Forward was the theme for my rides this weekend despite the fact that Nay Nay was slow and lazy.
Saturday it was windy and the day started off sunny but freezing with 15-20mph winds. My favorite kind of day. My original plan was to ride in the morning before my farrier appointment, but it was so cold that… I just didn’t. So, I broke my rule of not riding after the farrier and rode after our trim. The wind died down late afternoon and things were fine. Nay was fine. Possibly a touch foot sore? But, it was only questionable when we were trotting and he worked out the iffy-ness at the canter. Again, no lameness, but a little (not even) tenderness, more just lazy, not really going to put full effort out or move truly forward. It’s hard to describe. But we cantered and even though we were both huffing and puffing after our canter (slow as freaking molasses), everything felt better after that.
I sent up some small fences (2 verticals) and decided if I felt brave, I’d tackle a gate and the straw bales. Both the verticals were part of lines (as was the gate) so I had to be strategic how I tackled them less I teach Nay Nay to go around them, and the straw bales? Set up without standards so they were all about steering. Lol. Just 2 random bales on down the long side.
Thinking over the past week, I realized that I’ve been expecting way too much from Nay Nay. When I approach something small, I expect he’ll jump it. We’re not there yet. Or, if we do something 3 times in a row, I expect he’ll jump it the 3rd time. We’re not there yet. As a result, I don’t ride and Nay decides he needs to make a decision. Sometimes he jumps and makes the right decision, sometimes he says, “Oh! Freedom! Let’s not do this!” Right now, until he knows he doesn’t get to make that choice (unless, dangerous), I need to ride and ask at the base every time. I need to be assertive. If I’m assertive, if I add leg (or spur), I then can expect him to jump because leg/spur means forward.
So, turning to our first vertical, I added spur because he was asleep and he immediately woke up and cantered (LOL) and I wasn’t quite ready to canter my first jump without my trainer there. So without using much hand and still apply that leg (yay for voice training trot), Nay came back to the trot and jumped the snot out of his vertical because? I rode. No pause, no hesitation. There was no way we weren’t jumping it. We repeated it several times and while the enthusiasm died a bit (he jumped and cantered out vs jumping a foot over the thing), it was all good.
We did the same thing to the next jump. It didn’t matter that this jump was in the location we had issues with. It was fine. Our approach wasn’t perfect but it was fine. Springy trot towards it, leg/spur, jumped with enthusiasm and no hesitation. Rinse, repeat.
So I was left with a dilemma. And decided to try the straw bales. We started to the left. I overrode in…fear that all my issues would come crawling back and… a little bay horse launched himself over the straw bales and cantered out. The second time? He carried himself to it while I still asked. After repeating this, I thought about ending because no good deed go unpunished, but decided to take on the other direction…
To the right, Nay Nay drifts in. I know this. And it was an issue. But, despite this, I caught it and we got over. Now, by calling him out on the drift, he did catch the straw bale with his left (I didn’t add as much leg here either as I was course-correcting) so we knocked a bale, but we got over. He doesn’t care. I hopped off, fixed it, and we proceeded to ride it perfectly now that I was prepared with extra inside leg and outside hand (so much work I need to do here). The 3rd attempt was even better and Nay Nay was so freaking proud of himself.
We stopped after that fence but holy crap. I think I finally get it? I could have it all wrong, but…? I ride, he jumps? Granted, everything was tiny, the straw bales being the largest, but the concepts are there…
Sunday my ride came early (a 1-9 workday ruining my weekend). Nay Nay was tired from his previous day’s work, but his trot work was lovely, if not slow. Things fell apart at the canter. There are days you pick your battles and there are days you don’t. I decided I just didn’t have time for a fight.
I struggled to pick up the canter. Nay just didn’t want to move forward. Like the trot, he just felt slow, but didn’t feel lame or even stiff. Once I got him cantering, the canter was completely fine, but his focus was anywhere but me. See, turnout was changing and 2 horses were face fighting outside the indoor and grunting/squeeling and I just couldn’t keep him focused. I ultimately managed to pick up the canter a few times, kept it down a long side, and asked for the trot and called bring him back myself a win. Sometimes picking a tiny victory is what you need…
Since he wasn’t necessarily himself, I didn’t exactly want to jump much. But, thought I pop over my 2 verticals (still set at yesterday’s height a couple times each). They were small enough to walk over and mostly I wanted to reinforce the lesson from the day before. Heading to the first fence, someone was focusing on anything but me… And tried to slam on the breaks because horses. Outside. More interesting. But somehow? New found confidence? Said NO WAY and kicked and next thing you know, we’re over without actually stopping. Maybe it was at the walk, but it was moving forward. We circled, trotted over without hesitation and immediately trotted our other vertical. Lesson learned.
And because I can’t leave well enough alone, I pointed him to the straw bales. And suddenly the feeling of slow and plodding disappeared and someone woke up. I guess he likes his straw bales? We did that each direction twice and called it a day. All was good (excepted something at the end of the arena was also distracting and causing him not to focus).
While Saturday’s ride was THE RIDE, Sunday’s was a lesson in how to handle distractions and picking battles. Ideally, Sunday would have just been a flat ride (my original plan), but I needed to work on something as someone’s brain had left the building. He definitely needed an easy recovery ride after Saturday, but if he’s going to let his brain leave the building, he’s going to have to work a little harder physically. Oh well, he can recover this week.
Now that it’s getting light in the evenings, I’m hoping to eventually get a ride in during the week. We could both use it! I’ve been on my own for an entire MONTH. Hopefully next week I will finally get a lesson! Or there will be a horse show. LOL.