I spend a lot of time trying to get into the head of the horses I ride. Mostly trying to understand their motives and how I can better influence them into doing what I want in a calm and respectful manner. I haven’t always done this, at least not in this sense. For a long time I was focus on just asking correctly and then assuming that the horse would do what I asked (I mean, let’s be fair, when you’re riding a well trained lesson horse this is basically what you learn to do). However, when training Bella I learned pretty quickly this was not always the case.
But I assumed with persistence that things would eventually turn into me asking and her doing. To some extent, this is totally how things go with us. On the other hand, I am still riding a highly opinionated mare who goes through phases (just like me) where she’s extremely anxious and high strung. Being able to relate her moods to mine has helped me learn how to deal with her some and now, as I got at in my last post, I try to take a step back and do what I need to do to take care of her mental health as well as her physical health.
Two weeks ago (to the date) I got on and she was incredibly anxious. I tried to ride her through it and after we got some trot work done I felt that she’d settled some. Then I asked her to canter and you would have sworn the world imploded. She was tight, it took multiple times of asking and bringing her back and asking again to get her to canter without bolting (and even then it took a soft verbal cue where I could barely add leg to get her to go). Once she was cantering she was dragging on my shoulders, really tight, and if I tried to adjust her at all she would simply swap leads and try to bolt with me. I finally got her around once in each direction without her changing leads but it wasn’t pretty and she was drenched with sweat by the time I got off. I was not proud of our work that day.
So then, thanks to rain, she got a week off. A week later I didn’t even get on, I simply lunged her, then this past week I ended up hopping on her three days. Two out of those three I was just on bareback in a halter. If you didn’t read the last post that’s cool, I’ll go over this again. Her saddle fit is fine, she was just adjusted a few weeks ago and got a clean bill from the chiropractor and the few things she had out we believe are from pasture antics not being ridden. She got shoes back on a few weeks ago as well so she’s good to go, she’s not changed diets at all, she lunges like a champ with and without tack, AND she’s still on the same turn-out she’s been on for the past like 3 years (aka 24/7 turn out in large pastures with a run-in). I was completely at a loss for what had her so wound up. If you’re wondering if she was in heat, already thought of that but she’s honestly basically always in heat and even then she’s never been that anxious under saddle because of it.
With all that said, all I can say is that I honestly was at a total loss of what was going on with her that Sunday. So after a week off, a few casual rides this week, I got on today with the intention of just doing more walk/trot work and keeping it relaxed and easy. I lowered my stirrups on Thursday when I rode her, today I lowered her bit and her nose band (I had a theory about her bridle fit, not in relation to her behavior just in general) and we headed out to go work.
Y’all, this mare was soooo lazy today. Even with spurs on I could barely get this girl trotting and once she was she was just slow, relaxed, I wasn’t even touching the reins much but I was able to get her on the bit and framing up just off of leg pressure today. She had a few moments where she looked at something or scooted forwards thanks to trailers passing the pasture out on the road but otherwise she was just dead-head. It was such a huge change from two weeks ago. So I got brave, decided I wanted to canter and see where that mare brain was at. She was fantastic. Nailed her leads, no bolting, slow, controlled, sitting back, and willing to listen to my minor adjustments (I’ll be honest, I wasn’t doing that much today since I didn’t want to risk ruining a good thing).
I still have no idea what set her off two weeks ago. I have no idea why she was so good today. I still have the calming supplements on their way, and to be honest I’m probably going to go ahead and use those on her for a while anyways. Over the winter my riding time is going to be limited, I’ve already got a trip in the works for December with her and I definitely want her to be on something to make that easier on her. Come spring I might take her off of them and see how it goes. I’m not sure. It’s really just going to be a matter of how well things go this winter and how many rough days we have after putting her on something. With my limited riding time I’d like to make progress the few days I get to ride rather than having her be super worked up over something I’m not even able to pinpoint and take three steps back and basically lose two weeks of work time while I let her mellow out and try to just get her re-set.
I love my mare, and everyone knows it. Any time I even complain about her everyone is quick to point out that I wouldn’t change her, and honestly I really wouldn’t. I’m not looking for an easy ride, I’m not looking for a point and shoot type horse. I like that Bella has her own opinions. I honestly just wish that I was good enough to always understand what’s going on with her. I’m doing my best but I’m definitely not really sure what happened two weeks ago. I’m not sure why things were better today. I just know that I’m going to keep trying to move forward with her. Moving forward is really all I can do. Right?