Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Growing Pains

So after Mo's glorious debut in the show ring (heh), I was interested to see whether he'd act more like a grown up or if he'd be tense, especially given that our last jump school at home wasn't easy for him.

He made it pretty clear in our first ride: still a bit tense.

I mean, he didn't put a foot wrong. But he also didn't want to give to the bridle or move off the leg or anything. I think he was worried about what the new rules are in first grade, and that's totally normal. But the answer isn't to go back to kindergarten. He aced kindergarten, and it's time to move on. But like a lot of A students, he struggles when the expectations get harder and he doesn't meet them with 100% accuracy. So instead of saying, "Oh sorry sweetie, we can just trot crossrails for the rest of our lives," I need to be sure he knows that it's okay with me if he makes mistakes, and that it's my job to make EVERYTHING as clear as possible at all times.

So we had a lesson with M on Thursday that was supposed to be a jump school, but he'd really had it with the two of us and our ideas about how he should put his head down and trot in a circle. That would just not do, in his mind. So instead of jumping, we worked on getting him to give to the half-halt.

This involved several steps: 1. I had to be in charge of the tempo, because the first thing he'd do to avoid me was rush; 2. I had to not let go or take my leg off when he whined and complained and threw himself a pity party for having the meanest mommy in the whole wide world; 3. I had to go very soft the very moment he gave.

Sound familiar? It should, because we've had this lesson before. But This time his evasion wasn't a lack of understanding, it was a lack of desire. That's all right, though, because he did eventually figure out that life is more pleasant when he gets deeper and rounder in response to the half halt instead of flinging his head in my face (I miss you, standing martingale) and running sideways or whatever. When he figured out that wasn't going to go away, and that the reward for doing it right was a soft rider and lots of praise, he was good. And when he was good, we let him trot over something. I loved that, because the jumps became a reward instead of the focus of the lesson, and I think that's very good for him.

Once we got him to be reasonable about coming back through transitions and changes of direction, he got to quit, but he was quite lathered up and so was I. It was good for my riding, though--M would tell me that I had three strides to get him back, and while I never really accomplished that, it did kind of light a fire under my tail to get him round again instead of trying to just ride out the baby antics.

Here's how I know it was a successful lesson: in my two subsequent rides, he has OFFERED the deep/round frame immediately, and while he might kinda lose it if something catches his eye or he feels off-balance, he comes right back again. I haven't needed three strides to get him back at all. And furthermore, he seems quite pleased with himself that he is now getting to be an A student in first grade also. We haven't brought jumps back in, although we will this week. I did, however, trot him over some poles on Saturday and he managed to be quite the little gentleman about it even though the deer were having a party and his favorite pony was being ridden at the same time. The canter work still needs some major tuning-up, but that'll come.

So yay for Mo. My only regret is that no one was around to document the temper fits because it was probably really hilarious to watch him roll his eyes at me. The fact that he got through all of that in one ride is a real testament to his brain, I think.

I'm so happy it's spring and I get to actually get things done with my horses again. Yay.


  1. Smart baby! I like your analogy to kindergarten and 1st grade.

  2. I love that progression. :-) Glad you guys are doing well.

  3. sounds like he's responding really well to a patient but firm set of expectations!