Thursday, July 14, 2016

Turning It Off and On Again

It never fails. I write a sappy post about how Courage is going so well and things are MAGICAL and then everything falls apart.

No seriously. Those amazing stretchy figure eights? Courage lost the ability to turn right AND left and decided that his only option was to flail sideways if I tried to put leg on.

So I tried riding inside to take steering out of the equation (yay tiny indoor!!) and uh yeah basically I just held the martingale strap for dear life while we flailed around and this was AFTER a toodling day that SHOULD have reset someone's bay thoroughbred brain but obviously didn't.
only under saddle too

Then I got all up in my head and frustrated and decided I was a horrible person and probably a failure and a quitter and that I flat couldn't ride. Or train. Or anything. Ever.

But see, I used to work in the horse industry and it was amazing how many amateur horses came into the barn in this exact state. It was also amazing how quickly the horses came back when you just looped the rein, gave them a kick, and promised them you wouldn't pull at the same time.

So that's what we did.
after a nice long lunge cuz i don't want to die
Big fat friendly bit. Loop in the rein. RIGHT REIN MEANS GO RIGHT and give as soon as he did. I didn't care where his head was, where his balance was or if he was falling in or out or anything. And then we went left with the exact same principles. I stayed neutral as long as he went forward on a circle. No picking. No fidgeting.

My thighs want to murder me for two pointing at the canter until Courage decided we could both turn and relax, but they'll get over it.

Now, don't get me wrong--this isn't a ride Courage was ready for until this summer. As a racehorse, he was always pretty packaged under saddle and so throwing the reins at him and kicking was terrifying for everyone and a recipe for disaster. He didn't understand his body in space and he wasn't great at self regulating. He needed a lot of miles to learn how to go like a normal horse.
and canter and canter and canter and canter and canter
He's there now. He understands how to go forward without free falling. That's huge. He also is doing REALLY REALLY well at some legitimately hard stuff I'm asking him for, but some days he (and I) need to remember to just go forward and relax and make things easy. It's not enough to walk around and spook at birds anymore.

We need to make the whole process easy so when I ask for the canter in a dressage ride, he's in a good mental place to deal with it and doesn't just think canter=sit=work=hard=PANIC.

It's a process, to be sure. I swear every day with this horse is a guessing game in which I only get about a quarter of the useful information. But hey. All I can do is sit here and think about tomorrow cuz ain't no way my legs work well enough to get up. Jump stirrups are short, yo.


  1. There are definitely days that I just need to get up out of the tack and GO FORWARD. Definitely a helpful tool to remember!

  2. My OTTB took a long time to learn he could canter on the buckle or a loose rein without running too, but now we use at as a tool to say "hey, this is no big deal. This is easy." just like you did with Courage. Racehorse's really do come with a lot of baggage sometimes.

  3. So much of riding is progressing, and then going a little bit backwards to re-install things, or fill in the gaps. It's not particularly fun at the time, but once you get to put it all back together again and it's better than it's ever beemn, you realize "oh yeah, totally worth it"

  4. Spider is 23 and schooling 4th level, and I've owned him for 10 years. We STILL have days like this. It just comes with the territory. It keeps things interesting, though. I get bored easily, so when things go smoothly I tend to check out. Spider makes sure I stay interested. Lol!

    1. ^^ this. Though I've only had Yanks 11 years and he's 14, not 24....we still have these moments.

  5. Ah you would be bored with many other horses. We all have flailing days. :)

  6. Keep on keeping on! The most difficult horses often have the most to give us.

  7. Eh steering is overrated anyway

  8. If it was easy- everyone would be doing it.

    Besides-> Flail gives us interesting pics to discuss! Lol


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