Monday, November 25, 2013

Problems and Solutions

My gadget post seems to have unintentionally opened a small can of worms.

Re-reading it (and accidentally taking it down for a few hours as a result of doing all of that on my phone app - sorry!), I realize I did a piss poor job of explaining some things, and I made some unfair assumptions that people would piece together things from past posts in order to understand my reasoning better. Writing and blogging can be tricky! I'll do my best in all future posts to better explain my line of reasoning/refer to old posts.

I'd like to state immediately though, how thankful I am for the interest of others and the guidance they're willing to provide. This little community of folks is so awesome. I really appreciate the help and support we're able to give each other. Sometimes it does suck to read, at least at first, but it always triggers (at least for me) so much more thought, introspection, and investigation into things. Thank you. Without these moments, I wouldn't be able to grow as a horse person. In fact, this post is a direct result of comments and guidance received on that post. I've thought of little else horse-related since.

To rectify my poor job of explaining and my assumptions in that previous post, I will now review [some of] Griffin and Q's problems and my start at finding a solution for them.

- Griffin tossed me off pretty good back in September. I made light of it because that's how I approach difficult things in my quest to learn from them and not dwell on the bad of a situation. However, the seriousness of it wasn't lost on me.

His episode in rodeo bronc-ing was a breaking point for me. He'd had a series of outbursts over time, and getting bucked off in such a violent way really led me to thinking hard about: what I was doing to cause them, what similarities existed in each episode, and what ways I could approach to remedy the problem.

Conclusion? Almost all of the episodes where he pitched his royal little fits (still relatively minor on the grand scale of horse fits) were triggered from me requesting something that applied pressure to his mouth. Sometimes he'd spazz over a request from my leg, but I'm fairly certain these were times he'd reached his breaking point from the pressure on his mouth first - my leg just sent him over the edge.

It bears saying right now, I don't immediately haul around on my horses mouths or kick them unduly. I always offer the good deal first, and then I increase the form of my request until they respond. I am not violent. Griffin has always learned this way from day one with me and he is SO clever at figuring things out. I think its why, even in his short time under saddle, he is so good about moving off my leg. But I can't very well go around teaching him to move about exclusively from my legs! (Okay, well, I'm sure I could try, but there would eventually come a time when it would be inappropriate!) And, in like, I cannot have a horse who gets offended and freaks out about the bit in his mouth causing even a small amount of pressure.

- Q has changed a lot lately. I don't know that I've mentioned it greatly on the blog other than individual moments of her being a spazz. I tend to push away her idiocy and focus on how awesome she is because when she's on, she's SO on. And her awesomeness has always outshone her stupid moments. Of late though, I'm having a hard time ignoring the stupid.

Since the introduction of the Friesian sporthorse to the herd, her personality is very different. It took me a few months to realize that his arrival is very likely the trigger for her new issues (and reintroduction of old issues). The trip to Fort Valley really struck the point home though. I got my girl away from home and her friends and she went right back to being amazing. Something about that big, rude gelding just sends her into a tizzy.

Some problems she's had since I got her (e.g., being weird about her feet being handled, whirling around when tied in the barn, trailering, lack of attention to me when working on the lunge/at liberty in the round pen), but they've been blown out of proportion since Eli's introduction. Other problems (e.g., her spookiness under saddle, her attitude on the lunge and in the round pen) have become so severe that I question working her or taking her out to ride at all a lot of days.

Her spooks under saddle are awful now. What was once some over-zealous side passing or change of gait in response to something potentially dangers, is now a horizontal teleport violently away from something or a violent slamming of the brakes from whatever gait she was going at.

You all ride, you know how awful that kind of spooking is. I know I'm a balanced rider. I wouldn't be where I am with riding if I wasn't! Q's violent leaps sideways hurt my back and scare me. Her halts from a big trot or a canter to a standstill throw me from the saddle every time.

I don't like to get hurt. No one does.

Her work on the lunge and at liberty in the round pen has also changed dramatically. Where I had a forward and slightly distracted horse before, I now have a manic horse that wheels around and around in a high-headed panic. Its awful.

