Monday, April 16, 2012

Fiasco Part Two.

Let me preface by saying that with the way things were going, our schooling could have turned out a lot worse. No one fell off, no one got hurt, and Bobby only refused one fence at the very end when he was having a complete and total meltdown. It was hot--around 80* and humid--and all my grooming stuff was still in the other truck where I'd forgotten to grab it, so I was running around borrowing Sarah's stuff like a bit of a looney, but that fit in with how the day was going so I wasn't particularly upset about it.

We started off walking around the fields on a loose rein. Bobby was wired and prancey, but I kept talking to him and petting his neck and he didn't have any major blowouts.

Until, of course, I pointed over to the banks with my borrowed whip that I was toting around just in case as my spurs were also in the other truck. Bobby was quite certain I had brought him to this strange place to beat him to death and promptly reared and began flying backwards. I chucked the whip aside and just sat there. Literally didn't do a single thing. He ran backwards right into a jump, leapt forward, and stood there quivering. Deep breaths for both of us. Not really a good start. We hadn't even trotted yet. I gave him a squeeze and he started to go backwards again so I pulled his head around and made him circle before asking him to go forward again. As soon as he did, I asked him to trot and we started making big loops around the field.

just keep trotting, just keep trotting....

good, baby horise. as much as i'd like to sometimes, i'm not going
to kill you.
He seemed resigned to the fact that he'd been brought here to work after that and I walked him over to the banks on a loose rein. I pointed him at the teeny starter level side and gave him a little squeeze to see if he was game.

oh, brave pony!
I let him canter out after it and we did it a couple more times from the trot. I felt comfortable asking him to canter up to it and this is what I got:

I turn him when he starts going backwards because I'd honestly rather him do anything besides going backwards. Plus, as soon as he comes back around to where he started, I immediately ask him to go forward again and it seems to help unstick him. This video is right after he'd finished his one circle and I asked him to walk up the bank:

I said screw the canter since this was his first "jump" and asked him to trot up it once more.

We followed Sarah and Blackberry down it at the walk the first time. He felt certain that he should jump off of it instead of just step down.

how to go down a bank.

how not to go down a bank.
Honestly, my extreme fear of all things downhill really didn't help us out much, but he stepped off it calmly when I asked him to go down again.

We moved on to some logs next. He was doing his little trot in place gait the whole time and with neither whip nor spurs to help me out, I'm afraid I wasn't looking like a particularly savvy rider. I really had to drive him forward with my seat and squeeeeezeeee with my legs, but I got us over without a single refusal or runout, though he tried his little heart out. We went over the tiny logs sideways the first few times.

We managed two BN logs which was a small win, and I headed over to where the field was a little flatter. Because he was sucking back so much, I wanted him to be thinking forward waaay more than he was, so I had him do a big canter around the field a few times. That seemed to do the trick and he was trotted over the gate jumps (Starter and BN) with a big, bold stride, and even cantered over the Starter one.

Unfortunately, the water jump hadn't been filled in yet so we didn't get to play around with that. Major disappointment. We did, however, do the oxers outside it. I tried the baby one first and underestimated the length of a tree branch hanging out over it.

decapitation by xcountry fence decoration.
what a way to go.
I decided to go big instead of go blind and asked him to do the BN once. It wasn't all that big, but the freshly painted black poles were definitely a little scary.

Here I made a big mistake. The other field of jumps was past the trail through a gap in the hedgerow. This is where the coops, tables, and real "scary" fences are. I wanted to finish him off with a go over a BN coop if I could and the Starter table (the N table is the one in my header). But I was really thirsty and I stopped at the trailer so Hubby could hand me my Gatorade. Bobby thought we were done and flipped the off switch on his already frazzled brain.

When we got out there, we made it all the way to the bottom of the field where I planned to turn around and he started going backwards again, but this time with a purpose. I circled, I squeezed, I yelled, I kicked like a four year old, I tried doing nothing, and he was just a hot mess. I finally managed to circle and kick hard enough at the same time that he went forward and I kicked hard again and got him trotting.

Continuing to kick and squeeze and do the attractive "saddle hump", I made it within a stride of the baby coop before he slammed and the brakes and took a step back. I instantly circled and as soon as his head was pointed at the jump again I growled and kicked and he stepped over it. Once more for posterity--or, another mistake on my part--and he completely lost it. His brain was 150 percent fried. Absolutely nothing I was doing was working.

just keep breathing, just keep breathing....

I finally called Hubby over in tears and had him lead us over the coop. We were not finishing there, but I didn't want a jump meltdown, so I got after him hard until he was cantering like a normal horse on a circle. I ended there. At least there was forward motion.

It was a bit of a hot mess to end on, but I didn't take my frustrations out on him a single time. I really, really wanted him to have a positive experience and I think he would have had more of one if I'd either gone straight out to the last jumps without stopping at the trailer, or just stopped after jumping the oxer. Lesson learned.

I was chatting with Michelle while I was walking him out (with a chain over his nose because he was still a bit frantic) and while I'll definitely be back in May for Starter, I told her it just felt really frustrating to not be able to do BN right off the bat. He's not a naughty horse, he's just a worrier and a very sensitive dude. He's a way different ride than any other riding horse I've worked with and I'm still learning to make that switch in myself. She told me that Sinead Halpin (yeah, that Sinead Halpin) had fallen off at BN there last year and later admitted that she finds the LL horses the most difficult to ride because you don't know what to expect from them yet. That was a nice straw to grasp onto, and despite being kind of bummed things didn't go great, he could have been a whole lot worse. We can only keep going up, right?

Now you must suffer through post-bath pictures from today. He dragged me up to the arena and had some sillies when the mares were brought down before tucking in to the grass. Clearly yesterday didn't take too much out of him.


  1. Just an interesting day. I'm glad you made him work even after all had gone to hell. Pretty after bath boy tho(:

  2. Glad you could get some good fences in, even with Bobby being well... a baby.
    He looked great in that last video!!

  3. Sounds like an up and down day...I bet in no time Bobby will figure out you don't want to murder him out in a field and start enjoying himself :)

  4. Ugh. So sensitive. That's a hard ride, especially coming off a horse like Red. Best wishes to you.

    And besides, that went way better than it might have. ;-)


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