Here there be dragons...

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

Tell me something... Why do I ride TBs?

From Graduate Riding School Blog

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Remember the superpony I told you about a post or two ago? The one who was jumping around over scary things like the brave eventer she might one-day become? Yeah I'd like to know where she went and ask her to come home *sigh*. I had a chestnut OTTB mare to ride yesterday. In a big way. To be fair, she had two days off and it feels significantly cooler out (my car tells me it's 29, but it feels cold. No humidity @ all so I'm guessing that's the difference. I can't handle summer ending yet!).

Yeah so I should've known when she didn't come to me in the field. She didn't run away from me either, just basically ignored my presence entirely (usually I call her from the gate and meet her half way). Grooming and tacking up she was witchier than usual, but not tragically so. PMSing maybe? Take her out to the sand ring and get on -- she's her usual quiet self. And I *might've* let her wander away while I was getting organized. Technically a bad habit I realize, but one born of always riding in busy locations where there's usually a lineup for the box. Get on and get out of the way. So we're still in wandering/getting organized mode a few seconds later when suddenly we're standing on our hind legs for a few seconds and then promptly galloping the other direction. Ummmm excuse me?!?!?! Fortunately I have both reasonable balance and the ability to react quickly when necessary so got organized *really* quickly and stopped the pony. Ok so what was that all about? Walk her back that direction on purpose this time to find out. Sure enough, stop/snort/up/backwards. Ummmm no. Backwards is not in the contract. Counteracted w/ our friend the dressage whip which promptly led back to up. *sigh*

There's a theory about a horse has 6 ways to go: left, right, forward, backward, up or down. And when riding you're supposed to close all the doors except the one you want. But I have yet to figure out exactly how to close the "up" door. *sigh* I can hold her straight, and stop her from going backwards, but to avoid forwards when she's this concerned, she'll pick up. And it's not even a malicious thing -- she only does it when she's genuinely concerned about something. But it's still not a good thing.

So we finally compromise with stand still (all four feet on the ground) and snort. She's about a hand taller than usual and her whole body is quivering. The very scary thing she's concerned about? Yeah it's the blue tarp. The blue tarp that she's seen many, many, many times before. But it had been rolled up (it's usually the "liverpool" under one of the jumps) and put off to the side. At about this point one of the other people arrives "what's her problem?" "Chestnut ottb mare." Right. hahaha So I get her to go past it in start-stop-start-stop-shy-bolt fashion. Do that a couple times till we can maintain a straight line and something that resembles a trot.

Remember by this point we still have not done so much as a warm-up circle.

So I ask the person on the ground if she could possibly take the tarp out of the bushes, fold it very small, and put it between two standards so we can school with it. No rail on top - if it's "just a jump" it defeats the purpose since apparently tarps are only scary when they're by themselves. So there's enough space between tarp and standard that, were she straight, she could walk easily between the tarp and the standard. So this is where we'll start. Uh huh. Yeah that's clearly setting the bar WAY too high. About 10 ft out. Stop snort try to rear and spin bounce in place a bit. Seriously horse? Was actually a reasonably entertaining drama given what was involved. So I get her *almost* to it and she's stretched out her nose as FAR as she possibly could to investigate without getting too close... All good till she snorts on it. It's a tarp. Tarps move when a strong breeze hits them. AND they make noise when they move. And I was laughing too hard at Sienna's reaction to stop her. hahaha. So we had to circle a couple times and get the flight response under control and then come back to it. Repeat this three or four times w/ regaining control after a stride or two instead of the mad gallop and then eventually keeping her straight so we snort and freeze but don't disappear. Ok, progress.

Proceed with the "walk by" plan. She's *really* hesitant but at least gets up to it (now it's folded tiny -- maybe 1' across if you stretch your imagination. To put in perspective -- BOs 5yo child would have no problem stepping over this). So given that it's tiny, her head is already past it when the feet get there. Remember at this point I'm only asking her to go beside - not over... But she's really unsure, so she's taking these tiny baby steps and throwing dirt all around. Anybody see the problem with this? Yup, as soon as she got close enough to *almost* go bravely by, she kicked dirt on the tarp. Which made noise. And we were gone again. And it made MORE noise as we spun to run away. Which made us leave faster. hahaha such a goof.

And we try again. This time when the scary noise hits the tarp I take spinning out of the equation -- so she has up or forward as her options. Since she really doesn't want to stay with the tarp, forward it is. Fast! hahaha. But technically we were past the tarp.

Done? No, of course not.

Ok so turn around to go over it the other way. Have you ever worked with a horse before? Scary object in the other direction is a NEW scary object. Repeat the above few paragraphs. On the plus side, it was nice to see she can now spin and bolt evenly in either direction (when I got her she used to only spin left - no strength to the right). She picked it up a little faster this way. Either because she'd done it once already or because she prefers jumping that direction in that ring.

Turn around and try again. Not so much hesitation this time. Still a bit of a leap and run but getting easier. Repeat this a few times till it feels less like I'm sitting on an explosion waiting to happen.

Alright so now we've got the walking by, how about over? We start the easy way but pointing her straight at it this time. Stop, snort... comeon pony... FLYING leap and gallop away. hahaha ok, well technically over it :) Back and forth a whole bunch of times till she's trotting over it and landing in a controlled canter (never got relaxed enough to treat it as a trot pole, but at least somewhat calm and straight.

Now I *could* have left it there... But really, it shouldn't've taken me 40 minutes to get her to trot over that. May as well take the desensitizing all the way while we're there. Asked somebody on the ground to please put it back to its normal size (about 4' wide). I thought even in her spinny mode she'd look at it and just way over jump it.

Yeah no. Not so much. Remember waaaaayyyyy back at the beginning when we stopped like 10' out. Yeah back to that. Only now it's even scarier because this way it's lighter, which makes it more susceptible to the wind. Which means it randomly MOVES. Yikes! But I started the game, had to finish it. Right back to stop, snort, inspect, walk beside it. Then we did walk part way beside it and flying leap over the corner. Land flying (like to the point that when I get her back to a trot the walk will not happen. Ears up around my eyes. Less good. Get her chilled out again (took a while). Do some walk trot transitions. Reinstall brain. Try again.

Going the one way, that was the best I ever got *sigh*. Going the other way I got her trotting it and landing excited but ridable. Had to leave it on that because I had to teach (usually I have time to ride, cool out, untack, and chill for a bit before that lesson gets there. This ride I hadn't even gotten to the w/u yet!). So I got one good trot over it reasonably and left her on that. Went over to the other side of the ring to do some trot loops and take advantage of her back being up nice and high and the power behind the trot for a bit n then let her cool out (despite the fact that we never technically warmed-up!).

Now since I didn't have time to put her away, she had to teach with me. Hanging out in the middle is a good lesson in patience so I generally don't mind this, but today was even better because every time student stopped for a break or something, we worked on the tarp. By the end she was walking over it BOTH ways quietly (actually even stepping ON it - albeit cautiously). So I was quite happy that we got there. But man it took forever to get there. So guess what we'll be doing for the rest of the week?

When I say she's a little slow sometimes -- these are the days I'm talking about. It shouldn't take more than an hour school to convince her to go over a tarp. And once she's done it, it should get *easier* each time. Or so that's been my experience in the past. Not so much with this one *sigh*. Ah well -- ditch training right? Essentially the same idea.

So why do I ride a TBs? Because they're cheap! hahaha nah - most days they're entertaining, but some days I think life'd be easier if I'd gone and gotten something a little more sturdy with a little less edge. Of course then I'd be bored :)

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