C'mon, sing it. You know you want to. And if you're too young to know this song, please google it. It was an insanely hilariously bad film with Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.
I rode on Thursday and was having an average, not so fun ride. I felt like I was forcing Tessa into a frame and that to try to get our canter forward was an exercise in futility. I would ask, she would ignore. I would spur, she would kick. I would tap with whip, she would kick and wring tail. Eventually she would pick up a hollowed out, slow canter for five strides before dropping into the trot. Even when I did get her to maintain the canter, it required constant leg and frequent taps with the whip.
The arena was empty and nobody was in the barn, so I decided to chuck my training out the window and do something I learned on Western horses. I threw the reins away. I didn't care AT ALL what her head was doing. Then we went to one side of the arena and I asked her to canter from one side to the other. She sassed, she trotted, she unwillingly picked up an awful strung out canter. At the other side, I aimed her at the wall and said whoa. I had to pick up the reins a bit, but I let them go as soon as she stopped.
Then we turned and I asked for canter right away. She fussed, she kicked, she finally cantered. Whoa at the wall and as soon as she was stopped, we turned and I asked for canter again.
She trotted a few steps, then broke into a slow canter. Rinse and repeat. This time, she still fussed but she cantered right away. Again, turn and ask for canter. I used less leg and her tail swished, but she picked up the canter right away and kept it until the wall. We turned again. With each turn and each canter she got lighter and lighter. After about eight times, I would turn and just think canter and she would gracefully step off into a forward canter. If we had a bigger indoor, we might have even been able to do a small hand gallop. Her head was neither down nor up, but carried in a balanced way. She was no longer grouching at my leg and resisting going forward.
It was lovely and I was so pleased, that I laughed out loud.
Later, when I got home, my thinking brain got a hold of this moment and started chewing it up and spitting out questions. Google hasn't helped much, so I'm turning to you guys. I know it's hard when you haven't seen me or my horse but please share your experiences. Here are my question.
How do you tell if your horse likes their job? Maybe Tessa just really hates dressage and her lack of forward and her attitude are because she'd rather do something different. It's not that she's a jerk for the whole lesson, but there are almost always moments of it. She seems to like jumping, but I still struggle with getting her forward consistently. It's like she's NEVER just zooming around having a good time. Have you ever had a horse that didn't like it's job? Tessa's crabbiness has been chalked up to being a mare so far (don't worry, she's been thoroughly checked for pain and continues to be evaluated and adjusted) but I'm starting to wonder if maybe she just doesn't want to go around in circles.