Pax

New Kid now has a barn name: Pax!

And I LOVE this guy so much. He is so sweet and has been, so far, very willing. He definitely has baby race horse manners meaning he is just a little bit pushy and doesn’t know anything about how to behave like a grownup horse but all of these things are fixable.

Last night we had our first ground work lesson with LT. I’ve done some ground work before but have been largely self-taught which led to some mixed results. Dandy always reacted well but I’ve never been able to do much of it with Gus. He is very resistant and I just didn’t have the knowledge to get past it.

That’s where LT comes in. She is very good with her ground work and already just in working with Pax last night she has made a huge difference in how I handle the rope when asking for backing. LT noticed that when I was “marching” I was pulling, just slightly, the rope towards me and, since Pax is so sensitive, this was actually telling him to come towards me. Instead I need to be very deliberate in throwing the rope towards him. This little detail made a huge difference.

We worked on three things last night: the first stage of backing, disengaging the hind quarters, and desensitizing to the stick. I was very impressed with how Pax did although we did come to find that he’s very very sensitive. This could be a problem under tack but it’s a problem for a different day.

For the next week or so, my continued goal is to keep working on Pax’s ground work and give him all the love. I’m really liking this little horse.

Pick Up Dem Knees

Ever since I first got Gus, I have lamented that he is not a “natural” jumper the way Dandy is. I’m not saying that he can’t jump, because he certainly can.

But he is not very good at it. Instead of naturally sitting back and keeping his haunches under him to push, he likes to throw his shoulders over and drag himself across the fence. This frustrates me because it’s not fun to ride and (obviously the most important) it looks ugly in pictures. I go through hundreds of photos trying to find just one semi decent picture of him jumping.

Jumping this way is also very dangerous which is the main reason I am trying so hard to teach Gus that this is not the appropriate way to jump.

Some of the problem has been me. With my confidence issues and bad equitation, I have been encouraging Gus to throw himself at the fences because I am throwing myself at the fence. Some of it is his own natural tendencies to be cautious which leads to hesitations at the base when his forward momentum is hard to stop. And some of it has just been that these smaller fences don’t really impress him.

It has not been an easy process. But thankfully I am now riding with Super Trainer, LT, and we are finally getting somewhere.

Last night’s lesson was the best Gus has ever jumped. The jumps were small (can’t remember the last time I wanted them raised!) and we focused on me compressing his stride and keeping his weight rocked back. When I did that, the shoulders stayed up. Granted, I’m at a place in my riding now where I can actually do that but it felt wonderful.

Gus will never ever be a hunter. He doesn’t snap up his knees as tight and cleanly as he should and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to solve that completely. At least now I can keep his shoulders up and with a lot of grid work, I think I can get the knees a bit tighter too. I don’t expect him to be an upper level prospect though so I’ll take safe and cautious and willing while we tool around BN.

Ashland XC Schooling 4.15.17

Oh man, this was not the XC schooling I had imagined. Especially not the weekend before our first recognized outing. But, ironically enough, it was the XC school I needed.

Because here’s the thing: not a single jump or line or question that LT put us over scared me. There were even higher options that LT gave us and, while I didn’t chose to do them for other reasons, I wasn’t nervous that we couldn’t get over it. I knew we could. Gus can jump any dang fence out there. But, even with knowing that and feeling confident about the fences, I became so frustrated that I couldn’t do anything but cry when things started feeling crapy.

I have been doing a lot of crying lately. That needs to stop.

Truthfully, there’s a reason behind all the crying. Life has been hard lately. Mostly due to work, I haven’t been sleeping well or a lot, I’ve been stressed, and I’m having a hard time caring about anything else. So really it wasn’t a surprise that my frustration cup hath runneth over.

The whole point of this XC lesson was to work on pace and rhythm to the fence. If you ride the pace, you’re going to have a nice jump, right? Maybe, I don’t know because I couldn’t seem to get it. No matter what I did it seemed to be a coin flip on whether or not we’d chip in or jump out of stride. All I wanted from Gus was a little help. For him to be the confident one and take me to the fence.

It didn’t happen. Not once.

Cue melt down.

That’s when LT stepped in and gave me a little bit of tough love: Gus is not that horse. He will most likely never be that horse. Like Lainey said, he’s careful and he has a sense of self preservation that you need in an event horse. But, and this is important, he is so so willing. If I put the leg on and say yes Gus goes every time.

I’ve got to learn to ride the horse I have. It means that I have to be the leader. In the long run it will make me a better rider but in the short run, things may be hard. If I want this, I have to work for it.

I won’t bore you with a breakdown of every exercise we did. LT ran us through our paces and left us on a super positive end note where we did jump out of stride and over a skinny. Skinnies are one thing that Gus does fantastically. Lots of horses at his level don’t. As brave as Dandy was, getting him to a skinny was a fight with the devil.

Sporting Days will be a real test for us but one that I think we are ready for. This kick in the pants was hard to hear but exactly what I needed. And even if I am crying in almost every single photo, I learned what I needed. Ride forward. Lead.