Thursday, May 30, 2013

Where We're At

Things have not being going well.

After our no good, very bad stadium round at Bucks, I've been trying to formulate a game plan to get Bobby back on track jumping-wise. I thought all I would need to do was get him to focus and he'd be back on auto-pilot. Every day we trudged up to the outdoor arena and dealt with horses getting turned out and brought in, the tractor running, the ATV going back and forth from the barn to paddocks, people lessoning in the indoor arena that the outdoor overlooks, and horses just outside the arena rails grazing.

Focus seemed to be mostly there for the dressage, and despite moments of anxiety and tension, Bobby really settled into a routine and started putting in decent flat work out there. The jumping, however, never came back.

I brainstormed with Hubby and people at the barn that have seen Bobby go. I had Sarah ride him to see if she could give me any insights. After her ride, he seemed patched together enough to jump a few fences with me, but I didn't feel at all confident about my ability to continue the trend.

On Monday, we had an all-out drag-out fight. I ended up sitting on Bobby for two hours, trying to get him to trot a one stride line of small crossrails. He pulled out all his evasive maneuvers and threw in a few extra for good measure and we never did get it done. I ended the ride sobbing, managed to pull myself together to walk back to the barn, and then promptly burst into tears again when S asked me how it went. "I broke my horse, and I don't know how to fix him!" was about all that was coherent from my answer.

S consoled me, and I went home and immediately send an S.O.S. to pm BM to ask her if she'd put in a real training ride on him. I also shot off an email to the secretary at Bucks and scratched from the June event. She was incredibly kind and quick to respond and promised a refund was on its way. That lifted a huge load off my chest, and I felt even better when BM said she'd be able to ride first thing Tuesday morning.

BM got a small taste of Bobby's tricks that Sarah did not. He rushed, he pulled, he got tense, and he shot sideways once when faced with a jump. BM never got frazzled and very calmly and very professionally continued on like he hadn't set a foot wrong and Bobby slowly began to decompress.

She asked me if I could handle constructive criticism. I told her that she could rip me to shreds at this point. I was beating myself up enough knowing that I'm the reason he's come unglued and nothing she was going to say would hurt my feelings. She told me that what she sees from me is my complete inability to release over fences. Absolutely! This is something I've mentioned over and over again in this blog, yet I get so caught up in everything that Bobby's doing that over and over its priority goes right out the window.

So BM had me get on and she stood beside the jump and reminded me at every single approach to grab mane and release---nothing else matters. Bobby got quick, but he didn't once pull his "I hate everything!" antics.

The moral was that Bobby's probably been throwing on the dramatics because he doesn't like getting snatched in the mouth. Who can blame him? He's a horse that internalizes everything which makes him seem like he dopes along without a care in the world, but I think he finally got so fed up with me that all the tension, anxiety, and flat out distaste for my riding finally came to head.

We had a long powwow after the ride.
  • Bobby does like his job. He likes to jump. I haven't ruined that yet.
  • He's not a hunter horse, and he's never going to put in a hunter round. I need to drop that notion right now. Permanently. All he has to do is get us around clear and safe--who cares how it looks?
  • Bobby probably won't be the horse to get me to the top, which isn't something I really have any ambition for anyway, but if I can ride him well at my level, I'll be a better rider on any horse after him because of it.
  • Going into our show this weekend, I'm assuming we're going to get eliminated. I don't know how he'll handle a new place, but quite frankly my hopes are not high. If he finishes in our division of 18, that will be complete icing on the cake.
  • With that in mind, BM said my one and only goal this weekend is to make sure I release. If I do nothing else, at least I'll know that I did my job. 
And here's a disclaimer for all the "Aren't lessons great? You should get them!" comments that are just dying to come from your little fingers:

I'm not going to take jumping lessons from BO. Reasons were chronicled last year, and I stand firmly by them. Also, because it's BO's barn, she's the only one allowed to teach out of it. I completely understand this, and I have nothing against it. That means that while BM and others might lend me a hand here and there, setting up a weekly lesson schedule is not a possibility. I don't have my own truck to trailer out for lessons--we use Hubby's company truck for shows, and he works six days a week during this time of the year.

At this point, I don't really have a plan for the rest of the show season. I have no burning desire to go to another show. Until I feel confident that Bobby will do his job without the explosives, and I'm able to ride him without snatching/panicking/fighting, we're not going anywhere.


  1. I feel your pain as I struggle with jumping as well and I can't seem to figure out how to fix it! I have a bad, bad habit of jumping ahead and gripping with my thighs. I think we all have our struggles. Thankfully, our horses are pretty forgiving. I am sure bobby will come back around. *hugs*

  2. I am a chronic not-enough-release rider, I feel your pain. I am lucky now that my current lease horse tolerates it pretty well, and when he's upset doesn't go into kill-rider-mode. I hope your extra release will help settle him back down. Sorry you can't get regular lessons, but at least you havr some good 'eyes' to help

  3. Mistakes are opportunities for learning...

    I think at least monthly that I've broken my horse. They are very forgiving creatures though. The advice your BM gave sounds wise. Good luck and chin up!

