Riding in an arena when you tend to do the same things and ride in the same patterns for weeks on end makes people and horses bored. Bored horses aren’t terribly cooperative, which makes people frustrated, which horses pick up on, and so the cycle begins.
It didn’t cross my mind that this little boredom streak that began a few weeks ago was going to blossom into something larger. I just thought, “Hmm, I should really add some variety to my rides, this is getting quite boring.”
Every horse acts out differently and despite knowing this mare and all of her quirks, it never occurred to me that she was suddenly sluggish, lazy, and obnoxiously behind my leg for a good portion of our rides because she was bored.
Truth: One of the challenges of being on my own is keeping things interesting in the arena. (As a side note, pairing this with my photo last night titled “post-ride cuddles” I feel like this is getting a little awkward. However, considering I was once instructed to get a feel for how to ride the canter by “flicking my dick,” we are going to go with it.)
I have a tendency to have the same ride I always have. I use a warm up that works well to unlock Cho, I have a list of things we need to work on, I pick one or two of those things for the ride and have at it. And for some reason in my mind this was the equivalent of “mixing things up.” It wasn’t, obviously. But I am a creature of habit and mixing things up is not one of my strengths.
Truth: I overthink the SHIT out of things. Like, I have severe neuroses about never “letting her get away with things” out of fear that she will learn these terrible new habits and they will become big enough that I can’t fix them AND THEN WHAT. (This is why you probably shouldn’t decide you’re training a baby yourself when you don’t know what you’re doing.)
Note to self: Cholula is now 12 years old. She is no longer a super impressionable green bean that you will untrain if you spend time working on yourself rather than making sure she is perfect. Tooling around in front of the vertical is ok. She is not going to break, and when you ask her to be on the bit the next ride she will be perfectly willing and capable to do it.
Also, you are a WAY BETTER RIDER than you were when starting her. Like, leaps and bounds. And you didn’t ruin her then, and she’s a 2nd level pony now, and you basically did that, SO CHILL THE FUCK OUT.
There have been a handful of bad rides over the past couple of weeks. I was defeated, I wasn’t doing my horse justice, and I wasn’t having any fun. I felt like I needed someone to intervene. That not being an option, I reached out to my fellow riders at PFW.
I have a lot of good people on my side.
Ideas were shared and Natalie texted me: “Don’t think so much just do!”
So last night was ride #1 of “No fucking dressage.” I’m not schooling anything for the next week. And last night when Cho was doing the laziest canter ever as I was trying to torture myself in two-point, I knew I had to do something else, because if I didn’t we’d spiral into another bad ride.
I took her to one corner of the arena, and asked her to GO LIKE HELL.
She was confused at first. Cantering, but confused. Pulled her up at the bottom of the arena, trotted around the other long side (nose poking out and all) with me in two-point, and walked at the other short side. Came around the corner again, straightened her up, asked her to go like hell.
She got it this time.
She’d wait…get a little prancy…and finally when I gave the ok, launch herself into a hand gallop down the long side.
…This game is a lot more fun when you have a long hill in front of you btw, but so it goes.
Nat and Cho, summer of 2013
We kept doing this in both directions for awhile until my thighs were screaming at me from the trotting two-point and she seemed pretty happy with herself. We ended with cooling out in the outdoor in the dark, Cho marching forward with her ears pricked and perfectly light in the bridle.