Today is the second day of the Harry Whitney clinic I'm attending in East Texas. Yesterday we got Fiera started properly under saddle. I have ridden her over the last year and a half. Not a lot, not regularly but some. She does ok at home but out in nature she is afraid of a lot of stuff. As usual, she was good in the arena. Harry needed to fix me on some things but Fiera was good. She has bonded to the horse next to her and that horse's owner took her horse for a walk and I thought it was going to be bad. But Harry called it an opportunity and he was right. We worked through her concern. I also worked on her tendency (which i taught) to turn into me when i halt her on a circle. Eventually i mounted up and rode. Harry told me just to let her go with very little direction. I'm supposed to only pick up a rein and turn her if she is not with me and thinking the same thoughts that I am thinking. I am also supposed to ride with a very loose rein. I told Harry that all my bad wrecks have occurred with loose reins so I'm going to need a lot of reminding. I know that part of the tight rein business is because of my early dressage lessons. What they mean by contact is different than the way I need to ride now. We worked to get her to come to me quietly at the mounting block as well as teaching me to ask for her thoughts more softly. I practiced not driving her where I want to get her to go but to bring her to making a choice. It was really hard to not pick up my extra hand to push her instead of leading her to make the right decision. I had to practice not mixing up my cues to pull her instead of getting her thought to move away.
Ironically I was starting to discover riding this way a bit with Liberty in the beginning, on,unto have some older NATRC rider/judges tell me I was doing it wrong. Evidently, I was doing it right and now I have to go back redo some things with him. I also plan to reintroduce a snaffle to him. But, I digress.
Today was a big day for us. Yesterday we had a lot of trouble betting ready for the day something really spooked her in the woods and she was bucking and hopping back and forth. One of the other people for the clinics was worried and he came to help. She wasn't happy but I wasn't worried. She wasn't pulling back and I could not get into help her with her being so excited. At the trailer today, tacking up, she was agitated again, thinking the woods were going to get her and not let her go. But today I saw it coming and untied her and starting doing the ground work we did yesterday and she settled quickly. She continued to look for things at which to spook but I kept doing yesterday's exercises and she settled. We had about 15 minutes before my lesson so I decided to play with the mounting block. I quickly discovered that while she would line up to the mounting block on the near side but not the off side. So I did all the exercises from the day before so I could practice getting on and off the offside. Only I could never get her quite lined up. We got close and then it was time for my lesson so I let it go. I realized that it was related to the inability to stop straight on the circle and best left for another day.
We started in hand again but quickly progressed to being able to mount. I told Harry what I had been doing outside And asked if we could work on that a bit. So, I brought her to the block and she lined up and I mounted on the offside. Evidently whatever we had done outside had stuck and she figured it out. She sat with me and was still and I petted her. then we started walking around the arena. Harry showed me a completely different way to handle my reins. I'm
Not even sure I can describe it here so that it makes sense. I have always used what I thought was a leading rein with Fiera. What I discovered was that I was actually pulling back. So now, instead of sliding a Hand toward the nose on the side I want to turn I actually make that hand loose and pull the rein through with the opposite hand. I just could not figure it out. Harry had to go hand over hand with me to get it. This will take some getting used to. When it goes well, the turn is so soft. When it goes wrong, I do it the way I always did and pull back and then Harry scolds me. Bad habits die hard. As yesterday I was to let her move off without restriction but began to have more of a plan. So, I figure out where I want to go and head that way, but if her thoughts strayed, we addressed those thoughts and then went back to the plan. We trotted a bit, but I discovered I could not steer in the new way I was shown some went back to the walk. when she went fast a few times I pick up the rein and turned her in a circle to stop.
Things were going great and I thought about asking for a trot but hadn't done it yet. All of a sudden she spooked and then went to bucking. Harry is so calm, bend her, bend her...everyone is saying bend her. I'm up there thinking well, duh, bend her, but which way. I did get her bent. She turned and sighed and quit bucking. Harry told me that I was really goosing her after she pushed me forward. Again I'm thinking, duh, yeah, I was off balance. Two awesome things happened though. I didn't fall off and neither of us held a grudge. I have now ridden through my horse bucking. I have always fallen off before. And I know that she will quick bucking before I fall off. This is a great relief after Tonka Jane.
The rest of the lesson was spent with me practicing how to turn her properly and monitor her attention. Tomorrow I think we are taking to the outdoors where she is afraid.