I had a really craptastic day Tuesday. After getting some really bad news about a family member, I went out to my car and found this:
God Damn you, Siri. I had started letting her out of her crate when she was in the car because she had been doing SO WELL. We were about 6 months post crate when she decided the passenger seat of my Subaru was really tasty. I about lost it and considered just leaving her in the parking lot and driving away.
But, instead, I put her in her crate in my car and drove to the barn. Being sad while also fuming is a weird emotion to try to describe. I tried my best to let it all go, as I had a jump lesson on June in 60 minutes.
Thirty minutes later, as I was tacking up June, I was still a bit of a sad/angry mess. So, before starting to lunge June, I asked Sarah if one of two things would be possible. I explained my current state and how I really didn’t want to get on June and have an explosion of emotion. So, would she consider riding June? And if that wasn’t ideal, could we just jump a grid or something simple where I didn’t have to think “turn here, remember your course?”
Sarah was game to ride June, but also game to set up a straightforward jump exercise. Since June has been feeling great, and I really, really, wanted to ride, I decided to hop on her.
And I am so glad I did.
We’re almost three weeks into the Gastrogard and for the last couple of rides, June has felt like a different horse. She is calm on the lunge line, but really forward under saddle. It’s really lovely. She used to be a bit of a kick ride, but recently I’m having to execute half halts and do lots and lots of transitions to get her to listen to me and not just trot as fast as she can. I never knew I would enjoy a forward horse this much, but it’s been really fun. Also, the buck, while I am sure it is still in there, seems to have gone on vacation. I ask for the canter and she canters. Our transitions are smooth and just not an issue.
Excited to do some jumping in our lesson, we started by working on maintaining a nice rhythm as well as staying straight through a set of poles on the ground. Sarah brought two flower boxes out and set them up at the third pole in the line. She asked me to walk up and over it. June’s ears shot forward as we approached it but she didn’t waiver. After doing this a couple of times in each direction we then approached it at the trot. She gave it some room as she jumped over, but it was calm and lovely. She landed in the canter and was easy to bring back to the trot.
As the lesson progressed, June got a bit stronger in the bridle. She began to anticipate the jump and would quicken through the turn and hollow as we approached. So, as often happens with green horses, we stopped worrying about a jump lesson, and instead worked on remaining calm with a consistent rhythm. And while I love that June appears to love jumping, the last thing I want is a horse who is like “WE JUMP NOW! MUST GET TO THE JUMP!” And moderately loses its mind. Instead, I want a horse who thinks “We’re jumping? YAY! Ok, fine, I’ll maintain this rhythm, ok, I’m adjustable, ok, fine, your way works.” That’s the hope, right? We worked a bunch on approaching the line of poles to the jump in a walk, trot, circling, and just asking her to relax and listen to what I was asking. In the end, I have to say, she was really great and I am loving this forward horse I have, especially as she begins to listen to my aids and understand what I am asking of her.
Our second to last time over the flower boxes she did this funny little hop on the backside. I wouldn’t call it a buck, or even a kick, it was more like she was trying to swap leads and just hopped. Instead of pulling and clamping I laughed and just kept going. Guys, I didn’t freak out that she was going to buck. Sarah, asked me to come through the line one more time. So, we came back to the trot, appoached the line calmly without having to circle first, jumped the flower boxes, and cantered on the back side without issue. It’s like if I stay calm, she stays calm.
This ride, although simple, was the highlight of my day. If I can ride June this calmly even when my mind is racing, it must mean that she makes me happy. Because even when we had to work through her hollowing and quickening, nothing escalated. We just slowly worked on understanding what was expected. She never got pissy or naughty. She just acted like a green horse. And I reacted kindly and fairly. And it was SO FUN.
Sometimes, a ride on your pony really is what helps.