Friday, May 15, 2015

From Failure to Success

Lately my first instinct when I go to the barn is to ride Griffin. My recent rides on Q have been wonderful, but really all I desire is to ride my grey horse. I don't know why. Maybe because he's typically the easier one of the two to deal with and I've got enough other things going on that I want to go out to the barn and enjoy an "easy" ride.

...except Griffin has been anything but easy lately!

I have fully arrived at the conclusion that Griffin is just a horse who needs consistent work. I need to make more of an effort to put in 3 days a week on him. (Because I simply cannot regularly strive to fit in more than 3 days. I'm far too busy; if I had one horse, it would be different.)

All the same, I've managed to turn our rides from horrible into good recently. It's a testament to how much calmer my mindset on life is in recent months. A rough start doesn't send me into a tizzy, I just rewind and work back through things in a different manner to best help my horse to find some success.

I'd hoped to do primarily jumping last night with Griffin. But best laid plans are just that, plans.

I set out two parallel ground poles for Griffin, an exercise from the 101 Jumping Exercises book, that we would use at the intersection of a figure-8. First we just walked through the poles as we bent around the 8. Then I changed it up to be a downward transition within the poles. A walking figure-8 meant we would halt between the poles; Griffin excelled. A trotting figure-8 meant we would walk between the poles; this started well and then fizzled into a mess.

Griffin initially picked up this LOVELY little western pleasure jog. He was reaching into the bit and listening so well. I praised him immensely. He'd slow to a walk between the poles, NBD. But as is becoming routine with this horse, he became more and more bottled up that he *gasp* wasn't allowed to go faster.

By our 4th round of the trot to walk figure-8, he was giving these grunts and tiny squeals with every walk to trot transition. He literally sounds like some kind of mutant guinea pig when he makes his little squeals - they're abbreviated in length, and muted in comparison to many noise a horse can make. They're also indicative of the high potential for an outburst from him in the near future.

By round 5 of trot-walk, he was popping his front end up into one or two canter strides in protest as he departed into the trot. Grunt. Squeal. Pop the front end a couple times. Then settle, but with an attitude about it. Rinse. Repeat. -_-

I decided to move the exercise into canter with a downward trot transition to see if a round or two of this would settle him a bit. Perhaps if he got to move out he'd just calm the F down?

*buzzzzz* WRONG.

What a shit.

Cue epic flailing, crow hopping, and baby bucking.


After the pictured flail, I dismounted and lunged his sassy ass for a moment or two to reset him.

I then remounted and took him over to the path that the tractor takes to the upper pasture and made him canter up it and walk down it twice. He was a saint for that.

However, reentering the field, his attitude returned.

I know the horse likes to canter, but we've already established that cantering isn't the answer. It's worth noting, he only thinks cantering is the answer when we are flatting. If we're on the trail he's game for many other options. Additionally, his newest attitude trigger is *gasp* pressure on his sides from a rider's legs. Heaven forbid I provide any inkling of a leg aid. Any leg pressure clearly means CANTER RIGHT NAO. No, no it doesn't you silly grey horse. And once again, this is a problem only intermittently presented when we're doing flat work that never presents on the trail.

I'm fairly confident it's just his newest way of testing his boundaries with me. The past year or so it was any pressure on his mouth, now it's any pressure on his side. He picks something to overreact to and see how far he can get. It's been his way with basically everything ever in hindsight. *waggles finger at Griffin* You silly horse, I'm learning your ways!

And so, with attitude firmly reestablished, I rewound back to the beginning of riding exercises.

Flex left. Flex right. Rinse. Repeat. Give to the pressure and stand quietly.

Except he couldn't be quiet about it. Instead, he spun in manic circles in each direction for the first attempt at each side. *sigh* However, once the light bulb came on, it stayed on.

We then walked. We walked a lot in a straight line. And then we halted and stood. Walk on. Halt. Stand. Walk on. Halt. Stand. Rinse. Repeat.

We continued to repeat the above, except we added backing after the halt before we walked on. He had a bit more of an attitude about that, but grasped it after a few repetitions.

I omitted the backing and the frequency of halting after he'd calmed. We walked and added some bending to our walking. Slowly, Griffin became more supple, lowered his headset, and reached for the bit. Much better.

So we began working over the ground poles at that very pleasant walk.

The camera angle doesn't do much for his hind end...

That was much better. So much in fact, that after several more circuits, we added the trot back in.

Much more control, focus, and steady rhythm now!

So then, because I knew it was really all he wanted to do, I rewarded him with a little jumping before we called it a night.

Yep. There's the horse I knew was hiding under all that attitude.

Much better. And talk about a turn around from the beginning of the night!!

To review:

Beyond rewinding to basics before building back up, the biggest good thing I did tonight was to continue to work him after he began to turn around his attitude. Gone are the days of quitting after the very first good note I can find in order to reward his ego without over working him. He's old enough now that I can't always cease our sour sessions with the first small good thing. He's picking up on the fact that he doesn't have to work very hard when I do that. It's time for him to learn that quality work is expected on a regular basis. Quality can be a quality halt, a quality walk, or quality work doing faster gaits or jumping. Attitude will not be accepted, it will be redirected.

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