Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Riding Diary: 46

Time: 2 hr

Ride: You know those rides that you just... don't want to talk about? I had one of those rides on Monday. I really don't even want to post about it, but i've never not posted about my rides... sigh. It was potentially the worst lesson I have ever had on Jingle.

haha, I think I have mentally blocked on the scene-by-scene details, as i'm having a hard time recollecting some of it. We started off a bit rough and rocky, and for awhile my trainer has been commenting that perhaps we should try a bit again. I am, at this point, pretty anti-bit when it comes to my horse. It's tough, because his bit-issues are all behavioural/mental, and for two years he was ridden exlusively in a bit, and although it wasn't hard work - he went well. So I waver back and forth on whether or not to include a bit in his training schedule every once and awhile. However, what happens when we add a bit into the combination is a complete and utter stress-ball underneath of me. He becomes worried, anxious, and worst of all - the epitome of pissy, he's almost vindictive (I know i'm placing human emotions on a horse, bad me, but that's honestly the best way to describe how he acts).
So, my trainer was saying let's try a bit again, and I was gently saying "uhm, I don't really know, I'm not super comfor..." and then my horse started to completely and utterly stop moving. Of course today was the day I figured he'd be fine if I rode in my short loop reins. Generally, if I'm riding in split reins I can give him a tiny flick of the rein towards the hip and he's back to normal, I don't even really have to touch him. My loop reins don't provide that luxury. I asked for a crop. One would think that a small crop would be the same as a tiny brush of a rein... nope... Jingle loosssessss it when a crop is introduced. Monday was no different, except for the fact that the second I touched his hip with the crop (please note - I don't even smack him, I literally just move the crop from infront of my knee to my hip so he can see it) he went ballistic. I had a run away on my hands. Not good. My trainer was headed for the door to grab a bridle before I even had a chance to think.

I was stressed. My horse was stressed. & now we were introducing something that makes us fall apart. Well, long story short, it kind of helped, but in the end, i'm still on the "no-bit-for-my-psycho-horse" side. I understand where my trainer is coming from; my horse was acting pretty dangerous, not just naughty, and she can't have me running down children in the arena. However, she's not the one on his back, I am, and I can feel every bit of fried muscle running through him. She also kind of got after me for letting him get away with things, and I was a little hurt. I'm not letting him get away with things - he's a fricken disastor mess, and I'm trying my absolute hardest to make sure we don't kill anyone. The thing is, i've ridden horses that i've had to discipline, they shake their heads, you bump them with your legs, they figure out the pressure, they quit. With Jingle, everything is tied into this big emotional wrecking ball, and so I'll bump him with my legs, he will absolute melt into a puddle, and i'll lose him for the rest of the ride. It's frusterating to say the least.

Anyways, by the time my lesson was over, my horse was jogging really nicely, but it was all fake, and it was all done with aids, and I was pissed at him, and at myself.

For Next Time:
So, what am I going to do about it?

Well, I have a game plan.

First - I need to talk to my trainer about taking a step back. It's just not working. We have to re-evaluate, and figure out a different path that works better for my emotionally-damaged horse.

Second - no bits. I'm done. I don't want to use something that already causes my horse anxiety just to punish him with it.

Third - "Intensive". I have not been riding enough, I've been riding twice a week, maybe. Generally, on my other ride of the week, I fool around, or bring friends out. This is because all my friends have been home for reading week, etc. I'm not getting anything done. I'm not working on anything. So, what happens is my horse gets 6 days off to f-around, even when I do ride, and then Mondays come and I ask him to do a shit-ton. No wonder he wants to murder me. So, this week I'm trying a week-long intensive. I'm going to ride everyday except today (Wednesday), that's 6 days straight, we're going to work on transitions and stops, we're not going to canter a lot, when we do, it'll be our right lead - the one he's more uncomfortable and unbalanced on, and we're going to Wish us luck. :)

& Finally, things to look forward too... I cannot wait until school is done, so I can ride without feeling this guilt cloud of papers and exams strangling me. However, March is going to be a good (although, very expensive, and very busy) month - we have a better fitting saddle, we're figuring out tack, I have a Chiro/Massage coming March 7, Jingle will have his feet and teeth done and finally, super exciting news - we'll be going to our first sorting!!! - we're gonna get it together, it's just going to take a lot of time and patience, and a total re-working of, "the plan."


  1. Can you have your trainer ride him for a lesson? Maybe she'll understand what you're feeling and better be able to help you.

    1. That might be an idea, although very rarely does my trainer ever ride anymore.

      ps. Love bobby's dorky braids :) Jingle is always in braids, they just make me laugh haha. I especially liked the shot of you guys on your hack, and his braids are just flinging into the bottom of the shot haha.

  2. I know what you mean about just 'feeling' their discomfort. I still think you should try using a bit when there is no pressure on it. Perhaps you could try putting a bridle on him with no reins connected and putting him in the arena. Or put on a bridle with no reins connected with a side pull underneath and only use the pressure from the sidepull. I think that him having no pressure on the bit itself will show him it's not that big of a deal and there is no pain. I would also keep the rides short and easy if there's a bit in, soon he will associate it to be easier to have a bit in! Of course, if it were me I would do these exercises maybe once a week, I think that it would be slow going but he would eventually become more accustomed to the bit not being painful, especially since his reaction is learned, it takes just as much to unlearn it!

