Thursday, August 3, 2017

Growing a spine

It occurred to me that I hardly ever take pictures when I'm at the barn.  So I made a point of getting some new pictures of my horse.  And they cleaned the mirrors in the indoor!

Bliss is finding a matchy matchy ear net in the bargain bin

It's all very exciting.  Honestly, I've been so boring lately.  I ride the pony in the indoor far more than I want because the deer flies are ravenous after noon and I can't ride in the mornings with the job.  Hello client deployment!  They're not interested in changing that schedule so that I can take my horse out trail riding or schooling in the outdoor.  At least tomorrow it will be a different indoor, give him some variety.  And Sunday is a two phase, so totally different.

Geraniums are not tasty

I've started reading Balancing Act by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann.  Highly recommended, I'll do a proper review later.  But it has made me sit down and really think about what's going on with Theo and how I'm approaching it.  On the one hand, mi papi's so common that it's ridiculous.  The examples of the horse hollow to the right?  That's my life, written out in clear detail complete with diagrams.  It's kind of embarrassing as I expand my reading more and more.  Theo is common place, a horse that's hollow right.  It's an example in every book I read, half of the articles on straightness and training, it's everywhere.  And I didn't realize it. 

I agree with everything I'm reading.  You can't make a horse relax with force and without relaxation, you can't get the best movement possible.  Tense, forced horses break down.  While the pendulum is swinging back in dressage, there are still millions of pictures of braced, tense, unhappy horses with freakishly high front legs running around.  I agree that force isn't the way.  And yet . . .

It's interesting working through all of the reflexive excuses my mind comes up with to defend my choices when they're in conflict with my stated beliefs.  At the end of the day, there's no excuse.  I picked a shortcut.  I picked mechanical advantage to fix my training problem.  Am I harming him?  I don't think so.  I used a single draw rein set to his side, not between his front legs.  I used it twice.  Total.  And when I curried him this week, he let me curry his poll for the first time.  On both sides.  He leaned into it and lowered his head so I could get a better angle.  This horse used to refuse to let me touch his poll, much less dig in one of those long tooth curry combs.

Shedding his summer coat already, this horse is seriously a Stark of Winterfell

Yes, I cheated.  I took a mechanical short cut that wasn't needed.  But I'm a mere mortal faced with a horse that's not a modern sport horse.  He doesn't 'go round' just because he's breathing.  He will always go with a more open poll angle.  It's how he's built.  Even with mechanical advantage, he's not vertical (it helps that the angle on the draw rein is to the side, not down).  I can't move forward if his poll is a locked up disaster area.  It took years for him to learn that, it will take me the rest of his life to fix it.  And, like a rusted in place bolt, sometimes it needs a whack to get it started.

But, continuing with the analogy, continuing to whack it won't actually fix it.  Once it's moving I need to carefully work it the rest of the way loose and then maintain it properly. 

Rebraiding the forelock for the week, letting his inner rocker out

Excuses are easy.  Making a choice is much harder.  I'm girding my loins for the inevitable moment where I refuse to use the draw rein or tighten my noseband or add a flash or any of the other things that are so common place in my area.  I may already be done with the draw rein.  I really can't justify it if I'm honest with myself and I'm not enjoying feeling guilty.  Theo had his two temper tantrum rides but has since settled in to his new reality of not being a giraffe.  Careful flexing and circles and suppling to the right are starting to get me some jaw movement.  Not a lot, but a start, just enough to get a bit of lipstick on the good days.  The active fight may be over and with it, any actual need for a mechanical advantage.  The only thing I can truly say in my defense is that I'm a petite woman with a bad shoulder.  My horse easily overpowers me.  But that's done now.  We may be ready to move on with correct training.

And it might be time for me to grow a spine and pick the longer, harder, more correct road. Because mi papi isn't a rusted bolt.


  1. Keep your head up. The fact that you're re-evaluating your entire approach means you're thinking and learning, and that's the most you can ask from anyone.

  2. "... where I refuse to use the draw rein or tighten my noseband ..." Glad to hear. I thought about commenting when you talked about the draw rein & the noseband & 'forcing' him to go right. But, then I figured I don't know you, it's your life, & the Internet has enough trolls already. Yay for harmony!

    Will you go back to the draw rein trainer? What did Trainer A say when y'all talked about going in the ring unprepared?