March 25, 2012


Ponies sleeping in the trees on a quiet Sunday morning.

I gave myself a couple of days to think about Thursday's lesson before writing about it.  Once again, he started out as if he were completely fried - focused on everything except me, tossing his head, running through my aids.  If I had been riding by myself, I would have gotten to the slightest "good point" and called it a day so I didn't "ruin" him further.

But I was with my trainer.  She first had me doing an exercise in which I asked for a few steps of a pseudo-turn on the forehand at the walk and trot, and four different points on the 20m circle.  The first few times I did it, he jumped when my leg touched him and I had to shut him down right there to tell him that going forward faster was NOT the right response.

Let me tell you, this exercise did not look good.

We then switched to riding an extremely small circle at the trot until he gave to me.  It was a rough, physical, mentally-draining exercise for both of us, and felt a little bit like working with my mustang in college: he made it clear to me that the brain would not be available until the body was, so we worked the body until we saw a glimmer of the brain shine through.  When he gave, we immediately made the circle larger and took the pressure off.  I would not have attempted this on my own; it was not pretty, it looked crazy, and was just hard, but it ended up being exactly what he needed.

Both of those exercises took probably 20 minutes, and after the second exercise, suddenly he switched gears entirely and became, soft, compliant, connected and through, going nicely with his head more or less on the vertical and his hind end engaged.  It was maddening - he knows what I want, why didn't he just give it to me in the beginning? Is he playing games with me thinking I'll end it early when I'm by myself if he's truly terrible?  I always push him through the stupid stuff, but not usually far enough to get to the good stuff.

(Then we jumped, but that will have to wait for another post.)

Today started out the same as Thursday did, but this time, I was in it for the long haul.  I could describe today's ride, but that would just be describing Thursday's opening 20 minutes over again.  However, this time I rode through it and once again, after about twenty minutes, got that beautiful engagement.  I worked him in that state of mind for about 10 minutes after I got it, then called it quits and praised him thoroughly.

This may or may not be the smoking gun, but the trigger for him becoming compliant and through today was letting the reins out an inch.  It's possible that I have too tight/tense of a hold on the reins, and he's feeling trapped or stressed.  It's definitely something I'm going to discuss with my trainer prior to Thursday.


  1. I love your blog. I've got a 4 year old sec D mare with about 2 months under saddle. My lessons are similar to yours, about 20 minutes of "yes, really you have to" and "no the barn cat doesnt eat horses" and then the last half of the lesson beautiful and making it all worth while! I'm hoping that getting her out on the trails this summer will solve a lot of our problems, I suspect she's a bit bored with the indoor.

  2. Jen is it in the genes? I sometimes have to go through the same thing with Comrade. Ok may be not, I go through it with Rosemary too.
    Sounds like your doing great. Can't wait to hear about the jumping :)

  3. Thanks, Gingersnap, nice to meet you! I am so glad you're going through the same thing (well...I wish neither of us were going through it, but you know, 'misery loves company'!). I've known Cobs as a breed for a while, but it's my first time starting one. I love them and all of their quirks, but it's certainly different!

    Nicole, I'd say it's more that the breed is too darn smart for their own good! Jumping post tomorrow morning!