August 30, 2012

Rough Night for the Home Team

To read the build-up to this post (last week's lesson), please go here.

Tonight's lesson was not pretty.  But before I get into that, please don't think that I am negatively down on myself, or discouraged, or depressed.  (If I was down on myself, I'd be again thinking "I'm going to ruin this pony," (See also: January/February 2012) instead of "I can work through this.") I am a competitor in all that I do, and that constant drive to improve myself has led to some awesome sports achievements for me, but behind all that, it also leads to these rock-bottom moments that themselves always lead to improvement.  I strive for candor and honesty in my training journal, because it's the good as well as the bad that shape you as an athlete.  That said...

That left side stiffness showed itself from the beginning of my lesson tonight, but unlike last time, he was also stiff on the right.  Within minutes, my trainer had changed into her breeches and requested the reins so that she could figure it out herself and make a game plan.  Almost immediately she noted that it was as if he said "And by the way, this is mine," (referring to the left rein) the moment she got on.  He would throw his head in the air and simply brace against the left rein, really quite belligerently.  This is fairly new, having started just before my last clinician lesson mid-August.

She ended up riding the rest of the lesson, alternating between explaining things to me and riding deep in concentration for several minutes at a time.  She pointed out that he was ignoring my lateral leg aids and had learned to tune me out, and had also learned how to contort his body to get me to carry him on that rein.  As I've suspected, he's so tight and strong on his left side, that his weak side seems like the easier direction because it's easy for him to get that shoulder around.  But now, his development has gone so far in that direction that he's overbent to the right when we're tracking right and left.

I am a very laterally-unbalanced person myself, with the left being my very obviously weak side after a riding accident in 2007 (which deserves a post of its own, as much as it affects my riding), so this doesn't surprise me, but hearing that it was so bad (virtually unrideable) with Connor was crushing.  I'm still developing my sense of feel, but prior to these last few weeks I've felt like things were heading up. 

On a lighter note, I've officially decided that hunter green and white with red are our colors.
I watched as she did many turns on the forehand, leg yields, shoulder-ins, serpentines and 10m circles with him.  I watched as her acute sense of feel allowed her to make corrections when he didn't immediately listen to her sharp leg aids.  I listened as she described the process of using the inside leg and outside rein before giving on the inside rein to the left.  I observed as she got several strides of just stunning trot work from him, in which his back was lifted and his hocks were engaged, causing him to move with this big, lovely, flowing trot, and I realized that I have also been committing the cardinal sin of failing to ask for enough hind-end drive as we've started seriously working on the bit.

Our horses reflect ourselves.  Connor is reflecting my own weaknesses, physical and mental.  Those little things that we don't even realize we do, the way that my entire torso is always slightly forward on the left, my overwhelmingly stronger right leg muscles, add up so subtly over such a long period of time that it's hard to see what's going on until your creation has been born and all you can do is deal with it.  Thankfully, I don't have to deal with it alone, and two trainer rides will help set us back on the right path.

So, after what was essentially a trainer ride tonight, he gets two more, and I am not riding again until my lesson on Thursday.  It's a shift for me, as an AA who doesn't (can't, financially) rely on trainer rides, but it's so, so necessary to nip this behavior in the bud that I welcome her direct assistance.  That's fine, with the 7 inches of rain we're forecast to get from the remnants of Isaac, I don't think I'll much feel like riding this weekend anyway.

To be continued...


  1. Great post. I think we all struggle with stuff like this and realizing that we end up hindering our horses because of our own weaknesses.

  2. Always a step back with the steps forward with these young horses. Trainer rides are so helpful, not only for the horse but for us as riders to watch and listen.

    I like the color decision. Connor will be looking sharp!

  3. I encountered a problem with my young horse yesterday, and I got very frustrated with myself when I looked back and could see that all the steps leading up it were entirely my creation!
    However, the way I look at it is: it's my horse, so if I make mistakes, that's OK. I'll just fix them. It's not inconveniencing anyone but me, no-one's been hurt and I'll be a better trainer for the experience.
    Of course, that was much easier to say when I was at home with dinner in my belly than when I was out in a cold paddock with half a ton of obstinate horse on the lead rope :D

  4. It took me a while to make the connection to why Klein was so right sided. I'm right handed. So, I think that was translated down into her and made her stiffer on the left side. Once I figured the correlation out and began to make every effort to correct it, consistently telling her to get off me when going to the left.

    You guys will learn and grow from this!