Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Epiphany.

I can't even remember where I last left off at. I think it was post-shoeing.

I don't know what's been going on with me. I've been constantly tired and depressed as of late. For the past 2 months+ I have been disgustingly unable to get anything done. My lack of productivity contributed greatly to my depressive state.

I have a lot to update on so I'll start with the big thing:

I had hind shoes put on Amber in August. She did well but in September, a couple of weeks before she was due, several things happened. With the growth she had towards the end of the cycle, we noticed that the farrier had made one hoof noticeably shorter than the other. She either stepped wrong when I was riding, or did something in the pasture - who knows - but her right front ballooned and she was noticeably lame for a couple of weeks. She also threw both shoes within a week of each other.

Because of the unevenness of the trim (probably contributing to the strain and stress on the legs), I went to the other barn farrier that I have avoided. I also had some other issues with the other farrier, which I won't elaborate on as I don't wish to hurt his reputation on the internet. As to the other farrier, I have always liked him as a person, I was just skeptical of his work...but Amber has done better than ever since he started shoeing her. Having only hind shoes seemed to make her uncomfortable on the front. She just seemed unbalanced. So she is now in four shoes, aluminum on the front. I have been extremely pleased. It minimizes toe dragged off, which has greatly improved even so although she still bumps that toe a little in the stride.

At this point, she is happy and comfortable working and after all the treatments, examinations and knowledge I have gained from the professionals who have worked on her, I have chalked it up to conformation. Her pelvis has a tendency to shift to the right, which would make the shorter stride in the left hind and increased difficulty working to the left make sense. It doesn't necessarily mean there is pain. It is something I want to be cautious of to make sure that it doesn't cause pain, of course.

While all that is well and good, for the past month or more, my horse and I have fought nearly to tears every ride/lesson. I can't remember exactly when it started, but at some point she started to rush in one of the front corners of the arena, only when tracking left.

During this time I was having trouble with my equitation. I couldn't seem to sit up. My shoulders rounded and my lower back ached and I couldn't rate the speed of my post. So her rushing in that corner was even harder to control. And it escalated into me snatching, ripping and pulling and working her to frustration in that corner almost every ride. The ride would usually start out good, and then tension and my nit-picking would make everything explode into a fight.

It got to the point where she was just nervous and couldn't relax in that direction, and she anticipated me to rip her a new one every time in that corner.

It finally came to Casey getting on her 3 times in one lesson (possibly a record), to prove to me that the horse COULD do it, and it was me. Thus, the epiphany.

It made me realize that my expectations are my main problem. My perfectionist personality contributes. Before we started jumping in the spring, I had managed to get Amber into a very dressage-y headset. That turned into me expecting that every time I rode, any time I asked. I started to nit pick, and I forgot the golden rule - there has to be a release and reward.

Because I started to get hard with my hands, Casey asked me to drop my contact and float my reins. I missed the point of this entirely and assumed that I shouldn't touch my reins ever, period. I assumed that Casey liked the nose-in-the-dirt way that she went most of the time when I rode like that.

After a talk with Casey, part of my epiphany included me realizing that I can and should have appropriate contact with her. Appropriate contact is something I already know damn well how to have and I am absolutely ashamed that I let myself get to the point where I was ripping and hanging like a spoiled brat that just learned to ride.

I've been somewhat beating myself up over this because in hindsight (oh, how many times have I said hindsight in this blog?), I can't believe I was riding like I was - I know better. I KNOW better. I'm not an ignorant rider, I know what will and won't work and I can't believe I thought my crap would work.

But, fast forward. I have had two wonderful rides since this "epiphany". What Casey and I talked about I kept in mind at all times. I warmed her up on a loose rein and eventually took up contact after she had walked around a few minutes. I can tell she gets tense and worried about certain things, because she is expecting to get hell from me for it, but that will go away with time. She is relaxing so much better than I expected her to. We rode in the indoor one day and the outdoor the next. She only got a little forward in that corner. It was actually not more than a strong working trot. She was very good in her circles, which are something Casey wants us to work on, as well as bending.

I noticed she was almost lazy in her upward transitions, which was good in the situation, because she was at least not worried and ready to rush, rush, rush. We had an excellent canter, both directions.

I think I had greatly misinterpreted what Casey was trying to teach us and what things I should do working and training Amber to benefit us. I had the idea that every ride should be walk, trot, canter on the rail each direction, as per what I thought Casey wanted us to do. I cut out circles, bending, lunging and assumed that I was to keep a consistent pace and let her otherwise do whatever.

And worse, I expected. I expected the same horse every ride, and I expected every ride to be our best ride. I can't expect it, and I know better.

...And that has basically been what has happened since I last posted. Sad, right? Other than another visit from the kinesiologist...nothing major happened there. Just icing muscles and epsom salt poultices.

Well. The good news is, I'm getting a new bridle for Christmas?