Posted by: shannonc | April 24, 2009

A lesson!



Scoping out footing at Lockwood

Scoping out footing at Lockwood

 I trucked the pony out early (much earlier than he would have liked) to Scarlet Hill yesterday – Sarah and Buck had invited us to share a lesson with them.  I thought it would be useful to put the pony in front of someone new, and also just to have a check-in, so I jumped at the chance. 

My biggest worry beforehand was that Meredith would want us to do more than I felt ready for over fences.  I don’t know her well enough to know how tolerant she is of baby levels and we are jumping crossrails, lol.  My *stretch* goal is to do the GHF Summer Classic at 2’3″ at the end of June, so really modest.  It just seems to me that going at a snail’s pace is getting good results with Mr. Uber Suspicious of the World, so I figure I don’t want to fix what’s not broken.  I was absolutely amazed that at the xc school Weds, he actually seemed to enjoy himself – for the first time ever, no worrying!  I’m reluctant to test my luck. On the other hand I was thinking, maybe I’m being silly and need a bit of a push.  So I resolved to tell her his little story (i.e. that he probably tried to do too much too soon, and that I’ve focused all activities on the primary goal of getting him feeling happy and confident) and play it by ear.

Well, what I *should* have worried about instead is that the morning was cold, very windy, and that SH is a new place for him.  He actually scrambled a little in the trailer when we got there, causing me to repeat to myself, “he’s an Arab pony, he has tons of self-preservation, he’s an Arab pony…” as I stood near the escape door and kept up a steady litany of what I hoped were reassuring sounds.  I have never seen the pony elect not to eat any sort of food placed in front of him, and he wasn’t even touching his hay.

I get brave enough to unload him and he continues to practically crawl out of his skin.  He is frantically running circles around me.  There are horses cavorting in the field behind the parking, and the wind is really blowing.  Tarps over farm equipment next to the trailer are flapping and cracking.  This is not looking good.  When the pony really worries, he barges, and he will run right over you, ground training be damned.  The best I can hope to do is direct the panic.  So I keep him moving – walking walking walking.  Luckily I have arrived early and have the time to do this.  Once Sarah gets there I chance tying the pony to the trailer (my “tie” is one of those heavy duty stretch leads with velcro on one end) and getting my saddlepad out, while also holding onto the lead rope at all times.  He dances around and pulls, but he doesn’t do anything stupid.

I think to myself, I’ve only just gotten the pony to stop spooking at the saddlepad *at home,* so in the current enviornment I am probably completely screwed.  I’m mentally calculating alternative plans to tack up safely (and resolving to do it at home next time) as I walk the saddlepad out to him and present it to his nose for inspection (this is our little routine).  To my GREAT surprise, the pony appears to visibly relax at the sight of the saddlepad, as if to say, “oh, thank God, finally something I understand.”  Huh.  So I stick it on his back and dart in to retrieve saddle and girth before it blows off.  He allows me to put on all of the above without really even moving very much, although his head is still stuck straight in the air and his ears are glued so far forward I’m wondering if he’s cutting off the circulation to them.

I’m not willing to chance it with the bridle, so I grab it and head for Meredith’s barn, sheepishly asking if I can borrow a stall for a minute.  They seem unfazed so I find one, put the bridle on, and head up to the indoor, where I decide that overall it may just not be my day – there are at least 4 horses working in there, and in addition to being busy, it’s a looky type ring – on a hill above their outdoor arena; doors, windows, and mirrors to spook at.  Pony is on alert and his appearance suggests he takes the responsibility of being a flight animal very seriously indeed (I call this his “save the herd!” mode).  A radio is absolutely blasting in the corner.  Ugh.  There’s not much I can do about any of it so I start handwalking the pony around, and he (again to my surprise and relief) actually relaxes after a bit. 

By the time I take a deep breath, tighten the girth (Hilary is right, I need a shorter one), run down the stirrups and hop on, I think the pony has maybe poured his brain back into his head.  At this point I feel the entire outing has been successful and I am ready to go home.  And pour a cocktail.  I thought Prelim XC nerves were bad?  It’s all relative isn’t it!

