Thanksgiving weekend (nearly two weekends ago, oops), Annie and I had a lesson on the Saturday with Anthony. Typically, Anthony comes up once a month, but with his wedding in July and subsequent shows in August (most people don't clinic in August because it is a pretty busy and full month of horsey things!!) we weren't able to see him for far too long!
In the few weeks prior to the clinic, I took time to reflect on old Anthony-isms and scrolled back through our previous lessons and snippets of information. I found that for the most part, we were becoming reliable in a few things, but at the same time, old habits were dying hard. Which, habits are hard to break and when you don't have eyes on you all the time, it's easy to revert back to the way things were.
When Saturday morning rolled around, I was admittedly a bit nervous. Not only had I not clinic'ed with Anthony in three months, but I hadn't had a lesson since Cat Armitage lesson in August where we also did our last show of the year (not including the online show we did later on in August!). Plus, I wanted to be improved and show Anthony our newfound FORWARD button that I worked so hard to cultivate over the summer.
Annie loaded up great but as soon as we got to the grounds, she was immediately very looky and distracted. She didn't eat a strand of hay, despite my coercing, and although she wasn't flailing around at the end of the leadrope, she certainly wasn't calm enough to quietly munch her hay. It was kinda a let down to me, because I had hoped with all the hauling we had done over the year would have brought her some form of certainty and calmness. In some ways tho, I think the cold weather was affecting her and Brrr it was FREEZING that morning. So, I kinda didn't blame her to be wide-eyed and distracted.
She tacked up alright, albeit a little wigglier than I'd prefer. I noticed as the temps started to drop, she kinda can be a bit of an idiot and at home I had to tie her and just walk away a few times to remind her that tying quietly is non-negotiable. She doesn't pull back or panic, but she swings her butt around and fidgets. Which is part of the ADHD most young horses have I guess, haha, but over the Summer she stood rock-solid like an old trail string Quarter Horse.
|Ya, the sheet I grabbed doesn't fit her. It's an old hand-me-down I refuse to get rid of.|
But here she is - ignoring her hay and watching the lesson in the ring, haha.
Anyways, I was a bit annoyed but chose to ignore it and tacked her up as it started to lightly rain over us. By the time I clambered on and started to warm her up, the rain had subsided and I was grateful it waited until I was in the truck driving home to pour completely.
As I warmed Annie up, she felt like she had more "oomph" than usual. I didn't want to run her ragged in the warm up, but I knew it would be important to actually yanno, warm her up. The Anthony lessons are very strenuous - both physically and mentally for horse and rider.
I took the opportunity to walk quite a bit before asking for a trot - she sucked back and tried to gravitate towards the other horse in the arena. Nope, mare. I got after her and rewarded her with a walk break. Back to trot and we did some decent loopy figures but I could tell she was not really concentrating on me and wasn't as connected as she could be. I sat the trot a bit, inviting her to lower her poll and stretch her back. She did, which was good. We moved into canter and after a few laps on the grass things started to fall apart.
She decided she was done and instead of circling quietly, kept switching in her hind end. I sat quiet and tall and continued to ride - pushing her forwards despite her theatrics. She humped up a few times, offering her version of a "buck" that was not only very uncomfortable, but awkward as she hopped back and forth on and off the correct lead.
After a few agonizing strides of crooked, broken and awkward cantering, I brought her to a walk and immediately wondered if I should just wait for Anthony to help us. I looked over at the arena where he was still teaching and thought to myself, "No. You know
how to solve this resistance issue. You've been through this, so just fucking do it.
So I bucked up and continued to ride my mare - not letting up for anything less than the correct canter I was asking for.
And after a few minutes - which felt like eternity (esp as a spectator stopped watching the rider in the lesson and concentrated on me... altho to be fair I'm sure she thought I was gonna get pitched hah) - Annie finally settled into a rhythm, quit fighting me, and cantered normally. We did several loops, trot-canter transitions and switched directions multiple times. She was over it and ready to comply, so I made the executive decision to drill it just a bit more to make sure she really was done her temper tantrum before we entered the ring.
It's the weirdest thing. I've read hundreds of articles and reached out to several vets about it and most if not all, have stated it's a weakness issue coupled with a training issue. In fact, all of the clinicians I have ridden with this year have stressed that exact thing.
I have never dealt with a horse that uses cross-firing as a resistance technique, haha, so it's been a journey to kinda figure it out and get over it.
Anyways, by the time we had sussed out our little issue, I still had enough time to walk around on the buckle and wait to be invited into the arena for my lesson as the other came to a close. I felt slightly bad for turning our warm up into a mini schooling, but I didn't really have many options. I've worked so hard to eradicate this issue from Annie's routine and for the most part, it's reared it's ugly head a grand total of twice the entire Summer - during the online show in August, and once during a schooling.
|Waiting patiently outside the ring.|
If anyone remembers, this whole cross-firing thing consumed months and months of our 2017 season when it began in late July and worsened in October where I had my first lesson riding Annie with Anthony. After that, I had her checked over by a vet and we continued to push into the issue by treating it as a disobedience.
I was super pleased that Annie didn't try cross-firing during our lesson (save for one instance) and since then, has not cross-fired in any of our subsequent hacks or schoolings. Unfortunately, by the time we did our lesson I had lost a lot of my forward and we were back at the same issue I had earlier this Summer, haha. I knew it was fizzling out the last few schoolings and knew we would be due for a session in the ring with just me, Annie, and a whip again.
So back to the lesson. Some of the things Anthony said/did that I found incredibly helpful:
- You need to bend your elbows and follow her movement. (I HAVE TREX ARMS OK). He laughed at that comment and agreed, but told me to practice by closing my eyes and really making sure my hands follow Annie's movement, esp at the canter as I have a tendency to lock up my arms in that particular gait.