  4. Sounds like a solid plan. Go back to basics and build up the confidence for both of you. Your BM, even though she may not be an eventer sounds like she haa your best interests at heart. Back off of the expectations for yourself and for Bobby and you will probably be surprised how quickly it all comes together.

  5. Lessons are great but sometimes just taking a few here or there really are enough. I start to get hateful if I get them too often. If all else fails even taking one on a different horse at a different barn can be good. I have been doing that (dont' plan on it forever though) and I have been amazed that it helped.

    First I have to say I am very impressed with you and you are better than I will ever be. You are way too hard of yourself and part of learning how to ride is having things we get sucky at and fixing it. And sometimes it seems like problems crop up over night, one day our leg sucks then suddely it is perfect but our hands are possessed by a crazy see sawing asshat. 90% of the time riding issues aren't about skills it is the mindfuck that bites us in the ass.

    Anyhoo, have you tried taking up your stirrups one hole? My old school event trainer had me crank them up a little higher and I would get mad and say that feels terrible then have to pretend like she wasn't right at the end of the day. Other thought: Have you thought about trying a neck strap. I know that seems remedial pony club but it can help. My first mare would get super offended if you touched her mouth or got left even a milisecond behind. Her response was dead run at the fence or bronco buck after. Hence, I would get all tense trying not to grab her and have an even worse hand over fences. I STILL do it. The more I worry about catching a horse in the mouth the more I do it. If I grab a strap somehow my brain knows no matter what I do the strap won't allow me to get grabby, I relax, then I never even need it.

  6. Sorry for all the frustration you guys have been dealing with recently. But it sounds like you've narrowed down the problem and hopefully now that you have something specific to work on you'll avoid getting in that negative downward cycle again.

    Times like these are what sets true riders apart from recreational riders. Your trainer is right, if you can master riding Bobby you'll be a significantly better rider for overcoming your challenges with him.

    Good luck at the show, and with your future jump schools with him!

  7. Those are good takeaways from the lesson! You haven't ruined him. It will get better and all will be well!

  8. My Guru always tells me that we cannot ruin horses indefinitely which is my greatest fear with the youngster. I don't want to ruin her so I guess I am over-cautious and tensing which is where our arena issues come in as we've no problems trail riding.

    She tells me that if I do make mistakes, which I will - we all do. Not to panic and that we can implement the reset switch if that happens. Haven't had to do it yet, but good to no there is a get-out-of-jail-option...which is basically some turnout chill-out time for horsey to de-compress and then starting again with basics to re-educate me and get it right next time around.

  9. watch how fast he'll forgive and forget :)

  10. Now you know. You can do it. It's so had and counter intuitive sometimes, but Bobby will thank you.

  11. I've always been okay on releasing over a fence, but I'll do a death choke hold before/after and on canter depart. It's not an easy fix and it's not always as simple as having someone remind you. A lot of that is a response that your body has learned in reaction to a situation. I think, at least. I choke on canter because the canter frightens the fuck out of me, as I'm most likely to get thrown in that transition.

    When I was taking lessons a million years ago, the trainer would put an obnoxious red ribbon in the mane of a horse if the rider didn't get up and grab. Maybe something less obnoxious as a reminder for the show?

    ...and isn't it amazing how they tell us when we're screwing up? :)

  12. Can you trailer out for lessons? You two need help STAT otherwise you both might end up hating everything....

    I have the same struggle with Archie, letting go of the face. Its so hard. I feel your pain. I have been flatting in a hackamore and it has been helping tremendously. Maybe that's an option for you? The absense of the bit seems to ease all of his tension.

    My advice is find a good trainer, invest the money and spend the summer correcting yourself and him. You can both DO IT, you just need some help.

  13. Glad to hear that the problem is very, very fixable! And it sounds like a good, solid goal for a while. Just keep at it and before you know it, it will be old hat!

  14. Keep your head up!!

    Seems like BM helped you with somethings to work on right now and then you can build on them when the time comes.

    Have fun this weekend and release! :)

  15. It's great having people who can help you and Bobby. :) You'll get there. The release is the most important and the number one thing we forget. Everything is fixable, you've got this!

  16. Defi wasn't going to suggest taking lessons from your BO I remember the posts from last year!! But yes if you can find a decent professional to trailer too its worth it. If not you are doing just fine on your own!

  17. I second the neck strap suggestions. That has REALLY helped me deal with the same issue. I was never good at remembering to grab mane, but the strap is a visual reminder and it's working for me.


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