Tuesday, August 7, 2012

One Nugget at a Time

You think this post is going to be about nuggets of wisdom, don't you?  C'mon, you totally do.  What else would it be about?  How about poop!?  Yes, poop.

Last night was my lesson and Tessa was hot.  She wasn't scary hot, but she was very distracted and nervous about every little thing.  We had some really good work, pushing her forward and into my hands, but we still can't make it all the way around the arena without being distracted and spooking.  I will admit that I spent a good portion of my lesson with my arms aching and my frustration building.  I kept shaking my arms out to try and loosen them, but every four strides Tessa would fling her head in the air and scoot sideways.  Down every long side she would speed up, despite my half halts.  Then she would fall to the inside.  I managed to get it where we could go almost all the way down the long side by using my spur vigorously.  But those last three strides, she didn't even feel the spur because it was the scary corner.  I felt like I was trying too muscle her into doing what I wanted and since she outweighs me by at least a couple hundred pounds, there's no way for that to be effective.

I really like both my trainers, but some days (like yesterday) I feel frustrated that I've been riding with them since October and I STILL can't consistently get my horse all the way around the arena and in every corner. I mean, I might be able to do it once or twice during a lesson going one direction, but how effing long is it going to take??  The trouble is that Tessa doesn't trust or believe me (or something along those lines) and that whatever is in the corner is scarier to her than whatever I'm doing.  I try turning her head, more inside leg, asking for shoulder in, change of gait.  These can sometimes distract her but never enough to *actually* ride through the corner properly and consistently.  How will I ever get out of the arena if we can't even manage riding *in* the arena after almost a YEAR of once a week lessons.  ARGH!

So, anyway, back to the poop.  Poor Tessa was just really worried last night and when my pony is worried, she poops.  So we get into the arena and she pooped right after I got on.  Someone came out and picked it up for me.  Ten minutes later, she poops again.  Again, someone comes out and picks it up.  At our arena, we try to pick up the poop immediately so it won't break down the arena footing.  There's usually someone on the ground who can do this, otherwise you just do it after your ride.  During busy lessons, the trainers will do it so we don't have to ride around the poop.

In the course of a one hour lesson, my pony pooped eight times.  EIGHT TIMES.  One tiny little poop nugget at a time.  It was like she was watching the people picking it up and as soon as they had picked it up, left the arena and gone back to what they were doing, Tessa would poop again.  Poor nervous pooping pony.

In the end we had a fine lesson.  We had some lovely canter to the right and even though she had a huge spook in the canter, I got her back under control after only two strides and we resumed our lovely canter.  Still, I need to figure out how to stop trying to be physically stronger than the pony.  It's not working and we both deserve better.


  1. Maybe it's time to try a clinic or a few lessons with a new instructor? Not necessarily to replace your current instructor, just to get a different perspective. Maybe even with a Western or Natural Horsemanship trainer (though you do have to research those carefully to not get a know-nothing weirdo) since you have said you would like to try Western with Tessa one day.

  2. I know you have had one or maybe both trainers ride Tessa - does this happen when they ride her also?

    I know with my mare, when I am having a particular issue, it helps to try and re-create it with my daughter riding her - then daughter can tell me exactly what she is doing to counter the issue and I can watch. That usually helps me more than my daughter only telling me from the ground how to get thru a mare moment.

    Overall - from what I read on your blog, you are making progress so don't be too hard on yourself :)

  3. I have had my Oliver for 2 years this month, and some days, we still have issues in corners, in the same arena we've been in for 2 years. You have to learn to ride your horse how she needs to be ridden, however that may be. Mine always needs a strong outside rein and soft inside rein to know I'm there. Loose reins in a "scary" place equal spin and spook.

    Figuring out what you need to do to get your horse to trust you when you say "Really, it's OK" is all part of the process. And trust me, it feels awesome when you figure it out. :)

  4. Riding outside might be easier -- no corners for either/both of you to get concerned about!

    What happens if you turn early (5-10m before the corner), leg-yield towards the wall, turn early before the next corner...?

  5. I have been lurking on this blog for a while but I just had to put my two cents in: I did horse re-homing and rescue for a few years and what I noticed is that Arabians go a tiny but crazy when they are always ridden in an arena. I know your mare is young and hot but maybe going on some short trail rides would benefit you both (if you have some friends with seasoned trail horses to ride with that would be best). Trail riding builds trust between a horse and rider and it helps smart horses (like yours) have something to look forward to besides going around and around an arena. I know when I go to the gym I find the treadmill INCREDIBLY boring but a hike is something I can get excited about. Good luck to you, your mare sounds wonderful and maybe she is just bored and frustrated and that is why she lacks attention and focus.