It warmed up nicely yesterday, so I made it out for a ride. I free-lunged Izzy in the arena because she hadn't gotten out Sunday, thinking she would enjoy a little free time. She mostly ignored and trotted around visiting other horses. Keep this in mind. It's important later on.
She was fine to tack up, but when I put her on the lunge line, she lacked impulsion and seemed more focused on what was going on outside the arena than in. Oddly, there was really nothing going on. I was the only person at the barn. We'll call this clue #2. I just wrote off the laziness to the somewhat-slick footing.
She stood completely quietly at the mounting block. I'm hoping this isn't related to clue #3, which was that she hesitated to walk off when I asked her to, which meant she was ignoring my aids.
We made it about a hundred feet before we heard a funny noise. Not scary, just odd. It sounded like a wheelbarrow or something, but there was no one around to push it. Izzy completely ignored my aids and spun around to face the noise. I figured that she won't get to do that sort of thing at shows, so I spun her back around to face the way I wanted to go. This might have been clue #4.
Izzy went straight up. Yes. In the air. As in rearing with me again. Sigh. I managed not to pull on her face, but I had missed all four clues leading up to this, so I didn't have time to think and pull her in a circle while sending her forward. Instead, as soon as her front feet hit the ground, I leaped off. I ignored my shaking legs as she reared again and pranced in a circle. I marched her to the fence, grabbed my lunge line and a whip, and IMMEDIATELY, I sent her forward. Fast.
She galloped for a good five minutes one way, then the other. Rearing, especially in this instance, is the ultimate refusal to go forward. It wasn't a reaction to pain, like it was last time. It was her alpha mare side saying, "I will do this and you won't stop me." I realize that I've been lenient with her lately, and not as dominant on the ground as a horse of her makeup requires. After lunging, I got back on her.
Let me clarify something here for any new readers: Izzy's vice is her refusal to go forward. Rearing is an exaggeration of that vice. I'll probably never entirely get the rearing out of her completely, but I can see the warning signs and more than likely prevent her from doing it on all but the rarest occasions. If you have a horse that rears, please, please, please seek professional help. It is an extremely dangerous issue, especially if it is allowed to fester. Oh, and don't ride alone. ;-)
So. I got back on Izzy with one thing in mind: she needs to go forward off my aids. I let her get behind my leg and I put up with her antics instead of applying the proper discipline. At this point, she knew I was PISSED. I had recovered my self possession to the point that I was steady again. I wish someone was there, just in case, but this was an important point to make with Izzy, and I needed to make it now.
She did stand nicely for mounting again, and I rode her forward from there. As in almost rushing forward. Forward from the seat, leg, and whip. We didn't walk, because walk isn't our strongest gait right now and she would have a lot harder time going from a faster gait to rearing than from the walk. I rode for probably 20-30 minutes, doing trot/canter transitions each way. I didn't let her use the footing as an excuse. Anytime she even thought about looking around, I changed the subject. If we were going forward and she looked around, I'd make her go sideways (and forward).
By the time we were done, she was doing quite well. I took her tack off, since it had been a hard day for her, and turned her loose in the arena. She was nice and quiet and followed me around. When I led her back to the hitching post, she just ran into me. Not hard, but she was challenging my status again by getting in my space. Obviously, after her performance under saddle, I couldn't let this happen. I whipped out a rope halter, and we did about five minutes of ground work to enforce the "go when I go, stop when I stop, go backwards when I walk in to you" mentality.
Then I put her away.
This morning, I rode again. It was a short ride, since I bet her rear end is sore from rearing and I don't want to aggravate it and cause a pain issue. Still, we worked on the same thing. Ironically, when I asked for our first canter departure of the day, she bucked. Grrr. This mare has not bucked under saddle before.
If it's not one thing, it's another.