Posted by: shannonc | September 22, 2010

A peek behind the curtain

Military intelligence =/= Adjustable canter!

I rode a pony I did not recognize yesterday.  For the first time ever, I sat on a canter that at times felt floaty and adjustable.  I witnessed from up top the first ever fences he has truly powered and pushed off the ground to. 

The pony was happy.  For a change we have clarity:  he feels better.  No question.

I’ve been having some really good rides the past week or so, but I’ve been afraid to jinx them by saying so…

The funny part is that this way of going is so new and different that it left the pony and me staring speechless at each other in astonishment, confusion, and utter lack of recognition, like a couple of wide-eyed dummies.  There were some literal moments of laughter that left Denise shouting at us from the sidelines, “neither one of you trusts it yet!”

I have to relearn how to ride him now.  What a huge crossroads.  And yeah, it’s not as if he is going to raise his hoof and volunteer to go this way all the time at this point, but it’s quite a motivating tease!

Of course the million dollar question is, what has precipitated this change?  He’s had a whole course of Adequan, a loading dose of Legend (four shots IV), has a month of doxy under his belt, and got eggbar shoes with pads in front.  He’s also had a whole year now of steady, correct (I hope!) work and he is definitely stronger.

Um, it appears that I may have thrown the book at things again.  Which I did knowingly because I think it’s important – for both our heads – that we do everything we can to make sure we don’t go into winter hibernation afraid of what competing might be like in the spring, and we only have six weeks or so left to accomplish that.  On the flip side, though, now I get to wonder how to best maintain him.  His therapies feel a little bit like the rings on a dartboard, and I’m throwing with beer goggles.

Jessie votes for the single biggest difference being the shoes, but she still recommends continuing the Legend on a twice monthly basis.  And probably injecting his hocks in the spring.  There is still something up with the LH, but it could be just weakness.

He’s warming up more quickly, he’s using himself more behind, and he comes over his back more willingly.  I can feel actual swing!  I have new challenges now.  I have to concentrate on not allowing myself to help him with my seat – he’d still be more than happy to not carry himself consistently.  I have to stay over his hips more, taller in my collarbone, and make him push me out of the saddle.

The hardest part for me right now is that when he goes correctly, especially at walk and trot, he feels slower because his step is longer.  However, he also feels slower when he drops behind my leg, which seems to be the most inviting evasion atm.  One of these requires correction, and one of them requires reward.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell which is which.  Denise assured me I am in for plenty more of that, and to trust my instincts. 

Jumping, I have to make my seat slower than the canter – make his back stay soft, maintain the uphill in the gait, don’t let him change its quality 3 strides out.  He still believes sometimes that he needs to do that to get to the other side – and sometimes I believe he needs to do that too and switch to driving.  Sometimes I’m just not sure what’s going to happen and freeze.  Sometimes I don’t see a distance on the better canter.  Sometimes he doesn’t see a distance on the better canter.  All this can make the space right in front of the jump very confusing.  I am worried about it being confusing, because we’ve been talking about him having a confidence issue.  If it is a given that we’ll have some awkward jumps on the way to figuring this out, how do I make sure he stays confident?

Yesterday was very interesting in that regard, because we did get to some funny places.  And in at least one instance, I made a mistake big enough that he stopped – he just didn’t know where he was going until too late.  (That’s actually also a separate challenge on his part, as he’s back to locking on to everything, and I need to find a way to communicate better exactly where we’re going.  But being back to locking onto everything feels like a pretty awesome problem to have right now!). 

When we came back around better, he said oh, no problem.  He didn’t hold it against me at all.  So maybe it’s not going to wreck him for us to figure this out, even when it gets a little…imperfect.

That points to the physical stuff, not the brain stuff, being at the root of the confidence loss.  And that is a GOOD thing.  It means he still likes the job and he still wants to try.  YAY!!!!  My pony is back <3 <3 <3

It’s exciting…but also, what a relief.

I am going to jump in the snaffle next week and see how that goes.  I have a half halt now, I have a horse who moves off my leg instead of falling on it in the turns (when I believe he will and use it!), and I have a horse who’s soft and light in my hand.  LIGHT!  Not pulling!  I think the bit has become a distraction.  Although it was really good to hear that a bit is only as harsh as the hands it’s in, and that mine are nice and soft.

We are ready to determine whether landing in a heap is due to habit or a lingering discomfort.  Atm I am willing to bet habit.  It’s nice that there’s a clear, straightforward test:  ride him away consistently on landing and see whether or not he changes.

Here’s the end of lesson comment that sums it all up for me:

“A few weeks ago, I thought, this isn’t so bad.  But now I see how much more he can really do, and how fancy he really is, and I get what you were talking about!”

I am starting to dream up new and lofty goals, but I think we should try to get through an event without earning a letter before I get too run away with it all.  If GHF Fall Classic isn’t full (and it may well be), we will go to that.

*Fingers crossed*



  1. this is awesome stuff; I’m very excited for both of you!

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