Thursday, April 15, 2010

Maisie and I Get Some Things Done (Together)

Many thanks to all of you who took the time to comment on my last post on the thread of horses in my life. Your words and thoughts are very valuable to me, and it's good to know that others have experienced many of the same things in their lives with horses. I try very hard to be honest in what I write here - good, bad and ugly - and the fact that you as readers don't mind when I do that is important. It's hard to tell where these thoughts will lead me, but it's good to get them out in the open so they are more visible to me. This may help to clarify what paths are possible and right; that's one of the things I really like about blogging - I think better when I have to write things out.

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I decided to go to the barn yesterday afternoon and see if I could work with Maisie enough to get a satisfactory ride - I expected it was going to take some effort by both of us and it did. I'm pretty tired, and I expect she is too.

It was warm - 70sF, sunny with some wind. After grooming, I saddled and bridled Maisie and took her into the arena and got on. After some warm-up at the walk, we worked at the rising trot for a few minutes, using the whole arena. After about ten laps, including some large circles, she was starting to get pretty revved up and was about to stop listening to me and have a meltdown, which isn't what I wanted. So I dismounted, got the fuzzy nose halter and lunge line, and we lunged, and lunged and lunged some more. She was fairly excited and working hard - lots of cantering and some vigorous trot work. Once she began to relax a little bit, I took off the halter and lunge and remounted. Still no go even at the sitting trot - she was distracted and wanted to ball up and explode. So I got off and we repeated the lungeing - she gave me some pretty dirty looks. This time the trot was more regular and she was starting to focus a bit. We worked for a while, then I stopped and got on again.

We walked for a bit so she could catch her breath, and every time her walk got too fast we did a small circle until she adjusted her pace, and then we moved on. Then we started our trot work. My objective was to be able to do some effective sitting trot work, keeping her in front of my leg and listening - when she sucks back and falls behind my leg is when the trouble begins, but she has to be able to accept my leg without exploding which was the point of the lungeing - to take the edge off her energy enough that she could listen. We got there - I got in a set of nice sitting trot work with her moving well off my leg and staying in front of my leg - if she started to think about falling behind I was able to move her up. We did a lot of figures - small circles, serpentines and some leg yields. There was a lot of impulsion, but it was controllable. I was able to add a small amount of straight line work at the end and we finished with a nice trot up the center line to X and a halt.

Then we went on a short walking trail ride with Sugar and her owner. It went well - Maisie was pretty tired by this point and was sweaty and needed to cool down. There were a couple of occasions where she wanted to jig on the way home - we turned in a small circle until she gave up on that idea.

I think in order to move forward with her that I need a plan - I went in with one this time; I need to be prepared to take the time and put in the effort to get to an acceptable result on every ride; and I need to be more assertive about redirecting or managing behavior that I don't want. I managed to do this today - I don't know that I'll have the energy to do it every day, but I shouldn't ride her unless I do. I think once she's convinced that she can do what I'm asking without flying off the handle, she'll be fine and the need for the extra stuff like lungeing may fall by the wayside. Right now I have to be prepared for her to not be a "just get on and ride" horse, and if on some days she is, that'll just be icing on the cake.

I know what to do, and how to do it, at least with Maisie, if I can find the energy and focus to do it. The real question is whether I want to enough to put in the effort required. Only time can answer that question, but as a number of you pointed out there are lots of possible paths to take - including taking a vacation, which is the best idea I've heard in a long time. I haven't had a real break in a number of years (too many to mention as it's embarrassing), and it's overdue.

8 comments:

  1. Kate - A vacation! What a long-lost fantasy of mine! I say, go for it immediately, if you can! How old is Maisie? When Siete was six, she was horrible. Now, at seven, she's starting to mellow. There are some days when she's still a handful, especially when she's in season in Spring. I'm determined to start ground driving her. I've got Mark's DVD and I think that she will listen to me better if we work together while I'm not in the saddle. The last thing that I need in my life right now is to fall off a horse. I think that you are doing a great job with both Dawn and Maisie. The other thought I had about Siete was that she probably won't be the horse that I hope she will be unless I breed her. Being a mother totally changed Silk's personality and made my love for her soar. But that's a really big project!

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  2. Kate a nice trail ride on Joe will help ease your mind. It won't fix anything for you, but it'll make you feel better! Let me know when you want to go...

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  3. Again, I know what you are going through. My Tucker is the kind of horse that needs the same kind of determined, thoughtful riding. He's gotten a lot better, but he's not the type I can just sit on and relax. The training takes longer, and is more of a challenge. To be frank, he is not as far along as my other horses were at his age. But, I too have learned some things just can't be rushed, so I no longer measure his progress by the past.

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  4. I love the idea of a vacation as a system reboot and Jill's offer sounds good too. Sometimes a low-maintenance mount is the very thing! Amazing Header Photo!!!! You and your sweet girl. (Your bridle paths are causing some envy in this quarter!)

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  5. Thank you for the encouragement! I'll have to do well, just so I don't embarrass myself in front of my fiance....!
    Your comment about having the energy to work your horse everyday with a plan reminds me of discussions I've had with Tristan over the past year, when we were retraining his boys from the mentality of "show horse" to "work horse." He'd put in full days at the orchard, and when he got home the last thing he wanted to do was harness up the team and go work, but I argued that it had to be done if the horses were to be anything but hay burners. We never really worked that bit out, and I still wonder how to work everything like that out without the ability to take a vacation (though that would be lovely, & if you do take one, enjoy!)

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  6. There is nothing wrong with choosing a different path and there is nothing wrong with taking some time for reflection to work out what this new path may look like. Sometimes a shake-up (combined with a vacation) is exactly what the doctor ordered !

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  7. I typed out a looooong comment to the Losing the Thread post yesterday but now I don't see it in the comments. Sigh. Sometimes blogger is not my friend, or maybe the comment was just too long and got nixed by blogger.

    Anyway, the gist of it was I took a riding break at one point for a couple of years. Work and life generally just didn't leave much time for riding and it felt like an obligation. Your horses won't care if they are on an extended vacation, I can assure you mine did not!

    Also, sometimes I think it is about having the right horse. I am a busy person, I work 7 days per week, and I need my riding time to be fun. I did not say without challenges, but the challenges need to be fun as well. The horse that would have been the right horse for me 10 years ago would be the wrong horse for me today. Personally I think there is nothing wrong with selling a horse to a good home and finding a better match for both horse and rider when that would make all parties happier.

    One of my best friends, I've known her since we met on our ponies when we were six years old, just walked away from riding a couple of years ago. She was showing at the FEI levels in dressage, had three lovely horses ranging in age from 4 to 10. She sold them all. She now travels a lot, does a lot of photography, and is just enjoying a different time in her life. She anticipated coming back to horses one day but two years into it she isn't even thinking about riding and does not miss it at all right now. She'd been riding for almost 30 years and for her it was just time for something different. I don't think there is any wrong decision here for you. As always your thoughtful approach will lead you in the right direction for you.

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  8. She does sound like an interesting horse to work with , chalenging , but obviously you can get through to her. Lots of work there , a vacation and time to reflect sounds good , maybe after that you will feel more convinced of which way to go with her

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