Thursday, July 19, 2018

Feeling Forward

Thank you to everyone who chimed in on my last post! A lot of it is advice I have been trying to implement, and it's good to know those who have tried this advice and stuck with it have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, haha! I realize there is a large divide on the whole "whip or spurs" debate, and I will have to do some playing around to see what works best for us.

Annie says: "Ya thanks, thanks a lot guys"
To catch myself up in all the happenings around here, I gave Annie the Tuesday off and rode her both Wednesday and Thursday before the Ride a Test/Fix a Test and show weekend. 

On Wednesday, to keep things light and simple, I opted to go for a trail ride. I have mentioned previously that I haven't had the chance to take her on any difficult or technical trails this year simply because the technical trails are across a river. That may not seem like a huge deal, except the Spring run off from the mountains cause serious flooding which makes these trails inaccessible and unsafe until they level out and drop, which typically is mid-Summer.

Attentive ears. Not attentive to her feet tho, haha.
Typically, we stick to the wider 4x4 trails that have more firmer footing and have minimal "questions". Which, is fine. But the trails across the river are narrower, have areas where the river bank has been sloughed off due to flooding, overgrown due to lack of use, and have unfortunate ruts from off-road vehicles.

Annie is pretty sensible on the trail, but is often not very brave when going out alone. She tries to hurry herself along to get it over with and instead, ends up forgetting to pay attention to her feet and trips, slips, and then in turn attempts to flail faster. It has been pretty typical of her with trails - when we hit areas solo-style she is very unsure until we have visited a few times.

Some areas that have ruts - as the trail progresses,
the space between the tire marks is the only walkable
part and horses feel like they are walking a tight rope when they
try to scale it, haha.
What was meant to be a very quiet and calm solo ride out into the big, bad wilderness quickly turned into huge frustration when our black dog, Roxy, absolutely refused to cross a slightly flooded swimming hole. Ella, our other dog (the foster fail who needs a post made, lol) who hates water dove right in and followed, but Roxy just refused.

Attempting to ride a horse that is noping the entire situation and trying to coerce a bull-headed dog to follow is an easy way to get the rage meter building. And for what it is worth, Annie was pretty damn good when I asked her to wander back and forth across shore to entice Roxy to follow (no beuno), stand quietly as I screamed at Roxy (who turned her head away and pretended not to hear me), and crossed the water a few times back and forth trying to get the damn dog to follow us.

This isn't the swimming hole. This was DEEPER than the
swimming hole and the fucking dog had no problemo going through it.
Anyways. I ended up dismounting, throwing the dog in the saddle, remounting and wandering back across the water.

So, props to Annie for that.

We finally got to start our ride after twenty minutes fucking around with the dog.

Heading back. Her head started to lower and she started to relax more.
The ride itself was pretty good. Annie got a little fast in her walk, which part of me was like "YAY FORWARD" and part of me was like "Jesus take the wheel because if we slip in this mud again we are gonna fucking die". But overall it wasn't too bad.

She gets nervous about mud, especially in the lovely mud puddle at the bottom of an eroded hill we had to scale... I sat back, held onto some mane and let Annie figure her way through it. It kinda went like this:

Annie: *studies mud, pokes tentative hoof in, withdraws hoof, offended*
Me: "It's alright, you can do it."
Annie: *lifts brow* "It seems unsafe." *Tip toes closer*
Me: *Urges Annie forward* "You'll live."
Annie: *Dances at edge before hurtling herself forwards, not paying attention to where her feet go and thus, slips in mud. In response, hurls herself up the rest of the hill*
Me: *thinking "Ok wow... we almost died"*

Post trail - "K. You can dismount now, specimen."
As a side note, I'm not 100% sold on this bridle on her. I'm not
a fan of the huge red tones on her and the noseband cheek pieces
creep to her eye quite a bit.
For the most part it was a relaxing ride, but Annie is very forward about trail riding in the scary bush alone and sometimes her inattention to her feet makes me a bit nervous. We did make it out unscathed and I did have to laugh at her at one point. If you looked at the trail from above, it would look like a giant letter "P" there is a definitive in and out area, but you do a little circle around and then meet back up to the trail before following the tail end of the "P" out. (Do I even make sense?). Annie was pretty sure the trail was an "O" shape and insisted heading back to the towards the old trail was very wrong. She didn't balk, but did try to casually turn around to help me find my way home. I appreciated her efforts, but the way she was going was actually no longer horse accessible (because at one point, it WAS a complete circle.

