So my trainer and I have been having quite a hard time actually making it to our scheduled lessons. She picked up a part time job which means that our schedules only have a few overlapping free periods now. At first I was like "ok, time for me to practice all those exercises we were doing" but now that it's been several weeks I'm thinking "hmm... what were those exercises again??"
But I think I've made a few steps forward on my own (which I guess is what I was doing before the trainer came along anyways). I had been kinda cheating. You see, when I haven't gotten my lovely 7 yr old TB mare out in ~4 days, she becomes a crazy hot wild animal. So I lunged, and lunged, and lunged until the poor beast was sweating and puffing, and then I would get on and do some under saddle work that is surprisingly focused and fruitful! I guess some would call this cheating, and some would call it lunging the bucks out, but I know that I was using her being fresh as an excuse to avoid having to talk about her crazyness with her.
I don't really know how much sense that makes, but basically I would lunge my horse until she was a different horse, and then get on to ride my now placid mare. I think I was doing both of us a disservice by skipping over the important conversation that needs to take place between a fractious animal and its rider.
So... after Thanksgiving when the beast hadn't been ridden in like 6 days I just got on. I knew it was going to perhaps be a bit rocky, so I set some simple goals. I wanted to trot without hanging on her face for dear life. At first this started much as I had pictured. Cue giraffe impression. Oh yah, and then bolt half way across the arena a few times. Break to a canter every 10 strides when I try to loosen the death grip. Flip head all over the place whenever a half halt is applied. So I applied a different tactic, which I had not had much success with in the past, but had never tried on Bijou. Every time she started to speed demon, I would lift my inside rein and make a small circle. She knows very well now that pressure on the reins means drop her head, so once she got over practically tripping over herself from trying to circle at full speed, it meant I got a soft and much rounder horse (rather than the giraffe). She tried to cheat a few times by gunning forward when the circle was done, but I'd just keep the bend as much as I could, and she'd realize that she couldn't get away with it and that going slower made it easier. Also, because I wasn't half halting every second, she was much softer in the contact that I did have and we didn't have any head flipping. Hooray!! I trotted her around a whole bunch and called it good.
I've also made progress on the spooking front. I've ridden plenty of spooky horses, but hers just throw me for a loop. It's not that I ever feel insecure like I might fall off, it's just that she's so acrobatic in her spooks that they kinda scare me. I've psyched myself up and made up my mind that when my horse spooks she's going to get to work harder until she settles the hell down. Today she was being all uppity about another rider kissing to her horse. She would only do it when the other horse was behind us, but she would launch into a huge leap and then throw her head/neck all over the place trying to wrench the reins out of my hands. For this she got to disengage her hindquarters and then trot in little circles and figure eights until she was listening to me and only me again. After the third spook (for various reasons) she decided it would be easier to just listen to me, and we finished our ride on 10 minutes of beautiful trot/walk and walk/trot transitions with a lap or two of relatively relaxed canter. Amazing how that works, isn't it?
I have a trim and a lesson scheduled for this week. I think I wormed Bijou since the last time I posted too...