two weeks into the blue

How did two weeks go by without us even seeing our horses? This is how: Holidays. Vacation. Unbearable Cold Weather. Life. Freezing Rain. 

Regardless of the remnants from freezing rain, we headed out this weekend to see our horses. I was really happy to find them safe & sound in their stalls, munching away on lunch instead of walking across perilous ice. Especially after trying to walk myself from the truck to the barn. Every time I tried to shuffle my feet forward on the ice, I slidddd further back!

We shared the arena on Saturday with two other horses & riders, Cierra & Trainer Patty and a pretty black mare in training & her owner. Koda was forward, and listening. Near the end of our ride I cued him to collect in preparation for a lope - and he hunched while thinking about, well you know. It caught the attention of our trainer. I was able to get his mind back, and end with the lope I originally had asked for.

Koda wants to rush, and lope off before I've even asked. It is after all, the quickest way back to leisure. Nothing new. He always appears to be thinking something along the lines of "hurry up, let's get this over with". Koda knows what comes next, but needs to wait for me to ask. Consequently we've had some premature starts, stops and re-do's. I've tried to mix things up somewhat, so I am not asking the same thing at the same spot. I try adding in different circles, or transitions etc but the sequence of cues to lope off are the same.

Sunday we spent the lions share of the day at the barn, riding and helping out. With the warmer weather, the barn was busier then usual. By the time we rode, we had the arena to ourselves for the most part. Both Koda & Nemo were acting goofy on the far end of the arena. The combination of sun peeking through creating cast shadows, and freshly raked sand where no horse has ever gone, made the boys suspicious. 

I kept Koda's mind busy warming up and weaving around the random cones, each time riding closer & eventually through the end of the arena. Our ride was going fine, although somewhat distracting. We tried to focus on our ride, and not what was going on elsewhere. A boarder had just finished trying out a new saddle, and the group headed out of the arena. We started another lope-off, and Koda gave me an even bigger hunched up response then the day before!! It caught our trainer's eye, and she promptly asked me to get off before I even had time to do anything but stop him. 

I always feel defeated when this happens.

She said two days in a row is a huge warning sign, and wanted to ride him. Koda loped a lot, more and harder then I ever do, with stops and turns. He gave her some pushback in the beginning as well, but that didn't last long - she means business.

I asked if I was doing anything wrong, or if there was something I could do different on my lope offs. She said no, and I quote "I don't care if you want to stand on your head before you lope off, if you ask him to lope off - he better do it". Point taken.

When I got back on Koda I was asked to do exactly what I was doing before, cue & lope off the same way. I did both directions, but not long - once around was enough for me on a sweaty nervous boy. Just enough to see if Koda would respond appropriately to me. He did, but I felt the thought was perhaps still there - somewhere in that naughty head of his. 

I cooled Koda down. He was pretty glad to be done, me too. I don't like rides like this.

I should just be happy our trainer was around, and is willing to jump in (or better said on) when a problem arises. Just wish I could solve bigger challenges on my own, or better yet - not have them at all. Our rides had been going so well...I need to get stronger. I don't think my horse will ever entirely keep his attitude in balance. Guess that makes him a horse. 

To end on a brighter note, the new blue coolers I ordered for Koda & Nemo arrived just in time for the "winter coat in warmer weather, sweat". Koda has already put his to good use!

Checking out his new cooler


C-ingspots said...

He is just a horse after all, with opinions and moods just like us. He never will be a machine, and I don't think you'd want him to act exactly the same every single time. Where would you get your chances to grow and get better? I wish your trainer would have given you the opportunity to correct his response, instead of just taking over. Maybe she needs to trust you and your abilities a little bit more, and that would help your faith in your own abilities to grow stronger. You can do it! And besides, Koda was probably just feeling his oats after being cooped up during the cold, icy weather. :)

aurora said...

Thanks for the encouraging words. I know, I should have tried and things probably would have turned out okay again. Since Koda's response had grown bigger from the previous day, he might have continued through with a buck this time. Who knows. I already learned the hard way that I can't ride his bucks out. I am sure he will give me other challenges in the future that test my abilities to work with him.

Sherry Sikstrom said...

doesn't sound to me like you are doing anything wrong, he is just pushing your buttons. And don't feel bad that your trainer steps in now and then , it all takes time and years of riding every single day. Keep up the great work you are doing , and it will come

Shirley said...

I wonder if you doubled him and kicked his butt out of gear, and then ask for the lope again, if it would change his attitude towards loping. If he knows he's going to get in trouble for hunching, ie: makes more work for him- then he might just lope off nicely and save himself the work.

aurora said...

Yep, Koda is definitely a button-pusher. I don't know how great the work is that I am doing with him (thank you Sherry!) but I am trying. With improvements comes greater challenges. Sigh, I sure hope the day comes...

Not sure what you mean by doubling him Shirley? If you mean circling back around, I haven't tried that after Koda hunches and powers forward. We did some circling when he was not giving the correct left lead. My initial reaction to his hunching into bigger strides, is to stop the energy before it grows. I back him right away, before trying again.

A circle might be a safer way to try again, or at least slow him down. Like you said, equating to more work. I still think I would have to stop him first, at least until I am more confident/strong enough to ride it out. Hmm, I'll have to think more on this good idea.

Anonymous said...

I think I'd be glad my trainer was there and willing to jump on board. That said, you need a strategy for coping when you're alone. There have been times in the past when I've found cantering has become a THING because of incidents like yours and I would come up with creative reasons for not doing it!
I think a circle is a good idea if you feel him hunching. It keeps him moving forward, gives him something else to think about and encourages him to 'give' to you on the inside. When you feel him soften & give on the circle you can ask him to canter again. (Yeah I know I'm talking English & you're riding Western, but hey the basics are the same!!)
I do think that when you're back in a regular routine, he'll be fine again!

aurora said...

I am glad for her continued help Martine, and hope I don't sound ungrateful. Our trainer acted purely out of safety & concern, it's more a disappointment in myself.

Definitely need a coping strategy, she is busy more often then not when we ride. I did ask that very question "what do I do when you are not around" her reply was " if you are feeling confident enough, back him up..." basically what I did the day prior. I will keep circling in mind, altho that will likely initially piss him off more! Too bad, he has no reason to act this way and it may change his thinking/response.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think it's good that you have a trainer who is willing to help when you need it. But when you're alone you need a strategy that you feel comfortable with.

I'm not a trainer but Dusty mare sounds a lot like Koda. She has an attitude and does a lot of rushing around when I ask for something. The thing that works with her is to simply take her back to a walk and circle her on a huge circle. I don't ask for anything but the walk and a proper bend through her body when she gives that to me then we proceed with whatever I wanted originally. Every horse is different so it might work with him or not. I find that it helps with Blue too.

Love the color on him, very handsome.

Janice said...

I hate winter it is what.... I guess mid winter. Ice - hard snow, very hard to keep up with the horses in all that cold crappy weather.... Oh wouldn't it be nice to have a nice heated arena in our own yard...although I'm still not sure I could get a horse from the barn area to an arena. Keep plugging away at it.

aurora said...

I will definitely keep this in mind Grey Horse! Completely agree. In challenging times stepping back to something successful, regardless of difficulty, is a great mindset for horse & rider to build on.

Janice, I enjoy winter - but bitter cold & ice not so much. It's not helping, but I will keep plugging away.

Thanks for the encouragement all!!