Early Days

Trying not to panic

We’ve all heard the saying – a bad ride before the show means you’ll have a perfect show. Well right now I’m having anxiety twinges in my chest non-stop because we’ve had FOUR lessons with major issues, in a row. The last one was this past Saturday and it was scary. So I’m really trying not to panic. But its a struggle. 

According to the principle of that wives’ tale, I should have the best show ever. Ha.

Its stressing me out to even think about the lesson, but suffice to say that Hemie was again very upset at not being allowed to throw his right shoulder out. I was struggling with him so Laurie got on him and there was some major wigging out. I got back on and he mostly settled down, but then coming to a jump off the right lead he bit down on the bit, dragged his face forward and left, yanking my right rein away from me, and he ran out to the left, almost pulling me out of the saddle.
I was speechless and completely freaked out. This is not my normal horse. Hemie LOVES to jump. He has never thrown a fit like that before. I got this gut-wrenching sense that he was ANGRY.
Laurie smartly observed that we would continue to have issues if we didn’t change something, so she had us go and jump a different jump off the left lead which allowed Hemie and I to both calm down and not feel pressured. But then it was time to try our problem jump again.
I’m actually quite proud of both of us for how we moved forward. It was clear that Hemie did not want his face to be touched (Laurie thought he was still emotionally sensitive from their “discussion”).  Laurie told me to have a loose rein and have faith that he would do it. I’m still amazed that I was able to do so, but I rode with the reins flopping in the wind (I was holding the jump strap for dear life, though!) and amazingly, Hemie came forward and straight and jumped. We then went around to different jumps from both leads. Slowly I could add a little more rein contact and Hemie was fine with it. By the end we were back to a normal, balanced place with me having very soft reins (not flapping in the wind) and Hemie was calm, listening, and straight.
We were both completely drenched in sweat and the tack was caked with sweat lather. Hemie got a bath and the tack got a thorough cleaning, then I cleaned up and headed over a fundraiser to support Debbie Rosen and Al for their Rolex trip this coming weekend! 
Even though we ended on a good note, I’m still very bothered at how this situation is escalating. There were moments during the jump lesson that I thought “this is very dangerous. this is simply unacceptable” and to be honest part of my ability to be able to get through it was the knowledge that I was wearing both my safety vests and a brand new helmet. 
There’s been a little voice in the back of my head from the first lesson we had this issue with ~2 weeks ago: that there has got to be a different way to train Hemie that is more relaxed and calm, without upsetting him so much. Normally we both enjoy dressage and Hemie likes solving the puzzle. 
Given we have the show this weekend, I just want the rest of our rides to be calm and relaxed. I don’t want any fights, any wigging out, any tension. I want us to be on the same team 100% of the time. I plan on doing some stretching and mental prep before riding tonight. How can I expect Hemie to be calm if I bring this anxiety and tension to the ride?

9 comments on “Trying not to panic

  1. Easier said then done, you gotta put the bad behind you in order to make room for a better future.


  2. I bet you it's not the horse – it's the rider :) And I say that tongue in cheek, as I am my own “problem person” when I ride my mare. A lot of the tension and anxiety I hold really negatively affects our ride and it's almost like my mare mirrors my tension.


  3. I'm certainly not there and have no idea just how bad the situation is, but I can partially relate. Fiction has been getting upset lately the more I ask him to work. I simply continue to ask and ignore his tantrums. However in this case it seems as if Hemie is a bit more dramatic. The best you can do it stay calm and try and work through it. He should come around eventually.


  4. Hang in there! you two have had so many good rides, this is just a phase while he learns to work differently which is hard and makes him cranky. But so close to the show, just try to work on letting the past few rides go. You're not trying to fix him at the show, just relax and enjoy your ride. Maybe just go hack him around before the show, nice and loose and calm? Hope all goes well at your show, you can do it!


  5. I know I already told you this, but keep slamming those doors. I swear; this is EXACTLY how I felt two months ago when Sydney started rearing. I really wanted to back off and try something “gentler,” but I am glad JL had me work through it. Those issues are now gone. I think Hemie has just discovered that you aren't giving in to him now and he's pissed. Hang in there, and this too shall pass.


  6. Well done for trusting your horse enough to let go of the reins and trust him to jump! When my OTTB starts to rush and get wound up I literally have to drop all contact and it's easier said than done, when I just wanna hold on tighter!

    I really hope that old wives tale is four times accurate for you this weekend!


  7. I'm sure you've heard this a lot before, but it's really good to utilize visualization techniques in riding. Try to get your brain to focus on the kind of ride you WANT to have, how you want Hemie to go and use that to stay focused. With the greenies, it's easy to forget that they take several steps forward and then a few back while they learn new things. It's important not to get them too frazzled. Last week Riley had major issues with the ditch and after we schooled it 3 times we left it so his brain could process and came back to it after he basically jumped everything on the course and popped over it like it was no big deal. While it's not okay to let them make the decision of when the argument is over, I also believe that sometimes they need a few minutes to get their brain back and refocus, just like us. If you're getting frustrated, I'm sure he is too and so it's good to go off and work on something you both enjoy so you can both settle and relax and then tackle the topic again.

    ps. way to go riding with a neck strap, I always do and had two fingers around it all day schooling so I could ride really soft!


  8. Hugs! No advice here but hope that you can get it all sorted out :) We all have growing pains so don't think you are alone!


  9. So…

    Go to the show and have a ball.

    If you're still having these issues when you get back, maybe try chiro/check teeth something for him. It sounds like you're tense and he's going through a difficult phase, and that would certainly cause this.

    But after the show, if you're less tense and he's still here, it might be worth considering.

    I'm sure you and Laurie have already been over that though. Have fun!


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