Thankfully, when we went to head home and cross the swimming hole, Roxy followed quietly.

She IS pretty cute tho


Don't they look like happy donkeys?
The next day I headed out wanting to school in the ring and work on our forward button. I felt pretty happy given the fact Annie was willingly forward during our trail ride and was hoping it would transfer into the ring.

Part of me was not sure about riding her the day before a clinic and show, but I figured with heading on vacation the following week, it wouldn't hurt. I like to mix it up with my horses in terms of schooling and hacking, and I do like to be fair and give them days off. I know Annie might not technically 'need' days off, but it's something I just like to do. I'm not the kind of person to ride 7 days a week, especially on a young horse that could use time to absorb education and just relax. I like having relaxing days too, haha.

Plus, we've been pretty damn busy this year. Between professional training, lessons, clinics, horse shows, schooling, etc it's been hectic. The past two weekends in a row we've done clinics and they were pretty tough for both Annie and I. So adding another weekend of activity was just... a lot. I was getting burnt out myself, so I couldn't imagine Annie's #feelings.

The best of friends!
I did end up riding because I figured with leaving on vacation for 9 days, Annie would get her rest and reward soon enough. (FWIW, two days after the show Annie ended up giving herself some rope burn whilst dragging the lunge line grazing in the front yard (like we have done since I bought her) sooo she got an early vacation. She is OK and I am hoping by the time we leave on Saturday she is mostly back to her old self. I am both kicking and blaming myself tho... sigh, horses).

OK, so back to the ride.

When we started out, mare was FORWARD. She wasn't bolty or scooty, just was marching and had somewhere to go damnit! The ride itself was actually super productive and followed the theme of forward. I didn't ride with spurs on this ride and literally only had to boot her in the ribs once. I was quite happy with her efforts and had to laugh a few times because our canters were verrrrry forward.

Like, mare was afraid of getting booted so she was like "YES MA'AM LET'S GO".

This isn't our schooling ride. It's our hack from the day
before. We definitely did not ride through the river that much, haha.
The map isn't 100% accurate.
I played with letting her open her stride instead of trying to shut her down since she was trying and ended up shortening her on the short strides and then opening her back up on the long sides. We had a few wrong leads on the left side but after I gave her a boot to smarten up she picked them up just fine and she was happy to move along. I struggled to keep her connected to the bit, but ended up abandoning that idea and instead just kept a good contact on the reins. The rest will follow once we  get this forward thing figured out!

It was a pretty low key ride and I quit without pushing too much - our rides to the ring are already 20 minutes of walking each way so we played with 20 minutes of walk, 10 minutes of trot and 5 minutes of canter. Hilariously, the length of the ride ends up being the same as when we do clinics, but over an hour of it was spent walking on this day whereas during clinics, our other gaits are used much more. 

One day I will have my own ring right outside my barn, haha!

Something kind of neat I've noticed (which shouldn't surprise me!), is that our down transitions have become so much nicer since going forwards. It's kind of interesting because you'd think slow means steady, but it really doesn't work that way!

Heading home from the ride, I was kind of excited to head to the show, hoping that we magically just fixed our forward button. Of course, that's not how things usually go, but the small child in me wanted to believe.


  1. I think that you are on the right track with her. She is so very smart and will figure it out. I laughed at your dialogue about the mud!

  2. Sounds to me like she's figuring out what you want from her. Smart girl!
    The mental picture of your dog in the saddle with you is killing me. Annie definitely deserves some extra cookies for that!

  3. I'm so jealous of all the different places you get to ride!

  4. Glad things are going well!! Sounds like a great trail ride too despite the stubborn pup lol

  5. I usually bring both spurs and whip, and use them as escalation for not listening. You'll find your groove!