I had some hard thinking time yesterday.
The ride I had had it's ups and downs (we did jump, no pun intended though). After she figured out we were jumping, it was like I could not keep her on the rail, all she wanted to do was point herself at the nearest jump. She was not rushing the fences. She was just not interested in anything I had to say about flatwork.
We ended up getting in a huge fight, and while I stayed out of her face, her ears were pretty much tickling my nose. She was smart enough not to pull any tantrums, but at one point I just thumped her on the head because she was just giving me THAT nasty of an expression. The ears went forward and she went on her merry way.
That's what I don't get. If it were a serious pain issue, she wouldn't just go back to work quietly after a reprimand. She'd become more upset and continue to act annoyed.
I got her some liniment gel. I gave her a serious scrub down before I applied it. She enjoyed it, especially the part where I let her drink from the hose and play in it...I didn't enjoy it when she splashed her nose through it and wet me, but it was cute so she was forgiven. I used the hoof pick to find all the particularly sore areas and rubbed her down. I let her dry up a little and put her sheet on...it's been chilly. I let her have today off, and tomorrow if I do anything we will just ride around the pasture.
We jumped some tiny, tiny jumps. Like, raised ground poles. I didn't want to push her to hard. She did jump the outside line one time, cantered through, VERY nice, VERY straight. I realized that the hardest part of jumping is keeping the horse straight and keeping strides even. All this time I thought it was going over it that was the challenge. She had some nice moments, but she was just not paying attention for the most part. After all the stunts she's pulled lately with her attitude about work, I immediately assumed that was the culprit, but I had to remind myself that she is not 100% yet. Though she may not be in severe pain, she is not all together comfortable during the entire ride, and I am still trying to ride Jack when I have a totally different and less fit horse under me. I pretty much had to ask myself, what the hell are you DOING?
I realized that it's not fun anymore. Although I do enjoy jumping, dressage and correctness in my riding, and do want to compete, I can't have fun trying to improve because I am too critical of every move my horse makes. I can't laugh off mistakes and look forward positively about how to correct them. If one little thing goes wrong in the ride, or if it's not a good day, I realize that I end up feeling like giving up hope of showing her entirely, and even on a good day I find myself focusing on the not so great points of the ride.
No horse is perfect. I can't expect her to move like some PSG dressage horse, because she's a 7 year old who hasn't known anything but trails until the last year. My negativity and criticism is going to make her sour to any arena work I try to do if I keep on fighting with her. I can't look at a wrong response as a complete insult to my authority over her, and her trying to be pushy. Nine times out of ten, it's not. Nine times out of ten, it's just her trying to tell me she isn't enjoying what we are doing at all and would appreciate it greatly if I would stop.
I got on her bareback and rode her back to her pasture. She was moving out, ears forward, plodding along beautifully. I thought "Well, she sure can act like she feels great when she thinks she's going back out in the pasture!"
But she didn't think she was going to the pasture. She thought we were going for a late evening trail ride. I expected her to automatically stop at the gate, but she turned and started to go around the pasture.
I think I've already gotten to the point where she's sour about arena work. She's bored, frustrated, and more than likely has as many sore muscles as I do. So she and I are going to go on some adventures outside the arena for a few days. Do some light stuff in the arena, walk trot canter, I don't even care if it's gorgeous and correct, or head in the air, too fast, too slow, and cool out on the trail.
In fact, I'm highly considering taking a break from anything really serious for perhaps 6 months to a year. I've been thinking about competitive trail and endurance. I've mentioned this before...I think she would be pretty good at it. Either way, I think I need to chill out and take some time to stop trying to perfect every little thing, for Amber's sake.
Maybe trail riding is just her thing, and maybe that doesn't mean we can't compete. Maybe the chiropractor's adjustments will show me a completely different horse - I doubt her enthusiasm for trails will change though. Either way, I'm fed up with my attitude towards this lately and I think I'm the one who needs to go out on the trail and chill out too.