Sunday, July 15, 2018

Wading With Questions

The dogs enjoyed walking 8-10km every day, haha.
Following the Anthony clinic, as I eluded to in the last post, I went for a trail ride with N and AJ before disappearing to visit the Boyfriend.

The trail ride was very welcomed, as it is always nice to just head out of the ring, clear the head and just wander amongst the trees and trails. Annie was happy to lead almost the entire time, and was quite unhappy when I asked Nicole to take over the lead (to practice Annie being in the backseat for a bit). I don't mind her having opinions about being behind, because she mostly just marches forwards like her life depends on it (y not in the ring tho, horse?) and will ride up poor AJ's butt.

Being the leader is fun.
The one thing I do not like is that this horse is soooo not sure-footed, haha. This trail had a lot of divets from the quads that frequent it and a variety of different textures (sand, mud, logs, etc) and I have mostly only trail ridden Annie on wider, flatter, and less 'technical' trails before. Which, is fine, but when she is just marchin on (bc we are last oh my god), she tends to forget that mud is slippery and uh... we will both go down Captain.

Thankfully, we both stayed upright and I was happy the trail was finally open for use and made a mental note to frequent it more often. Typically, the trails across the river will only open once the river goes down. It usually happens end of June/early July once the snow from the mountains tapers off and the extra accumulated water disappears. Otherwise, it's a good swim across and I have no interest in trying to swim a baby horse in a very sandy area that has a reputation for sloughing off at the edges (remember how Suzie and I got stuck in the sand? yup, same place).

Following AJ - it took some convincing we could
walk this far behind and still be ok, haha.
The mini vacay was well timed, because I was struggling to remain positive and struggling to keep plugging away at Annie's newfound (altho, is it really that new if it has always been there but not necessarily hugely problematic until recently???) evasion and it really kinda bummed me out.

The writing has been on the walls since I've owned her tho, and I just never headed the warning. Which, I guess is a "normal" thing to do with a young horse and a "green" to green horses rider... But still, I can't help but feeling like I messed up pretty bad and it kinda crimps my riding mojo.

I've avoided the horse and avoided the "fights" simply because they aren't fun.

But, how do you fix something if you don't practice or work on it?

Which is why as soon as I got home, I was back on the horse the next day.

We might not have forward, but at least we look good?
In a jump pad and all!
Being a whiney baby doesn't get anyone anywhere, and while I am sure my friend's want to remind me how melodramatic and silly I am being (which, rational part of me knows this), it's time to pick up the pieces and start working on the tangible and educated advice I have been given over the last few weeks.

I went into those clinics knowing we had a lack of forward and got some good advice. So now, it's up to me to push myself to use that advice, be practical and methodical and just fucking DO IT.

So on Sunday I went out and did a schooling ride on Annie with N and AJ. Someone in our area had put out little "slow down" sandwich board signs and it spooked the crap out of Annie, but we did make it past without any theatrics.

I initially had intended to do a short, stretchy ride, but when we got to the ring and I went to canter on the left lead, Annie decided that half way through the circle she'd keep doing flying changes and suck back to the lower half of the ring (where AJ was). Granted, she had had 6 days off so I get that she reverted back to #freshlybrokebabyhorse status but like... can we NOT be herd-bound and try to evade work?

Several attempts to circle brought on the lead change and there was nothing I could do (or think of doing) to stop her. Mare was opinionated and was trying her hardest to let me know we should be heading aaaaa thataaaa way.

We worked on our trot and canter primarily, and I did have to boot her a few times around the ring to keep her motoring. A few times I was suckered into riding how I did before, but quickly reminded myself and got back to work. It felt like endless boots to the ribs at some points and I got pretty fricken frustrated. But like... hooray for her being a good bean after 6 days off, haha?

Annie says, might as well give me another six, lady.
Nicole ended up bringing AJ into the middle of the ring and we cantered endless circles around him before cantering away from him and doing circles without swapping the leads. I ended after a particularly good circle, praised her and we headed back home.

Monday I headed out again, this time ponying Spud. We had a pretty decent ride in the arena and I had ended up wearing spurs. I don't necessarily want to wear them all the time or rely on them, but I feel like maybe this will be a good tool to help us? It's tough to tell, and I try to ride as much as I can without them.

It was a shorter ride than Sunday's and I felt like she gave me some good work in between moments of being sticky. I still felt frustrated and sighed internally when a friend of mine who was planning a horse show messaged me and told me she was low on entries and could I please enter.

Support horse shows.
Support friends.
I love supporting horse shows, especially the local ones, because they are a tough thing to do and it takes a lot of planning. This particular show would be a schooling show with the opportunity to ride a test and "fix a test" with the judge the day before. I decided to go for it, because if anything, the mini-lesson with the judge would be super beneficial. I may not have a forward horse, but maybe she had more information to glean that I could use?

So, I accepted and sent in my entries for HCBC Training Level 1-3 and booked myself a Ride A Test/ Fix A Test Training Level 2 with the judge the day before.

