Where's His Birdie?

Connor must have felt like I needed a reminder that progress doesn't go linearly forward, because yesterday's ride was no bueno.  You have two options for a bad ride: you can work through it and realize that he's having a bad day, or you can get frustrated and feel like he's regressing.  I was relaxed and didn't get worked up about it, though it was a nice reminder that we could easily go back to fighting and me holding him if I chose to view yesterday as a step backward.

Where's his birdie?  Not on me! (Jan 2013)
Another Dr. Deb Bennett-ism is "Where's his birdie?"  It's meant to be a quick and memorable way of saying "Where's his attention?"  Connor's birdie, for our first after-work ride in a month, was planted firmly on the following:

- Snow sliding off the roof of the indoor.
- Sun casting weird shadows inside the indoor.
- Geldings galloping up the track to their stalls from turnout.
- Missing dinner

I was definitely not his birdie last night.  He kicked out when I used my artificial aids, ran into the canter, turned his head to look outside every time we passed a window, leaned on the bit if I was weak in my upper back, and was angrily reactive to my half-halts.

I chose to combat it with first a wet saddle blanket (figuratively speaking), by getting up off his back and letting him do whatever underneath me at the canter.  Not being a Thoroughbred, he went from raring to go to blowing in about two laps, at which point I added a bunch of trot-canter transitions, still in two point.  After that, I went straight into body control work, lateral stuff, transitions, keeping his brain active.

I never felt like I got my compliant, willing partner back, but at least I got some good lateral work and non-running or bucking walk-canter transitions out of him in the end, even if I had to make him do it.  Anyone else's horses had an off-day recently?   I feel like we will have more of these in the future, heading into the transition to a spring schedule.

27 comments:

  1. Haha! Love the birdie idea. I'm hopefully getting on the little man for the first time post-clip today and it's cool and breezy. There may be a lunge in our future. ;-)

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    1. Oh yes, you are going to have fun! I am loving the full-clip induced zoomies, but then again they are not that impressive on my tiny pony. ;-)

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    1. I had not heard this phrase before this comment, but I have used it several times since you posted this. :-)

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  3. This winter has been one long off day for me. But I did laugh and was jealous at your "two laps and he's blowing"... man if only!

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    1. Haha! One of the joys of Welsh Cob ownership: you can literally outlast them if they decide to be stupid and take off.

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  4. It sounds like you handled it well. Roz has been a bit of a nut all winter but I'm sure he will get better when the weather improves and they get back out on the pasture 24x7. And I LOVE the fact that in two laps Connor is tired. I'm really looking forward to that with Emi. Even though Roz is almost 22 he could go for DAYS when he gets amped up. Ugh!

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    1. You are going to love love love it. :) Have you ever ridden a Welsh Cob? I can't remember.

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  5. Sometimes you just gotta work with what you got.

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    1. Word. There was a time where I would have gotten worked up about what I didn't have. You learn.

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    1. I'm going to expound on that in a later post after actually watching the birdie video myself, it's a really cool theory!

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  7. If only my OTSB would tire out that quickly! I've got to say that now I have a better understanding of how to warm Copper up, we are having less of the whole one step forwards, two steps back thing, but when I still owned my green baby it was more like one step forward, five steps backwards!

    I think you took the right approach though - if I ever feel like we are going to have an unproductive ride, one of my favourite things to do is to hit the trails and just take it easy. We both appreciate the breathing space. :)

    bonita of A Riding Habit

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    1. The right warmup really does make a difference, it took me until just recently to learn that. I wish we could hit the trails, they are not in a condition for us to ride right now. Soon though! Nice to meet you!

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  8. Loki was definitely spooking at the snow sliding off the indoor and the pigeons flying around the last time we rode. I love the "where's your birdie" phrase because it seems like it has two jobs 1) look for where your horse's attention is and 2) laugh a little to break up any tension that is starting.

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    1. Totally! I'm going to write more about that soon, I watched the video in which she explains what she means by it. It's really cool!

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  9. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. A good forward ride may have been exactly what he needed.

    Before I had a horse and I only rode in lessons, I found the bad rides really frustrating, because I didn't have the freedom to dictate what we were doing that day. It is much easier to deal with on your own time and horse, in my opinion.

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    1. I agree, although as a fairly inexperienced rider I am grateful for the opportunity to find a good place to call it a day and then work through it with my trainer later if needed. I'm not great at working through stuff like that naturally. I know some people prefer it, like my friend Mary.

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  10. Spring, at least comparatively, had Katai's hormones on overdrive so her birdie is every single gelding she is currently living with. She's not been horrible to ride, she still so green that every ride is an adventure haha, but her ground manners have been HORIBLE so I completely get what you went through.

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    1. Oh my - mares. Haha. The chair of the equine department in college said she preferred them, because a mare would challenge her on the endurance trail and be like "Are you REALLY sure you want me to go down this steep hill?" whereas a gelding has less of a sense of self-preservation and combativeness. All that said, I am not a mare person for exactly the reasons you describe above - all three of the mares on the farm are CRAZY right now!

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  11. WINTER!!! It makes them all goofy about this time of year-especially after this particularly bad season we are having. Rory has definitely had a day or two like this as well- bet your next ride is fabulous! Don't let the outside world psych you out- it's funny how we all go to the barn wondering if the ice is going to come off the roof today...

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    1. Oh yes, there may as well be a pool going on when that giant piece of ice is going to slide off. Haha. Chad has been going around with shovels and knocking it off where he can reach it. Can you imagine Connor and Rory if they got hit with some of it while going through a door, they'd never forget it!

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    2. We had 60 mph winds on Thursday- I didn't even let Rory into the indoor for free lunging! It sounded like the whole place was going to collapse-even the mirrors were shaking...we have had three days straight now with no turnout due to ice in the paddocks and the pastures. Today I have a lesson- I can guess how that's going to go...

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  12. Oh yeah! My daughter has been putting training rides on Riva the past two weeks and one day will be awesome and the very next day...3 yr old Riva is back. Discouraging, but it happens to all of us. Change of weather?

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    1. I think so. My trainer said it's always worse when it goes from cold to warm than vice versa.

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