Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Channeling My Inner Carly -or- Letting Go -or- What 47 Looks Like...

Day 1 – Friday

Braided, dressed, and tacked, we headed to the warm-up ring. As usual, Psycho Mare didn’t even acknowledge that she was in a new environment. We rode around the ring and determined that it was hot. We did lots of trot-walk-trot transitions to keep her awake and moved on to some canter work. I asked for our first canter…
And got the head-down-shoulder-shake explosion!

We rode our first test, and got this weird headshaking throughout:
--------intro c--------------
It was like she wanted to shake like a dog, but only from her neck forward!

Perhaps it was her braids. They were my first button braids, and they were the first braids that she couldn’t rub out! Maybe it was the heat… Once she started sweating around her ears, the neck shaking got really bad!

We went out for round 2:
This was her worst Training 2 test of the weekend. Our scores got better each day!

Day 2 - Saturday
By day 2, she was warming up nicely until she reached her limit with whatever was bothering her the day before, and the neck-shaking resumed! I knew this wasn’t helping us and she had just been slathered with fly spray, so I started disciplining her with each neck shake. Discipline meant a boot forward into a connection with my hand… By the time we were entering the ring, she was restraining herself when she wanted to shake… However, she was still dropping her back and dropping the connection… She started getting all balled up. She was getting pissy. After 2 tests, I decided I needed a different approach. She knew she wasn’t behaving, but she couldn’t bring herself to stay with me… *sigh*

I gave her 4 inches of additional rein. I tried to send her to a longer connection… She loosened up a little in her back… She still wasn’t happy…

She was convinced that she knew the test!

PM: Oh, we canter in this corner!
ME: No, we don’t. Just relax and trot on.
PM: Oh, we canter as we start this circle!
ME: Nope, not yet.
PM: OH!! We’re on the long diagonal! NOW we canter!
ME: This is not the test you think it is. Trot on up here into my hand.
PM: Fine. But you won’t like it when I *do* canter!

We muddled through T3, and it was marginally better, but nothing special.
EXCEPT! Our canter circles were much improved! I had quit trying to balance her for the entire circle. It was making her mad. I must have just been getting in her way. Instead, I asked her to balance for *1 STRIDE*.

Whether she balanced or not, I released the request and just followed her for 3 strides. Then I asked again for *1 STRIDE*. And followed for the next 3 strides. She wasn’t as balanced, but she was happier. No head twisting, no explosions. A bit quick.

We had one more day to try to get this right.

Day 3 - Sunday
I started day 3 trying to send her to this longer connection. I focused on sitting back and “placing my shoulder blades on her croup.” She was feeling better in warm-up, but she was still not over the neck thing. I ignored the neck thing and pretended it wasn’t even happening. Intro C was down, but Training 2 went up yet again! I was feeling better about this! Back to the barn for our 4-hour break before T3… Just like yesterday…

After the break, she was warming up OK… We had some LOVELY canter transitions with following balanced canter strides! She felt soft and swingy. She was reaching for the bit. We headed to the ring…

Down center line we go, and she started bracing in the halt. It slid downhill from there. Fussy trot, then psycho canter! I could not get her cooperation for the lead! I wanted to smack her upside the head!! She consistently (not always, but consistently) gives me the correct lead. What is your deal mare??

I was so frustrated, I forgot where I was in the test and what came next. The judge dinged me for error of course and had me repeat the canter circle so I could fix the lead thing. She was, if anything, worse for the second attempt!

How to get a 47% at Training Level:
***experiencing technical difficulties***
After our failed canter, I just let go. I just tried to give her room. I just wanted my partner back!

When all was said and done, and I was pulling down braids, she was everywhere with her head and neck as I tried to cut her first and highest braid! She has always been sensitive up there on her neck, so maybe that one braid was just really bugging her all weekend! We’ll try to make it looser next time and see if that helps…


Back in dressage lessons, DQ has been giving me the secrets to regaining our connection once she has dropped it. It has opened up the door to our half-halts going through.

She is a mare.
She is wickedly smart.
As soon as we half-halt, she is second-guessing what I’m going to ask! At which point, I sit quietly, ask for continued connection, and ask for whatever it is on my own terms. Sometimes she throws a hissy fit – throw the head up and go for an upward transition (I don’t follow with my seat) throw the head up and downward transition (I send her back to the gait from which we left) she finally settles into a contact and sits on her butt a little (I ask for the transition) and she gives me something lovely, quiet, and uphill!

DQ always has good things to say about her. DQ tells her how clever she is and what a good mare she is and how talented she is. The jumping trainer said she is ridiculously athletic! Apparently, these things mean I have to work that much harder to get any sort of consistency out of our work.

Things I’m doing right:
- Soft forearms when I anchor my upper arms
- I don’t pull on the reins when I try to establish connection
- Sit quietly through hissy fits and wait patiently for her to come to my connection
- I can *feel* myself leaning to the left, even if I can’t always *do* anything about it…

It may not have been an easy ride last night, but it was moving in the right direction with lots of little things to celebrate!

When I can't decide between the memory of the Old Man and the thrill of shows to come, I just wear both bracelets at the same time!


  1. Can you give her a really long Arab bridle path so you don't have to do that top braid? Can you install a new brain that doesn't anticipate tests? Lol. If you can, let me know!

    1. Ha-ha! I actually considered the long Arab bridle path, but her neck is soooo lovely with the shorter one (hence longer line of braids), and I'm worried that if I take it back that nect 2 inches, it might break her neck in unattractive places or make it look short. However, it is still on the table as a last resort!
      After I try just making that braid a little looser or something...

      Installing a new brain? Well, we've been working on that for 7 months now! ;)
      We can always try to ride the Beginner Novice eventing test in a fancy arena at recognized shows... At least you don't halt at X upon entry in that one!

      We are riding at a schooling show next week (yeah, on Wednesday evening of all things!) and I decided to start with Intro B so she rides a test where we don't canter at all and see if that helps. Somehow, they always know when you're actually at a show and when you're actually being judged. :\



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...