- She has grown up a ton since I've seen her - well done in putting more weight and muscle on her. She looks great.
- Your reins need to be even. You like to have her overflexed to the inside - ride her straight and ride her in BOTH reins.
- Whichever rein you do not have contact in is the rein you need to be afraid of.
- Keep the contact, even if she disagrees and flings her head. Be supple in the contact, but keep the contact.
- Keep the aid on until you get a response. If you ask for canter, do NOT let your canter aid off until she canters.
- You need to work on your steering - being straight does not mean you can wiggle back and forth. Go to the jump and go STRAIGHT into it AND out of it.
- At one point I told Anthony I tried my hardest to apply all the concepts we worked on over the year, but it was hard to keep it all balanced and in check. He nodded along and simply said, "We can't work on everything all at once. All we can do is piece things together and sometimes, you have to forget about x, y, z to get to a, b, c." And after a moment, he said, "And the horses we ride get used to the little indiscretions we have. Of course, we always aim to be correct, but the horse will end up understanding your 'less than correct' way of doing this or that means this." This really resonated with me, because as amateur owners we beat ourselves up for not being the best rider we can be for our horse. And it's kinda like Anthony said in a round about way - we aren't Olympic riders and they aren't Olympic horses. We work hard to be correct but if you have a wandering left hand, your horse is gonna end up getting used to it. Not that you shouldn't work to correct it or eradicate the degree of incorrectness, but that there will always BE something that isn't 100% and your horse, like a partner, will get used to it.
Some background on some of these tidbits is that Annie decided work was exhausting, esp after the schooling we did on the grass. I had to pony club kick her a few times, which was embarrassing but it is what it is. I regretted I didn't bring a whip so I tried my best to get her in front of my leg and made a mental note we needed to suss out this issue in the arena again under our own time. Anthony agreed with this, stating the easiest way to do it is when there are no time pressures or limits.
|"The flat work bores me."|
- Annie, probably.
Annie was a bit of a PITA about the canter aid and decided to forget how to canter and instead trot for five million fucking strides. Anthony wanted me to keep my leg aid on, which I DO agree with, but I also would have added another aid (ie. whip, spur) for the disobedience. I asked and instead of complying, she just trotted fast until I really got after her. Without a whip, I resorted to increasing the pressure in my legs and kissing (vocal).
Some of the flat went really well and she felt steady in the bridle as well as relaxed in her work. She was behind the leg, yes, but we did have some good moments for sure. We worked a lot on placing her outside front leg and learning how to influence it when turning. At one point, Anthony was getting me to turn her to the inside while having her even in both reins. It was awkward and I floundered, as every time I went to turn, I'd lose the outside rein. Anthony went on to discuss the importance of having rein connection, esp the outside rein and we revisited the issue and ensuring I didn't cross my hands over the withers.
However, being dead to the leg and trotting around for 10 minutes consecutively was hard, haha, but as soon as we started to use the trot poles and little X's, mare was AWAKE and AWARE. It was interesting - before I had to literally micromanage her steering to the jumps and on this particular day, she let me place her in a line and she went down it quietly and confidently without losing impulsion.
|"JUMPIES?! I is happy now."|
-Annie, most definitely.
Once we did the trot poles a bunch of times, we did a small course of X's and Annie felt pretty damn good. She likes to veer right after a jump, so I worked hard on keeping her even in my reins and turning her back to the rail vs heading towards the other side of the arena. At one point, she cross-fired heading out of a jump (moreso because I think she didn't know which direction we were going haha). But overall, she cantered nice and forward out. We did a few single fences and strung them all into a small course which we repeated a few times before moving on.
We did a small line - x-rail with 5 strides to a 2' vertical - a few times and I horribly over and under corrected Annie in maintaining straightness the first time. We did it a second time and although we met the distance perfectly, Annie took out the whole bloody jump. I ignored the jump and kept her straight on the landing side where Anthony called out, "Do it again and it's going to sound like I'm trying to kill you, but change nothing about that. Ride it exactly as you did." I kinda raised an eyebrow but did it again, working hard to keep Annie in both reins evenly. We hit the correct striding again and executed the exercise perfectly WITH straightness after the jump. Hooray!
I patted Annie, brought her to a walk and joined Anthony in the middle of the arena. He explained the second time through wasn't my fault at all. It's moreso that Annie needs more time jumping to understand she needs to lift her feet vs floundering and trying to scramble over the jump. He commended me on my riding and told me not to doubt myself, which was nice.
Overall, it was a good lesson. It was a new concept of being very even in both reins and Annie wasn't very happy about it because she used the loose rein as an escape from pressure so when I took away her options, she wasn't quite sure what to do with herself. Thankfully, by the end of the lesson she was much more willing to let me feel her mouth and be an influential part of her, haha.
|"Whew, that was hard work. Let's go home."|
Anthony was pretty happy with us both and although it wasn't our best lesson, it felt good to hear that Annie looked good and we were chugging along nicely. It certainly was the most jumping I have ever done in one of his clinics, and when I told Riding Buddy how it went (mostly the things that went wrong, haha), she said, "It doesn't sound like it was that bad if he let you jump a bunch!!" Which, is true. Anthony might be a jumping instructor, but if things aren't there on the flat he isn't gonna let you jump. Annie and I spent most lessons strictly flat and finally were able to jump a cross-rail in April and then graduated to our first 2' jump in June.
It makes me happy that we were able to do the thing, esp since the first day of his clinics are usually mostly flat based while the remaining two days are more jumping-esque.
I was sad it would be our last Anthony lesson for 2018, but it also made me that more excited to begin more lessons in 2019. Onwards and upwards!