I got back from Rolex 2014 (more to come on that in the next couple days) and Lex hadn't been touched since Thursday and I was exhausted. So Monday's ride was... well. She was UPUPUPINTHEAIR. Girlfriend was still in town, and when I was careening around the ring at a Mach-3 trot, I hollered, "I don't think we're cantering today!" and GF was like, "Seems wise!"
The mare just could.not.relax. I tried all the things I always do that work with her--transitions, serpentines, halting and dropping the reins on her neck and standing still for five minutes, 20m circles at every letter. No dice. There are lots of reasons: it was chilly, we had to be in the indoor because of the rain and we haven't been inside in a few weeks, she'd been on limited turnout and no real exercise. Plus I was dealing with a cold and post-Rolex exhaustion (hang with me and my mom and you'll walk 10 miles a day at Rolex, easy. Oh, did you want lunch? Wait until XC is over, you wimps). So I wasn't riding my best, and she was at her worst. Nothing tragic happened, but it wasn't a ride I felt great about, and Girlfriend worries and hates to see Lex being anything other than chill.
But, nothing too bad, right? Lex will often have one day where she just needs to TROT AS BIG AS POSSIBLE. So then I got on her again yesterday and it was more of the same. I'd set a ground rail on the center line so I could lunge her over it and then ride her over it until she was doing it out of rhythm and it was no big deal. Lunging, she did fine. Lex thinks lunging is boring now and sees no reason not to shuffle around like a school pony. But when I got on her, she was like, "TROOOOTTTTTTT." There were times when I was literally holding the martingale strap with both hands to avoid pulling on her mouth while I focused very hard on slowing her down with my posting rhythm and my posture. It was very hard work, and it did pay off eventually, but it was two not-pretty rides in a row.
So I went home and felt sorry for myself (and it doesn't help that all my undergraduate babies are wilin' right now and giving me headaches like you would not believe). I had two glasses of wine and then Tracy and I started texting. Tracy helped put it in perspective for me: "I love that that's her bad... A super speedy trot."
Okay. Point taken. A tense and quick trot is nothing compared to the puzzle that Bad Eventer is working on right now. This is not a horse who wants to throw me in the dirt (although she will eventually, because she's a better athlete than I am--I think this will happen on a day when the ride is going well and I don't expect it). She has bucked tiny bucks maybe three times in the last year. She rarely spooks, I don't think she knows how to rear, and she's never genuinely bolted. What else could I want from a green horse? No, she isn't what I'd call "quiet," but she's definitely not crazy. She's sensitive, and a bit reactive. She's an athlete, and I think she's going to be talented. Talented horses are not always easy to ride, but so far, we're fine. Plus we're going to have some incredible help this summer. So she's a bad witch right now. She's a thoroughbred mare, and I can't be mad at her for being a thoroughbred mare.
Today my department chair wanted to go to the barn with me to meet Lex because I talk about her incessantly. K, the chair, is not a horse person but she loves animals and she loves sports, so I described what I do in terms of athletic challenge and she caught right on. I was really worried that Lex was going to be an idiot for the third day in a row. I had her stuff Lex's face full of carrots while I tacked up, and that seemed to set Lex in the right mood. You can imagine my relief when Lex was immediately stretching and lovely at the trot. I mean, magic carpet ride. I warned K that I was going to try cantering and that sometimes that looks really scary but I always manage to get it under control. But Lex stepped into her left lead canter like a professional, and we did 20m circles and full laps of the ring and I was grinning from ear to ear. Of course, the right lead is always a struggle, but even then: she got it on the first try, never tried to gallop off, and tried her best to move off my inside leg into my outside rein. We had some genuinely lovely steps, and K looked confused that I was worried at all. I got off her not long after that, not wanting to keep my guest waiting around forever (and the dressage trainer had showed up with a horse who likes to kick the walls--I can't wait until we can ride outside again). I was so thrilled with her that it seemed okay to quit while we were ahead.
K gave Lex quite a few more carrots while I untacked her, and went on and on about how pretty Lex is and how she seemed happy to be going around. (She also said that what I was doing with Lex looked more "natural" than the dressage ride that was also happening, and I was like, well... it is? In this case, anyway.) Lex was soaking up all the love and figured out pretty quickly that K is a sucker for her "gimme a carrot" face.
|Works every time. The carrots just come to her.|
Two days of bad rides and then a nearly-flawless ride. Today, at least, she was an excellent witch.