Long time no post. That’s my new theme.
I just haven’t had all that much to say.
I’ve been dealing with the usual vertigo, migraines, and then someone pulled a shoe… So there was an unplanned vacation. And remnants of hurricane Ida rolled through and a tornado touched down in my small little town about 2 miles from my house. No damage here, but lots of damage nearby.
Despite all those interruptions, Nay Nay and I have actually made massive progress. While his left lead isn’t what I’d call reliable, it’s not a fight. We can and do pick it up every ride.
Since that awful lesson a few weeks ago, his lead has been pretty solid. In fact, I’ve found that as long as I set him up properly, he can and will pick up the lead. Shocking, right?
So what do we do?
First, it all starts at the walk and trot. In the (not so distant) past, I’d ALWAYS do a long warm up with lots and lots of circles, but my warm up wasn’t necessarily efficient. Now the goal of our time at the walk and trot is to make sure Nay is responding to leg/spur. If I use my left leg/spur, he’d better move over and off my leg immediately. It’s not a request, it’s a demand. If I ask him to bend, he bends. It’s amazing that once I stopped being wishy washy and started setting him up, everything else fell into place. So, at the walk and trot we established the correct shape, moving off my leg, holding the bend through corners and circles of all sizes, etc.
Next? I started holding a crop. I don’t NEED a crop, but the crop actually makes me more aware of where my hands are. It’s helped a lot. I stopped with the crop because I worried that Nay would get fast (I worry too much) but the damn crop doesn’t make him fast. Just like the spurs don’t make him fast. He doesn’t care. I use the crop more when he’s in the cross ties and won’t stop pawing. To him the crop is a tool, not something that tells him to speed up. So yeah. I find that I can use it against his neck as an anchor point when I need to remind myself hands to the outside and it helps with the bend and indirect rein. I also find that it helps me keep my hands closer together and lower. Why? I don’t know. I guess so I don’t have the crop swinging all over the place? Plus, if we do get into trouble, I can actually use it vs kicked or smacking him with my hand.
Finally, when I actually ask for the canter? 3 major things. Don’t rush. It doesn’t matter how well he’s set up if I rush, I will fail. Hands to the outside (Nay does start to anticipate at this point so we’re going to have to ultimately work through this piece). And finally, outside leg WAY WAY WAY back and tap with the spur. This is key. It tells him to get his back legs in and now is also his command to canter. At this point, most of the time if I just bring my leg back, Nay will launch into the canter. But the placement of my outside leg has been a game changer.
In my lesson yesterday, my trainer was actually impressed at how good his canter looked. Both leads actually. He fights going into the canter. Kind of a “I don’t want to! Groan, grunt, snort. Fine, I’m doing it, I’m so happy!” It’s funny. The fight is getting there. Getting to do what he doesn’t want to do. Once he gets over the hurdle? He doesn’t care. The fight usually makes you think, is it pain? But with Nay it’s more an attitude thing. He’s SO sound right now. We’ll get to this more in a moment.
We spent a little while cantering a circle over this tiny stone wall at the end of the ring. It was maybe 12″? But it was a good chance to work on maintaining the left lead and also the pace of the canter. Nay tried to play a bit in the corners (he was being a bit extra), but otherwise it was no big deal.
Next we worked on stringing together 2 easy jumps in a figure eight. First trotting and halting after each and then maintaining the trot throughout. We had moved down to the scary end of the arena (down by the road where people were mowing across the street), but generally while I care, Nay doesn’t. He’s a lot of things, but spooky isn’t one of them.
We walked up to look at the first jump which honestly pissed him off. He’s kind of over that practice. Lol. And then trotting to it he started crowhopping like a fool. It wasn’t the jump. Instead of continuing, I circled to get my balance, but I should have kept going. My mistake. But we reapproached, crowhopping and all, and popped over it. The jump was fine. He didn’t actually even overjump. He doesn’t do that anymore. And halted without issue. Then we tried to trot to the next fence and scooted and crowhopped and tried to pull out all the stops as we headed towards jump 2. We stopped and then managed to turn towards it, antics and all, and hop over it. Again, the jump was fine. It wasn’t the jump. On the landing, Nay got his head between his knees and had a party, but we halted. Rinse and repeat. Approach to the first jump the second time was fine. Turns out he wasn’t going to fight that one. And we halted and continued. The second AND third times to jump 2 were more of the same. He was slightly better on the landing the third time and I continued to hold a conversation with him hoping it would help (maybe it did? I was told to talk to him so I told him to stop being an idiot because I didn’t appreciate in the kindest softest voice possible). Finally on the 4th attempt we skipped the halt and maintained a better trot without any crow hops on approach or landing! The next time we added in a 3rd jump, trotting a broken line. We ended by holding the canter through the last 2 jumps.
In the end my trainer was impressed by how brave Nay has gotten over fences. Honestly? He LOVES to jump. I said that most of our issues come when we trot into things. He’s fine trotting but that’s when the crow hops happen or he anticipates. She said that picking up the canter is the thing that he fights so once he is cantering? He has nothing left to fight. Right now all of this is a training issue. He’s a moderate bully, kind of like a middle schooler. He’s trying to figure out what he can get away with. He’s trying to employ scare tactics to get out of work. He’s not trying to get me off his back. At no point in his crow hopping extravaganza was he ever trying to get me off his back. He wanted to get out of work. When we kept going despite the scare tactic? He stopped immediately.
Lesson here? Be brave and he’ll knock it off. He’s testing the waters to see what he can do and what he can get away with. He’s cheeky but he’s not mean. He’s not a bad bully, but he’s a bit of a bully.
That said, we are going to try a different bit. Just an elevator for a little bit. Same double jointed mouth piece he likes, but our hope is that the leverage will help me when he gets his head down or when he gets super heavy. I also need to tighten his noseband again… Oops. I keep it really loose but evidently too loose.