In my Plans for 2019 post, I mentioned that our first big plan was a clinic/lesson with Gary Mittleider. This was our first lesson with an instructor other than Sarah. Going into the lesson I was feeling pretty good about things? I mean, I know June is a green baby but I figured we’d be ok with what was asked of us.
But then the lesson I had prior to this clinic put me in a horrible head space. June and I have struggled with the canter going right. In this particular lesson I COULD NOT GET THE RIGHT LEAD. Like, it wasn’t happening. Left- lovely. Right-unattainable. We worked and worked and nothing. To the point where Sarah said “I don’t know how you feel but do you want” and I yelled “YES” knowing that she was kindly asking if maybe she should hop on June and try. Not surprisingly she got the correct lead immediately.
This was tough for me. Not because I was surprised, I mean Sarah is a pro with lots of experience on baby horses. But because this was the first thing I was absolutely unable to do. And it was clearly completely my issue. I MAY have broken down a little post lesson and may have said “Why am I even starting this horse? I’m ruining her!” Dramatic? Yes. But I was feeling like shit and, well, maybe head space when starting a baby horse should be a blog post of its own.
So, I knew, going into the clinic with Gary, that the right lead canter was perhaps going to be an issue. But I decided to not worry about it. So many other things to work on! Right lead canter may not even come up. Cause, you know, there are so many times in clinics when you only go left. Uh huh.
For me, the toughest part about riding in clinics is that you are part of a group. Therefore, if something isn’t going well, or needs work, you can’t just stop the planned exercise and work on that one thing. There are other people in the group who can’t not progress with the exercise because of one horse. So, lesson number 1? We’re probably not ready for a group lesson. This exercise was advanced for where June and I are currently, and therefore, we really struggled. And instead of just working on what we were struggling with (which was a multitude of things) we would kind of just move on and make it work, and IMO that’s not really beneficial.
To start the lesson, Gary had us trot a ground pole on the right side of the arena, turn left, pick up the canter, and canter over a ground pole on the other side. Lovely, simple, and straightforward. But, June was SO distracted by the ghost at the north end of the arena that when we trotted the ground pole, she then spooked right and as Gary was yelling “Straight Line!” we were trotting like drunken sailors. I picked up the canter, got her to stop looking out, and instead look to the upcoming ground pole and we cantered to it. And then June decided she needed to show off a wee bit.
But what was worse was that she landed, and instead of coming back to the trot, just grabbed the bit and kept cantering. So, we got reprimanded for that. And did the exercise again. Again, unable to go straight after the ground pole, but this time we did just canter over the other one, and we did come back to the trot, even though it didn’t look pretty.
After the other rider went, he asked us to do the same exercise, but going right. We were ok over the ground pole at the trot and then picked up the wrong lead; Gary hollered just to keep going. And she did this AGAIN.
So, June was distracted and a bit eager for most of the lesson which was not helping. We did that line well enough (although always on the wrong lead) that Gary did set a couple of tiny jumps. And, well, things didn’t get better.
June ran at the jumps, and I wasn’t getting her to adjust at all. She was spooky and distracted which was making everything I was asking that much harder. At one point, things really just started to unravel. We would start by going left, and then change rein through the middle of the arena. We were asked to pick up the right lead canter, make a sharp right turn and jump a tiny jump.
It was all fine until we would change rein and get ready to canter. There were horses tied up on the inside of the arena and I knew that if I got too close to them June would probably kick them. So now, I’m trying to pick up the correct lead, which I hadn’t done once in 45 minutes, turn, AND jump.
It got worse and worse. We never got the correct lead, and trying to turn your unbalanced green horse on the wrong lead, to a jump on about a 15 meter circle? Not gonna happen. At least with this team.
And it ended up looking like this
June was done. She would stop about two strides out and NOT GO FORWARD. So, we took another break. And I would love to tell you that it was all unicorns and perfection after that, but it wasn’t. Gary was great- he probably was as frustrated with the lesson as I was, but he chatted with me for a while afterwards and kept reminding me that the most important thing to have when you’re riding a baby horse- is a sense of humor. Mine was lost about 15 minutes into the lesson unfortunately.
We agreed that having Sarah ride June and get the right lead canter solid was a good idea. Lucky for me, Sarah likes June. Even better, she was willing to let me take her to dinner and construct a plan for June’s immediate future. I was pretty much ready just to give June to Sarah, but instead, we agreed on a training plan, and I think it’ll work out really well. We’ll both be riding her, but I’ll be working on refining what June already knows and she’ll help the progression to new things and getting June to really understand what is being asked of her. I’m really lucky to have such an incredible trainer and friend.
So, 2019 plans didn’t start off with a bang. But that’s ok- baby horses will never make things a linear path. Actually, horses never make things a linear path. I still love this mare so incredibly much, and I’m hopeful we’ll be less frustrated with each other after a little reprieve.