    1. I really wish it was that simple - all of the things you have mentioned have been tried. I work with a very reputable dentist who suggested all of those things, and then told me there will be a point where I will know when Jingle says "No" to a bit, and he did around November. Going "bitless" has, in the long run, given me a much calmer, more relaxed, easier horse to work with (although... this particular post doesn't really show that haha).

      The thing with Jingle is that the minute you add any pressure associated with a bit he will lose his mind, even in the absolute mildest, nicest, most expensive snaffle I can find (trust me.. I have like 5 snaffles all worth over $100 i'll never use again haha, so sad). Because it is so mentally ingrained in his pysche, I don't think reintroducing bits is really an option anymore. I wont totally say "No bit. EVER again" because you never know, maybe once he figures out how to be a broke horse, he'll also figure out bits are violently hurting him anymore, but for now it's "no bits, for now."

    2. **bits aren't violently hurting him anymore (not are haha)

  3. Oh my goodness, do I know where you're coming from! Total flashback to a lesson I had with Page. I had to tell my trainer that I couldn't do it (and now I can't even remember what IT was). Really super sucked! I think he really felt it was something we needed to push through but holy cow! It's really hard when your trainer asks you do do things that you're not comfortable with. I mean, we pay them because we want/need/trust their opinions. But sometimes I think as the owner and rider you need to trust your gut too. I agree with taking a step back. You have to do what makes you feel safe and do what you feel is best for your horse. It's not a race. In the end, it's all about the two of you. Just my opinion of course.

    1. Thanks for your comment :) It is completely spot-on to everything i'm feeling right now & although I know everyone goes through it... it's nice to be reminded that i'm not alone in this hair-pulling frustration.

      You're so right - it's just about the two of us, so we have to figure this out one step at a time... safely, and more happily than wanting to murder eachother haha.

  4. I like that you made a list/gameplan!!! :)

    I am excited to read/hear more about how your "intensive" week goes and that right lead too of course! I have absolute confidence in you and Jingle, you know him the best! :)

  5. First, thanks for posting about a ride you didn't want to write about. I've had plenty of those myself, and as much as it sucks admitting what you're struggling with, in the long run it is always helpful to have an honest record of what you were dealing with (for when you get to look back and laugh at your old problems. :))

    Second, I think your assessment of the situation sounds quite correct, and your plan is a good one. To me it sounds like both you and Jingle are a bit overwhelmed, and that what you lack is a foundation of simple exercises you are both comfortable and confident with that you can return to when a ride start to go bad. It can be hard to stand up to an expert, but it does seem like your trainer might have you riding Jingle at a level he's not really ready for.

    In my experience, with nervous horses, speed is never your friend, because going fast is the direct opposite to thinking. You often say in your posts that Jingle is sweat covered by the end of your rides, but you are in a cold environment. What this says to me is that he's sweating more out of nerves than physical exertion.

    It seems like what you need to find is a way to ride Jingle without pushing him over the rim into being stressed. If he's spending each lesson in an anxious state, he's literally incapable of learning. He's just responding to being overstimulated, and his take home message is going to be arena = confusion/fear/fatigue. Once he makes that mental link, any ride is going to cause trauma until you can help him form a new association with work.

    I used to think you can't work on your trot or your lope from the walk, but now I know this is not true at all. I spend at least half of all my rides walking. And I don't meant just wandering around, but working on quality movement, variation in speed and stride length (all walking), precision, bends, round circles, precise stops, leg-yields, short serpentines, etc.. And I also work on non-moving exercises, like pivoting on individual feet, backing straight, backing circles, moving the front without the hind, moving the hind without the front. You can easily rack of an hour of quality work without ever trotting.

    I see so many people at my barn come into the arena, get on, and go straight into the trot. And these are usually the same people who are a little out of control, whose horses brace on the bit, pin their ears and look miserable the whole ride. When the trot becomes too crazy they run their horses in circles until the horse is tired. And most horses do tire out, and then become a little more pliable, so these people think they are on the right track.

    But some horses you can't fatigue into submission. My horse Steen is one of those. I never made relevant progress with Steen's training until I started focusing on the walk.

    Now, I assess the horse I'm riding a the walk each ride. I don't move to faster work until I've got everything at the walk working pretty well. If I introduce more speed and my horse shows he can't stay focused, back to the walk we go. It sounds boring but actually I've learned walking rides can be a whole lot of fun, particularly after your horse gets the idea that there is a right answer and starts hunting for the way to do things right.

    Anyway, hang in there! You are doing the right thing, which is paying attention and forming a new plan when you notice things aren't working.

    1. Holy cow I think my comment is longer than your post! lol

    2. Haha what a comment Robin! Thank you for your insight!

      Jingle definitely doesn't fatigue into submission... this, we have learned. The problem is, he can also be really, really deceiving. I can work on slow work for 20 minutes to 2 days, he can be going perfectly, softly, all that jazz, we can both be relaxed, and the second I ask for a lope - he's gone, completely whizzing around like a lunatic. Then it just turns into a bracey, gross mess, and back to slow work we go. I don't mind slow work, but I also think that there comes a time when a horse should also be listening to me when he's speeding up.

      So, for now, we're doing lots of slow work, but the whole "can't slow down" thing will still be nagging at me. haha.