- When Griffin's increasing fits related to pressure on his mouth started to click in my mind, I began ground driving again and added work the Fauxssoa. Within a few short sessions (20 minutes max with the Fauxssoa with some warm up/cool down without it) I noticed a huge difference in him under saddle. It was SO nice to have him realize that me doing something with my hands didn't mean he should immediately spazz. Instead, every time at the walk and the majority of the time at the trot, he would instead reach into the pressure and put himself into what looked and felt like (to my untrained senses) a very nice little frame. He was soft and responsive. It was beautiful.

But if we worked above the walk (even for the shortest of periods!!), he'd get eager and was quick to take offense to pressure again. He'd start pitching his fit. And, then, Liz was hucked off in an extraordinary [for Griffin] way. Weeeee! Not.

That brief intro to flying was my breaking point. My ankle was hurt and not getting better quickly. My first 50 on Q was less than a month away! I couldn't risk not getting to ride in it because of my angsty little teenager, Griffin.

So I quit riding him/working much with him for the whole month of October while I prepped Q and myself. But I didn't quit thinking about HOW I would approach things with him after the race.

I planned on more ground driving and more Fauxssoa and looked into other things. I wanted to spend a good month putting the little guy through his paces without me on his back. I wanted him to really truly understand that some pressure on his mouth shouldn't be cause for pitching a fit.

The ground driving helps a TON. But I can't do it (for long) above a walk. And where his issues really sit is above the walk. In the episodes in the round pen and on the lunge his fit pitching only occurs when I request trot and canter. (And no, it isn't all the time, and I'm not concerned that it is caused by anything other than him trying to get away with being snotty.) I wish I had some video to offer of his squealing protests to my requests as they are quite comical! I'm not usually one to anthropomorphize my animals, but I really can't think of a better comparison than to call him a teenager who is pissed at his parents for telling him to clean his room or something. He gripes about it to see if he can get away with not doing it, and then settles into getting it done. He's testing me.

He's smart, too, so if I let him get away with things or allow him to put two and two together that bucking = me coming off = end of work for a time (time = time it takes me to catch the little shit and get back on if I'm not too hurt to do so), I'm screwed!

And so not in an effort to put him in a frame, not in an effort to try to fix his muscling to work in a frame, not in an effort to find the fast-track to a supreme-o looking dressage pony, the Fauxssoa/chambon have been my efforts to get my little grey horse to realize that pitching a fit will not solve things when pressure on his mouth is concerned.

And looking back, I've done a piss-poor job of making that clearer than I have on the blog. Talking with some of you so often outside of blogland has made me complacent in blog land about fully explaining things. I apologize!

Photos of Griffin that I take don't really do everything justice and have made life more confusing, I fear. I have videos, too, but they're really awful because I'm trying to handle the lunge whip and the camera and keep my body position as such to dictate that the horse should continue. I'm almost always ALONE when I work my horses. Dee stays up at the house. I don't have help filming or in other realms that would be helpful with everything.

I try to give photos so that I can get responses and guidance from y'all. I'm very sorry they've caused confusion. I'm still learning the best way to explain things.

- As far as Q with some sort of gadget is concerned, I really just want to redirect her issues with lunging and round penning and get her to work in the frame she will give me under saddle. I can't watch and observe myself riding her to judge things. I would like her to be able to build muscle in "good" places, and would like to better observe her way of going while she's doing this so that I can apply things under saddle better. I wish so much that I wasn't so far from lessons (a 2 hour minimum haul) and horse professionals in my realms of interest.

What I (and Q and later Griffin) could really benefit from is time with a good trainer to help reinforce, reteach, and introduce new things. With Q, it would be so nice to have someone that knew what to look for to just lunge her while I was riding so that I could focus on things and not have to worry about "making the horse go forward" while I focus on other things. At least for a short time.

But alas, things are as they are and I'm determined to make the best of it!

Gadgets definitely are not a forever solution. I'm too cheap (haha, obviously with my ghetto crafting) and too impatient to spend excessive time with them. I definitely prefer to ride and I definitely agree with Dom on how you need to have a feel for things that gadgets can't do. I just need my horse to allow me to use contact without pitching me off to get to that point. =) Or, in Q's case, I really want to spend some time to get her to recognize that groundwork can - in fact - be as pleasant as our work under saddle. I think it would help her to build "good" muscle if she could work well without my flopping in the saddle. =)

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