off our horses at various gaits and positions, this is the first time I can ever remember voluntarily coming off. Usually I'm more of the hold on no matter what type. I may get concerned about the situation after the fact, but I stick as long as humanly possible. But it just seemed the wise decision at the time (although my coach was countermanding it as I was doing it -- "stay on that horse!" -- I had already started apologizing by the time my feet hit the ground).

So get back on. Hard to do when she's growing by the second and vibrating with tension. "I think that scared her more than it did you." ummm yup. Pretty safe bet on that one. Given that being scared was what caused her to go up in the first place *sigh*. At least with her it's never malicious. It may not be what I want, but there's always a reason. Sometimes it's a particularly dumb reason, but at least there's a reason. Go try jump again. Sitting on a giraffe on crack performing the jackhammer trot. Try getting *that* in front of your leg. Yeah, not easy. But this time we went over it. Explosively, but over it. So then we spent the next half hour jumping a figure 8 over those two boxes. Was never good, but it did get much better. Got so the trot was pretty consistent. Could canter one at a time, but not both together.

Ok, new exercise. Random oxer in the middle of the ring. Ascending. Back rail still only about 2'6". Maybe 2'9" if you stretch your imagination. Trot up to it, and she jumps it beautifully. First fence she's done with no hesitation. But she touches a rail. N she *really* hates touching a rail. *sigh*. 3'4 of a mad gallop lap later I get her back to me. Go try it again. And again. And again. And eventually out of the canter (I admit I snuck in an extra couple trot fences after my coach suggested the canter - much to his disgust, but we did get there :) And finally *well* out of the canter. As in when she was going for a stupidly dangerous long spot and I told her to wait and add, she did.

And after that, we finally called it a day. But seriously -- more than an hour of jumping to get to where she should technically be *starting* the warmup.

I'm hoping a few years from now I'll look back at this post as my superstar pony is packing some student around prelim n laugh n be glad I stuck it out, but I have to admit right now, it's not nearly as much fun as it usually is.

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