Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cross Country Lesson: Keeping Me Humble (and I didn't even ride!)

He's the best at... something... 
After my less-than-stunning crossrails debut at the derby, I thought it was perhaps in my best interests to enter the clinic at the same location the next weekend.

And then shit starting hitting proverbial fans and I thought that maybe instead of me, redheadlins could ride C-rage and all would be well. After all, we had a productive week--he gave me some of his best flatwork yet and I lunged him over a jump to help him learn how to use his back end and jump forward instead of deer leaping.

I guess we could mention that other than hopping over an X a couple of times, he hadn't actually jumped since the deer leaping incident, but eh, what did it matter for a cross rails clinic that I wasn't riding in? To be perfectly honest, I was just hoping the instructor would notice what a rock star my horse was and not let the other "crossrails" constituents hold him back. Hell, I'd probably have to turn down an obscene amount of money just to put my glorious steed back on the trailer to go home, right?

Just rocking his fancy new OTTB pad!
So yeah, obviously nothing went wrong with that attitude. ;-)

About that... Courage came out calm and happy. No screaming, no crack giraffe, just happy grazing and flirting with some mares. Perfect. We saddled up and lins hopped on. They warmed up great. I was super excited to watch them cruise around like badasses.

Of course, the trainer (who has never really seen Courage before) had him start on the same exercise as every body else--walking through ground poles.

So easy
And it sort of all fell apart. C-rage was just not keeping it together. There was flailing and leaping and pissing off and general unpleasantness to the point that the clinician got on and rode around for a good 10-15 minutes. He was able to get through the poles eventually, but my horse was checked.the hell.out.

Ok, well, he's never been the best at poles. No worries. Linds gets back on and they proceed to a tiny little log. I was back to being all pride and confidence because I have jumped little logs and he is totally brilliant at them.

Welllll... We're working on not rushing/flailing/panicking/leaping/etc, so the instructor has lins doing some simple figure eights in front of the log to get the little dude focused on her instead of freaking out. Then they go to the jump and he slams on the brakes. Hard.

Well, ok, kind of surprised him, whatever. Try again. BRAKES AND REVERSE OH HAIL NAW HE AIN'T GOING THERE.


Before the wheels came off
What? The instructor ends up putting him in a halter on a lunge line and having Lindsey get off. And yeah, instead of blowing away his fans with how brilliant he is, Courage got to lunge over jumps, then take a break, then lunge, then stand.

It was the right call--he was able to stand quietly with me in between sessions and watch the other riders go and figure out that he didn't need to have a massive brain melt session. It was incredibly educational to watch the other trainer work with him. Courage was able to walk off that course calmer and happier than he walked on and I have some great homework to really help him improve his mental game and learn to use himself so he can be successful in the future.

The instructor was very positive about him and the two of them really seemed to communicate well. I actually think the lesson was money well spent.

And really, it all makes sense. I've been asking him to step it up to the next level and he isn't quite sure what to do, which is hard when you're an overachiever, don't I know. I think he scared himself a bit deer leaping and he just needs to back off and take things slow again while he gets life figured out and he learns not just how to get through this obstacle, but how to develop a process to get through more and future obstacles. It's a good thing, just not something that most people brag about in public.

Which I guess I just did.

Oh well.

It's the sort of frustrating that just makes me want to go back to the drawing board and try harder. #overachiever

Seeing a theme?

PS Yes there are pictures. Unfortunately, all of my friends seem to have developed a case of "social life", which is severe but not very contagious if you're a curmudgeon. ;-) I'll get pictures eventually.


  1. I was just thinking about Connor's process through this stage in the shower this morning, actually. Connor is not the over-achiever like Courage is, but the process of him jumping in a non-frazzled way was a long one. It started with CJF identifying that he didn't know where his feet were and couldn't get my aids from his brain to his feet quickly enough as a result. And the sensory input of jumping + his overwhelming desire (fear?) not to hit the jump made her tell us to "Never overface this pony." And we spent a couple of YEARS first on the proprioception thing and then jumping all sorts of weird, but small things so that he felt like the biggest badass in the world. It took so. much. time. though. But just recently for the first time I feel like I know what I'm getting when we approach a fence, and it's not going to be crazy leaping like it was before. It will be worth it when you get there, just take it at Courage-speed, whatever that is.