The lesson itself is mostly flatwork.  Sarah has a CT this weekend so I wanted to make sure not to hog up too much time – I kept my story short and to the point.  Meredith asked how old the pony is and I told her we think he’s 9 this year.  She said, “Arabs mature slowly – I usually don’t really start liking one till he’s at least 13.”  Hee hee.  Now I’m feeling a little reassured she won’t try to make us jump a 2’6″ flowerbox.

Meredith had us do quite a lot of canter work (roughly five or six times the cumulative amount of cantering I have ever done on the pony).  Pony was not being terribly cooperative in the steering dept. at any gait (and here I thought, oh, I haven’t done a lot of very advanced work on this horse, but I’ve gone back to basics and gotten him forward and straight and balanced at w/t — oh no I haven’t!), but canter was the rankest.  In the w/t work, he was being a PITA by changing almost every other stride from spazzy tanking forward trot to behind the bit trot to good trot – mostly she said “expect more of him.”  Her canter advice was really helpful.  I told her I wasn’t sitting on him at all, I was staying up in 2-pt in an effort to keep out of his way so he could find his own balance, and she was okay with that in theory, but since he was flinging himself all over the place she told me to pretend he was a grownup pony and just sit on him.  I can’t say the work *vastly* improved then, but we did get some good strides (Meredith:  “I appreciate how much work you’re doing every single time he moves his feet” – lol!).  I think our maximum number of good strides was about 5.  She made the kind of observation about the sitting that seems very obvious but which hadn’t occurred to me and probably wouldn’t have:  “when you’re in 2pt the only aids you really have are your feet and your hands.”  She told me I have a “quite nice” (yay!) leg and seat and ought to go ahead and use them since doing that will give me about 5 more aid options.  Then when I tried she obligingly shared all the ways I needed to *fix* how I was using them.  Hee hee.  She had me take my outside leg from the hip down absolutely off him (think air) once he answered the canter aid, because I was clinging to him as he was winging around and it was making him go faster, and ride him just off my inside leg to try and keep him from falling in.  Oh my.  Been awhile since I tried to get my aids that independent at that gait.  I have lots of homework!

Then we went down to the outdoor ring to do a little jumping.  Sarah needed to do more so she started and we watched, walking around to see the sights.  I was shocked that he did not spook at any of the big, bright, elaborately decorated fences, but maybe that’s because I’ve sort of taught him I’m not going to point him at any of them. 

At the end she told me to establish a good trot and jump a crossrail.  (Mmhm.  You mean like the good trot we had inside?)  I asked if I could show her first how I’ve been approaching, since that’s not it (and I was nervous).  She said sure, this is just for evaluation, so I did my walk onto the line, apply little bits of ankle, and let him pick up a trot wherever routine.  I’m doing this because he has that making a bid thing installed – which I know is panic driven – and it’s the only way I feel secure that I’m not going to end up *pulling* him down to the jump, a place I really don’t want to go.  In addition it seems to have some value in convincing him that he CAN get over things without a Herculean effort – the turning point of last week’s xc school was just walking him back and forth over a “stone wall” (read: pile of rocks) until he was bored.  I think something may have audibly clicked in his brain that day.




Watch and learn!

Watch and learn!

So, crossrail here we come.  He was really workmanlike — for the second time in history, went away from jump #1 totally relaxed.  Relaxed!  I didn’t know that was in the pony vocabulary!  So now she tells me to push him and trot all the way around to it again, so I (gulp!) do and again he’s good!  Then she had me turn to a different crossrail, and third time good pony.  Probably tired from all the canter work ;)  She said, “oooh, he’s a cute jumper!”  (He is?  Was he even really jumping? LOL!)

We call it a day.  I’m pretty happy about the lesson work, but I’m completely thrilled that we were even able to get to a place where I could mount safely!  Phew!!

Pix are from the xc school at Lockwood on Weds.  Thanks Alyssa!!




Good pony!

Good pony!







  1. …all that and then some! :)

  2. The transistion from “OH MY GOD, I AM GOING TO DIE” pony to the rideable pony was QUITE remarkable! He settled right in when he realized what was going on :D

    I’d love to share again if you’re game!!!!!

  3. you’re welcome for the pics and I totally enjoyed reading this, Shannon!

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