Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Today was a #throwbacktuesday sort of riding day.

Bobby hadn't been ridden since our lesson last Thursday (I jumped on him bareback yesterday for Farrier to watch him go, but that wasn't a real ride.), but he'd been getting his turnout in the indoor instead of outside for a week because of the lack of snow in the paddocks so he'd actually been able to get some serious crazies out on the daily. As such, he was nice and relaxed when I hopped on this morning.

Our ride started out just like all of them have been lately--soft, supple, and willing with lots of work on bending, being light, and moving forward all at the same time. This step way back to the basics has been great for Bobby. It's work he's getting really good at and it makes him feel confident when I sneak something a little trickier into the routine.

jk he still totally gets pissed when i ask for such horrible torture as s-i.
but look at how uphill we're learning to be! i see you, dressage test comments.

My main goal for this ride was to revisit his changes with an eye towards 3-1 this fall. He's pretty much flawless over fences. On the rare chance he doesn't land on the correct lead or switch automatically, all I have to do is step into the stirrup a little more and he pops right over, left or right. On the flat? Ehh, not so much.

We started off with the right lead canter. He got a little stuck picking it up, so I did the transition again and the second he picked it up I sent him right off into a great big canter to get him moving. That worked well and I was able to bring him back to a normal working canter after a couple big circles to make sure he was feeling loose.

We stuck to circle work, and eventually worked on spiraling in and out. I felt him start to think about propping and saying no on our final small spiral, but I just gave his neck a quick scratch, closed my legs, and asked him to keep going--which he actually did! Yay, brain cells!

not cantering. just walking. in case you couldn't tell.

Out of the final spiral, I left the circle and asked for the change. He gave it promptly and cleanly, R-L is always super easy and drama free for him, but then started to get unbalanced in the canter so instead of fighting him, I just had him go right to halt and stuffed a cookie down his throat. We went back to the right and did the change right off the bat which was again clean and easy, and this time he kept cruising without losing his balance so we started our spirals to the left.

He was wanting to drift out to the left, so I had my outside leg pressed against his side which started out as a cause for some angst. A couple c-w-c transitions and neck scratches later he was back in the game and I sent him off on the short diagonal for the L-R change.

This has always been Bobby's worse direction, and he didn't even attempt to change. He just went flying sideways and ran into the wall. Thus began a vintage Bobby melt down.

I tried breaking it down in different ways.

What about a few a lot of simple changes so you know I'm asking you to change your lead here? Nope.

What about a long diagonal? Definitely nope.

Half seat? Noooo.

Literally anything I can think of? Nope, nope, nope!

There was much running sideways and backwards. There was spinning, there was sitting on the wall and on jump standards. But you know what didn't happen? He never stopped moving. Yeah, that might not seem like a win to anyone else, but when Bobby shuts down for good, he'll park it and refuse to move. No amount of anything will get him to budge unless you get off.


He wasn't getting a rise out of me, but after fifteen minutes of rapid thrashing about the ring, I was starting to get annoyed. This horse has a perfectly clean, perfectly sane L-R change, and he's done it lots of times in dressage schools. I don't know why it's cause for such angst in his Bobby Brain, but my final solution was to see if I forced him on to it--as in, if you don't change at least up front, you are going to fall down--he'd realize he could indeed do it and it wouldn't be a problem.

So I stuck him on a 15 meter circle at the end of the ring tracking left, and then one stride away from hitting the rail I turned him right and cued for the change. Tah dah! He popped right over, I stopped him and shoved two cookies down his throat, and then we did the whole thing all over again.

I got another clean, drama-free change so I let him carry on in a big canter with lots and lots of pats and praise before coming across, doing the R-L change easily, and then coming right around to the next diagonal and getting the L-R change smooth as glass.


I doled out the last of my cookies and we cooled out with several minutes of stretchy trot to relax the crazy muscles.

always ends with petties, even when horse is psycho. 

It was kind of a frustrating ride, but in the end it was a major win in Bobby Land. Despite keeping the pressure on him without ever letting up, he never got to a point where he quit on me. He tried to get out of doing what I was asking with a whole lot of dramatics, but every time I asked him to pick the canter back up once we'd established a forward trajectory again, he stepped right into it without actually being tense.

Having that one brain cell remain firmly lodged in place--the one that tells him, "Stay in tune. Don't check out completely. Maybe your rider will have something useful to tell you."--is such an enormous step forward for this horse. If he can learn to work through these tantrums faster, and down the line learn to start them less and less, we're going to be in a good spot when show season rolls around and the work really ramps up.


  1. Being able to get productive work out of a horse post-meltdown is a miracle of achievement. As a fellow owner of a meltdown-having horse... this post gives me hope.

  2. Ok so I know that as far as changes go and meltdowns and all that you are frustrated and everything but DUDE YOUR HORSE HAS CHANGES AND I AM SUPER JEALOUS. So there.

  3. I agree with first comment, you are a wizard. Yankee literally cannot do changes one way and has said meltdown (he doesn't meltdown about anything but that), but is fine the other direction. Cray

  4. Ramone went through a "I only flail in one direction" phase, its so weird how they get hung up on that shit.

  5. Yay for major wins in Bobby Land! My geriatric OTTB is now a pasture ornament, but when he used to meltdown that was it for the day. And sometimes the week. I'm so impressed you can get good work after a meltdown!

  6. What a Bobby WIN indeed!! Awesome job. (he looks so cute in his blankey too)

  7. Just One Brain Cell will be the title of Bobby's memoir.

  8. That is awesome!! I always think it's tougher to come back after a horse or pony meltdown than anything else so good for both of you!

  9. Bobby doesn't like to make this easy does he?! At least you got there in the end.

  10. Can you teach me your patience? And your ability to not nope out of the ride when the antics happen?
    I have so much admiration for what you can work through with Bobby. He's not easy, but you just keep on keeping on.

  11. But damn he knows how to work that lonely brain cell when he wants to!!!


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