  2. Fiction and I went through some very similar issues. We've had to start all over this year in terms of jumping. Taking it slow - cross rails and tiny logs. Even went back to groundwork basics with sacking him out and desensitization. It's really helped. Sometimes these horses are just so smart that moving too fast and wig them out, especially when they think they know how to do everything and when you ask them to do it a different way they get completely confused. Courage will get there. He has a great mind and when everything finally falls into place he will be absolutely wonderful.

  3. With these babies it's always one step forward and two steps back. Trying to figure out how much to ask of them and know when to back off is important and it sounds like this clinician was really great for Courage. I remember at the last Jimmy Wofford clinic I audited there was a an ISH that was fresh (understatement), he had been hunted for a year in ireland and just charged at everything. he could jump, yes, but was a monster about it and the rider had little to no control. he threw fits all around the arena and Jimmy had them do the same exercise in front of the jumps (the figure 8) he had the do it so they would head toward the gymnastic each time and then turn away into the figure eight until the horse settled, ultimately making the "jump" the reward. He did this with lots of horses that day in a variety of exercises... always making the jump the reward, even if it was just a pole on the ground.

    Riley and I have hit a wall in our baby training, but his maneuver is predictable and he got a royal ass-kicking for it the other day. When he is distracted, nappy or checks out he spins and bolts left, sometimes with a shoulder duck. I can sit it well, and I'm getting better and reprimanding him faster. I only get after when when I am asking him something he knows how to do, not with new questions, if that makes sense:)

    Hopefully you can hit the trails with him some more and get him thinking forward and happy about logs etc. It sounds like you had a great learning experience and I get a lot out of watching my horse ridden by someone else.

  4. Gotta love the brain check out phase of baby horses. Super happy to hear he got something out of the lesson regardless, and I'm sure he'll be back to being the best at everything again soon!

  5. I remember how long it took to get my first horse to be a reliable jumper. We did crossrails and gymnastic combinations and low heights for months and months. He too was a very smart TB.

    Time and patience are the keys. Courage needs to figure things out for himself so your riding doesn't matter too much. Lunging over combinations is a great way to help him along. (But do be careful of the standards as it's too easy for the line to get caught on them and a snap of the line on his face will not be a good thing for him.)

    Any way to set up a jumping chute of sorts where you can put 3-4 jumps that you can vary? Vary height, width, distances? Then he can learn to use his body all on his own.

  6. Nothing like tasting the next level before coming back to school the previous one, huh?
    ...story of my life... ;)

  7. Lots of time to work through these things....it's all about building confidence and doing so safely. You've done a great job with him so far - I suspect things will come together soon!

  8. It seems like with many baby horses its about lots of solid groundwork, then little stuff til they are balanced and bored and want to jump higher. Mine is finally getting to the "hey this is tooo easy" stage, so now I have to step up. Even that, its still lots of smaller, different types of jumps, so she doesn't get overfaced and lose her confidence while she's still learning her pace and distances. Courage looks like a great horse, just needs some time figuring it all out. Glad you overall had a positive learning experience.

  9. I thinks a lot of OTTBs are really good at the beginning because the training is so different. It's like they are curious about what they are doing and see things almost as a game. It seems like once the newness wears off they start questioning everything. I know that was the case with Beefheart. I really think those first few months that they are off of the track is the easiest time. I really have to focus on what my horse is today and forget about what he could/would do in the past. The fact is, they are going to start testing you at some point. Hang in there, he'll get through it :)

  10. We all have those growing pains they kind of suck but at the same time they indicate that we are actually growing. I'm sure Courage will get it figured out in his usual overachiever way.

  11. Haha that's a green horse for you! Always making sure to keep us humble. :D I'm glad it turned out to be productive and that everyone learned a lot.

  12. What a great experience! I really like how the trainer just took it all in stride and did what your horse needed rather than what was on her agenda for the day.

  13. Looks like George Morris in that photo? You have a very healthy attitude towards your horse and his progress, and I'm glad it turned out to be money well spent, even if it didn't turn out they way you had thought it would.

    1. Bwahahahaha! I am going to tell him you said that.

    2. Ah, so its probably your fancy european trainer, yes?

  14. The other trainer is excellent at starting green OTTBs, too -- it's just about what he does best. So a baby TB with a total brain fart isn't going to faze him or upset him at all! He'll give you homework and help you as much as he can, and if you can ever drag redheadlins out with the trailer, come on back out and we'll ride!! Hang in there. :)

  15. Sounds like good learnings from the clinic!

  16. I think that was a very positive experience, even if it is not what you had imagined going in. And you have a great positive attitude about it!


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