Our progress over the last week has been up and down. I sure wish horse (and rider) training was linear sometimes!
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Last Sunday I got back-to-back lessons. Part 1: jumping! This was our third jump lesson in a row (who needs dressage anyway, right?) and it went very well. Hemie was forward, really through on both reins including our hard direction, and we had a blast. He even saved me once when I got ahead of him at a tube jump. Good boy. We did an uphill combo of big, solid jumps that walked in 2.5 strides. We did the jumps on angled lines and then did them together, which I was nervous about but turned out fine. Overall it was a great lesson and I was proud of my horse and myself.
He had Monday night off, and Tuesday he got his hooves done then we had a fun bareback ride. I”m feeling more and more comfortable cantering him around bareback. It’s nice to have that confidence on him.
Wednesday we did a dressage ride. It started off tense due to some tack malfunction, but then we were both able to relax and settle down to some nice work. At the right-lead canter, Hemie tried out a new behavior of rooting the bit down and forward. He kept his back soft and hind end engaged, so I was a little fearful of trying to get the bit back – I kinda convinced myself that it was a stretchy canter and therefore desirable? Since we have trouble with connecting to the left rein and stretching on it, this was basically him doing that to a very exaggerated degree. We’ll see if it becomes a repeat issue in the future.
I have mixed feelings about Thursday night’s dressage lesson. On the one hand, we established that the key to success with our faux spook (a resistance connecting to left rein when tracking right) is: more inside leg. More. MORE. So. Much. Leg! So that is good.
However, our lesson included a tantrum where Hemie got light up front and then ran backwards. We got it together pretty quick and were able to move forward right away, but it still bothers me that he gets so upset during dressage lessons.
Let me clarify – I’m not mad at him. I don’t think I’ve ever felt mad at my horse (or any horse) when the issue is clearly training. Rather, I feel my frustration directed towards our trainer. I want Hemie to enjoy dressage. I want to enjoy it too. But our trainer is pushing us to this tantrum level with some regularity.
For example, she wants me to make a “solid wall” with my reins and push him into it. This always upsets him, and of course gives me tension knowing its going to upset him. In fact, this approach is basically opposite from the Denny Emerson approach of using “negotiating aids” that I’ve been using during practice rides.
On the one hand, Hemie is getting over his upsets faster, and not throwing tantrums at things that used to bother him – so that shows improvement. On the other hand, I really hate seeing him so upset. Its dangerous, and its certainly not helping him enjoy his job.
This weekend our trainer was away at a show with another client. Hemie and I hacked around the property. Then we hopped around these 3 fences (cross rail, crossrail over ditch, and green roll-top), plus a skinny brown in another arena. Then he got a super bath since the weather was perfect. Overall, a fabulous relaxing weekend.