I have had a few major life changes lately, mostly for the worse. Quite a few things were piling up on me and one of the heaviest was having an unsound horse. I know that she just had a night out on the farm and pulled something somewhere, but it wasn't getting better and since she wasn't really ride-able I didn't have my stress relief mare to go to when all else fell apart.
That all changed on Monday. I had the inclination that by Monday she was going to be back to normal after I had lunged her on the weekend (due to time constraints it was all I could do). I decided to put on the saddle and try to really ride again, man am I glad I did! It was much quieter out at the barn since I went earlier in the day before everyone gets out of work/class and Bijou was still finding things to be distracted by, though they were much fewer and farther between. One of Joujou's pasturemates was being trained to ground tie without grazing by her oh-so-evil mom who would flick a lunge whip stick with a scary plastic crinkly thing at the end every time she tried to eat, which Bijou looked at, but did not react to, and got patted every time she trotted past. For some reason, she was just more submissive... I don't know if it's because she's finally feeling better or what, but rather than fight about every little bit of contact that I tried to put on her, she took it and almost asked for more. She wasn't hanging on me, but it was almost like she needed just a constant heavier contact than what I'm used to. We worked on lots of trotting, mostly in straight lines, that was round and collected and forward without being rushy. It was nice to have her in front of my leg without having her rushing around, which is one of her big habits.
We also did some trot poles, which I set purposely close to get her to think about where her feet need to be, rather than just getting over those damn scary things as fast as she possibly can. This resulted in her being VERY bouncy and stepping on a pole or two at first, but then she settled in and took her time over them. I also set up one ground pole to help with our canter transitions. This part might get a little long winded... I've noticed that she is much more sensitive on her left side than she is on her right. This is true when I'm lunging her, riding, or even just handling her. She shies away from the fly spray more on her left side, leg yields away from my left leg better, reacts to smaller movements on the lunge when she's going to the left, etc. This presents an interesting problem when I'm practicing canter transitions, because I use my left leg to cue her into the right lead canter. I don't boot her, or even really nudge at all, I just lay my leg against her, and she leaps and charges into the canter. What's even more confounding is that most of the time she charges into the left lead canter... big no-no, so I quickly get her back to a trot, and set her up again, and cue again. Except now she's in a tizzy waiting for me to use that left leg. She gets nervous in the place where I cued her before and starts tossing her head and bouncing around like an idiot. So to keep her from anticipating I try to catch her off guard which hasn't been working so well.
This is where the pole comes in. I know it is kinda cheating, but I trot her at the single pole and encourage a big bounding trot up to it, and most of the time she comes off of the pole in a canter. I canter her around for a bit, and then go back to trotting the pole at a medium pace so that she doesn't always canter the pole and can't really anticipate any cue from me so she doesn't get all worried. This resulted in some of the nicest canter we've had in a long time. I figure if I get results, then I have to be doing something right, right?
I think for next time (once the weather dries up) I'll try getting her to listen to my seat more and see if that helps. Any other suggestions are welcome too.