Sunday, February 13, 2011


I ended up deleting my posts on the original thread on COTH so I can't post it here for reference, but my Go!-Boy, Ivan dumped me a couple weekends ago. It was pretty much my fault for setting him up to give me a flying lesson. I started the thread thinking I might have to change his bit even though I didn't want to, so I posted on the COTH forum asking for advice about what bit to switch it to, and it ended up being a huge trainwreck.

So the short version of what happened is I lunged him first then rode him for longer than I should. It was more than an hour and a half. Two hours might be an exaggeration, but the bottom line is it was a heck of a lot longer than I should ever have been on him since he's still such a youngun, has a short attention span, AND since he was being good. I should have just ended it early on a good note, but I got kind of swept away with the fact that he was being good and wanted to keep riding. So I asked for a canter, he got bored, saw another horse on the other end of the property, made a mad dash to check out what was going on. Ignored a one rein stop, played dodgeball with the barn, a tree, and the roundpen, I lost both stirrups when we nearly smacked into the barn and then the tree, then I rolled off on a sharp turn because I was perched forward on his neck when avoiding the tree.

Ok, so that's the background info of what happened. That was Saturday two weeks ago. Since then, the weather here has been either cold or nasty wet, and we also had a couple days of snow. It has kind of limited our riding time and the footing has been too yucky to do much. So before our lesson yesterday, I'd only ridden him once or twice and only done a day or two of lunge line on the days it was just too darn cold to ride. Truthfully, I've been more than a little nervous about cantering him because though he has decent balance without a rider, he's not as balanced at the canter with a rider yet, plus he dumped me and that shook my confidence, plus if he decides to take off and I don't recognize the signal, he will pull right on through my stop command. We've been working on reinforcing the whoa. He doesn't like that command much. He's always in go mode, but he's learning.

So as to the lesson. I will mention that because of the weather and moving my horses at the beginning of the year, our last lesson was a while ago, well before I got dumped. We've been trying to get on the schedule for the last four weeks, and stuff has kept coming up. We kept wanting to do it at Robin's, but between weather and her going out of town and then me going out of town, it just didn't come together. It had been 6 weeks since our last lesson when I got dumped. So we finally managed to get together yesterday after more than a month off. We've gone back to the basics and are really really reinforcing transitions. Lots of walk/halt transitions. Lots of walk/trot/walk/halt transitions. Over and over and over.

Here I was charging ahead with hoping to get him showing training or first level this spring, and I forgot that he doesn't really know a solid whoa on verbal command. Whoa to him used to be over a quarter mile (random figure, not sure if it was over 20 strides, a furlong, a quarter mile, whatever, but it sure as heck wasn't instant). Now I'm going back to square one and teaching him whoa using verbal, rein, and seat cues, and we're going to practice these until he will stop with just the seat. Same with trot to walk transitions. That dominated a good bit of the lesson, which granted, are things I know how to do on my own, but it certainly helped having eyes on the ground. So much of what I'm doing with Ivan are things that I'm having to remind myself to do with him. He's trained, I mean, he was a finished horse and professionally racing before I got him, but now I'm having to UNTRAIN him and ask him to do what I would like to do with him.

Anyway, back to the lesson. I know this is kind of an epic post, and that I have a tendency to write epic posts. So the lesson consisted of lots of transitions, reinforcing bend and keeping him off the rail with my outside leg at the same time, and finally, last but not least, we did CANTER! I was nervous about doing it on him. My mare, Classy Lady, will run my leg into the fence, into a tree on the trail, anything convenient really if she feels that our session has gone on long enough. She's just a bitch like that. Ivan won't intentionally run me into a rail, but he DOES move very closely to the rail to maximize space and help him keep his balance at a faster gait. This ends up sandwiching my outside leg into itty bitty living space while aboard my furry freight train. Trying to canter inside such a small space as a roundpen means a smaller circle, which is harder for him to balance on, still keeps me nervous about the rail, plus gives me more that I have to do with my legs AND keep control, keep my own balance, and keep calm all at the same time.

Cantering on Ivan went well. I was nervous about it, but it was better to get over it and reinstall some of my confidence in him (and myself while on him). We had a bit of a rough start. I got tense and was more or less perched on him with my butt not even touching the saddle. A second attempt had my hiney polishing that Passier like it was supposed to, and a third attempt went even better. Cantering in the other direction actually went even more smoothly. We ended on a good note when he managed to slow from a canter to a trot when asked entirely by my seat and nothing else. It was such a relief to realize that I still can not act like a complete greenie and can canter on my own darn horse. It also helped when I remembered to breathe, hehe.

So for the rest of the week until our next lesson, we're beating our brains out with transitions. Slow transitions, bending, and most of it inside the boring confines of the darn roundpen. Our one highlight will be walking up and down hills to build up his hiney, but only within the confines of our pasture. *sigh* Thank goodness Ivan is such a willing boy. As long as I can keep his focus and attention span, we'll be ok.

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