I had my lesson yesterday. I was a tense ball of fear for most of it. I came close to tears at least four times because I was just so afraid and frustrated. The pony is just being a pony and doing what is VERY normal for a young, green horse. She is experimenting with what other answers might be acceptable. So her new answer is to flip her neck upside down to avoid contact and at the same time do a canter hop step, swish her tail and slow down. This is when I ask her to go forward. So then (theoretically) I should follow up with the whip to enforce my leg. I did. She bucked. I panicked. I exhaled. L was very calm and reminded me to breathe and sit back and ask again. We had a few nice moments in the lesson, but for the most part I didn't have that breakthrough moment where you get it and the horse submits and it's all good. Instead, Princess and I fought for leadership and control with both of us getting stiffer and crabbier.
At one point, L had me dismount and we talked about my whip. She made sure that the pony was giving the right response to the whip by tapping her gently with it. No problems there. Then she just laid the whip on her hindquarters, by her flank. Pony swished her tail. She left the whip sitting there. Pony pinned pears. She didn't move the whip. Pony hunched her back, swished her tail, lifted a hind leg. Aha! I have been tickling Princess with the whip because I'm too afraid to just use it. She's a horse that has hind end issues (remember how I can't pick up her hind feet? Did I mention that when I got her she was explosive about anything near her rear end??) and I have been letting my whip dangle back there and then rather than tapping her with it, I just sort of tickle her.
So, I have a few things for homework this week. One - do groundwork with the whip. Try to desensitize her to just having the whip laying on her. Also, make sure she is moving when I tap her with the whip. Do not tickler her with it, tap her with it. Two - Do not let go of contact when she goes upside down. Do not throw her the reins. If she does not go forward with the legs, keep contact and reinforce with a tap of the whip. If she bucks, tap again. Three - Stop asking when she's going forward. This was in another lesson of mine, but it bears repeating. If the pony is going forward, stop nagging her! I have a horrible tendency to cluck, squeeze, cluck, squeeze over and over again. Pony is very likely irritated and/or confused. And I have already figured out the if the pony doesn't know what you're doing and you don't know what you're doing, she'll do what any sensible little mare would do and take over for you.
L and I also had a good chat about expectations. After my amazing lesson last week, this week has been a big disappointment. It's been hard to go back to dealing with my base emotions again and to feel inept all over again. L said that when you're dealing with a green horse, you can't count on amazing rides like last week. You have to think of them as gifts because training is a process and some days it magically comes together, but that there a lot of days where you're just helping the horse figure it out. Add in my fear component and I should pat myself on the back every time I come out and get on the horse. Period. The End.
Still, after this lesson, every muscle screamed and I just wanted to go home and pour myself a big glass of wine. I won't get to ride again until Friday or even Saturday. The horses are getting their shots on Friday so I'm not sure if the timing will be right for me to ride. I will have some adorable pictures of the Princess in her new blanket though. It's sitting in a bag in my living room and it's so cute I can hardly stand it.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!