With all of this being said, does anyone have any good exercises, tips, or tricks they've used with their forward-resistant horse? Did it get worse before it got better? How did you keep your horse "mostly" happy in their work while battling with the forward demons? I want to keep Annie as happy as possible, but some of our schools are going to be Tough Titties, mare. 

I have gone back in a few blogs to read comments and things, but would love to hear if anyone reading in particular has used spurs or if this is something I should avoid? Why/why not?

As always, thanks for reading and I appreciate/value everyone's insights! It takes a village!


  1. I also have a forward resistant horse (Henry) so I'm curious what ideas come out of blog land! :) Its not a fun struggle for sure.

    1. I have creeped a few blogs that I know have had battles with the forward button and I’ve come up with a lot of good info so far!

  2. Lots of transitions. Especially walk/trot transitions every five strides. If my horse if feeling sleepy, canter transitions will wake him up. Long sets of trotting poles (more than 10) get my horse jazzed up. Whatever you do, keep her guessing. Break yoir patterns.

    You migt want to try a whip instead of spurs as they might just dull her to your leg even more.

    1. Thank you for your comment!! I like the idea of transitions in rapid succession. Gets them guessing and gets their body moving!

      I have heard both positives and negatives about the spurs and whip. I’ll have to mull it over some more - I imagine both can be detrimental if used as a crutch.

  3. Good for you gritting your teeth and getting it done. For me, it's not so much about the forward but what her resistance gets her- which is less work. So I would set it up that there are no breaks until she goes forward. I would then reward immediately with less work.

    I am not sure I'm making sense here but the idea is that when she gives you want you want she gets what she wants. The rest doesn't have to be long but it's to set up the idea that complying gets her the reward not more work (which is the tendency when you finally get it).

    the basic formula is being lazy/behind the leg= more work
    forward/in front of leg= more breaks

    it doesn't take long for them to figure it out and then you can drop out the frequent breaks.

    1. That makes huge sense!! And I am a big fan of reward. I’ll havs to try that. Thank you!

  4. I put spurs on at about ride 4 on Opie and haven't taken them off since. I'd much prefer to give one or two pokes during a ride and be done than having to constantly nudge nudge nudge with my leg. A dressage whip would probably help with a couple meaningful taps, but I suck at riding with a whip so never do. Lots of quick transitions might sharpen her up, but make sure they're sharp themselves or you're just teaching her that being a slug in transitions is alright.

    But I do think she'll get better eventually! And if it makes you feel better Opie still frequently tries to see if he can get away with coming to a complete halt and QUITTING during trot to walk transitions. Because he's a damn quitter!

    1. I’m awful at handling a whip too haha.

      And yes, Annie does that too!! They should get t shirts or something - Quitters Unite!!

  5. Agree with all the above,reward the forwrd, make it the easiest option, and make it sharper than you'd want on a quicker horse. Lots and lots of transitions, and you have to be REALLY serious about forward happening immediately. My coach at one point had me ask for the up transition politely and if she didn't respond immediately I basically was supposed to cowgirl up right away, give the reins and do whatever it took to get her galloping around the arena and in front of my leg. B quickly figured out that a walk or trot transition when I asked was the easier option than all hell breaking loose from her rider and having to gallop around :)

  6. I’m with Carly. My coach has me ride with either spurs or a whip every ride. I’d rather use a whip or a quick poke with a spur than booting them as I feel it keeps them sharper. I hate riding horses that are dull to the leg.

    I generally ride with a whip because I’ve got a rogue leg that does whatever it wants sometimes.

  7. I used to have to retrain dead-to-the-leg, lazy camp horses every summer. I do what a lot of people above have mentioned. Ride with spurs and a crop. Ask nicely once and if the response isn't immediate and forward, I correct fast and hard. For the first few times I like to put my one hand in the mane so I don't accidentally punish the horse when they do go forward. I ask nicely with my hand holding the whip right by my leg and if I don't get the response right away, I smack hard and go with them. Usually takes like 2-3 times to fix. Then you just have to never let your guard down. Good luck.

  8. Any day I have a forward resistant horse or a horse who isn't keyed into me, we do rapid-fire transitions. One to five strides within each gait MAX. W-T-C-T-C-T-C-W-Halt-T-Halt-back-T-C-W. I usually have a whip in hand (something I rarely have) and it doesn't typically take more than one sharp pop or two for me to get the point across and not have to use it any more. It's crazy what the transition game does for my horses! And I don't just quit after they're going forward nicely most days because I don't want to teach that once-you-go-forward-you're-done, so we usually work on a few other things (jumps or a couple hill sets or whatever) before calling it. I've gotten to a point where the transition game is only necessary for a few minutes instead of many when we have lazy days now. They just KNOW that if we start doing them they better wake TF up lol!

  9. I think it is largely dependent on the horse, the correct riding warm up will engage their brain and their motor. For Dante that means a lot of walking outside the ring to wake up and then to work in the ring.