Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Toss up

[Insert halfhearted apology for lack of recent pictures before arriving at the issue at hand]

Lesson day again.  This was the first one in Jazz's new English saddle, and it is not what I'd call a lesson to sneeze at.

I have a half hour lesson from 6-6:30 and it's generally on Wednesday, unless there's a cancellation and I have to do a make-up lesson.  Tonight my 6-6:30 Wednesday lesson ended in me finishing up and dismounting my horse at almost exactly 7:00 with a few prospects I'm not presently thrilled about.

It started out relatively standard.  It was absolutely pouring rain, and the sound of it on the tin roof was nearly deafening.  This made Jazz a little distracted, but nothing terrible.  I did some short groundwork exercises and she seemed fine.  I put on her bridle and brought her to the mounting block where she was kind of fidgety, but we also need a lot more practice with mounting blocks anyways.

By then my instructor was there and we started with a really simple, nice walk.  Then she set up some poles (the pole bending kind, not the trot poles kind), and we worked on bending using more leg than rein. It was fairly difficult at first, but then my trainer moved half the poles from the center line to the quarter line so each had three poles twice as far apart.  That started off much better, but once I knew how I should be asking, Jazz stopped listening and began totally ignoring my leg, especially my left leg.  It was getting more and more blatant and head-tossy until my trainer suggested I change tactics.  She had me do a new exercise where I face Jazz perpendicular to the long wall of the arena.  Basically the exercise is to ask Jazz to move sideways, and if she's not co-operating and generally being rebellious, to push her forward into the wall.  This should have been fine, but remember alllllllllllll the rollbacks we did back in the day? Remember alllll the anticipating Jazz started doing, backing up and sometimes actually trying to do rollbacks when I just asked for a stop or one step of backup?  Well a little rein and leg pressure she didn't want to deal with + a nose in the wall = Jazz backing up halfways to Timbuktu.  My trainer suggested if she really runs away backing like that (as in the reins are very loose and I am both clucking at her and squeezing/tapping with my legs), to make it just as much work as what she's avoiding (read: back her up until backing is the least appealing option available).  That did seem to help a little bit with that, and she did have a couple halfways decent leg yields in that exercise.  We just worked on that briefly before moving on, with my trainer explaining that it's an exercise that can be a bit nit-picky and very frustrating to a horse that has difficulty or is just not fully understanding it.
So we tried to go back to the poles and bending.  The wheels fell off a little there.  She was totally blowing past the poles and still choosing to pretend my leg was not there.  My trainer had me do small circles to try and get her back, and that devolved to Jazz drifting in her circles until she was practically running over the other horse in the arena, and generally freaking out and throwing her head every which direction.  It took a long time and a lot of circles to work out all the general knobbing about she was doing and she finally calmed down for two seconds, long enough to end our lesson on an okay note.

Thing to work on #8
This. Just all of this nonsense.

Here comes the un-thrilling prospects part.  My trainer said she wanted to try her in a tie down.  Everything I've seen and done and been taught since I've been working with horses (and more specifically Jazz) makes me very hesitant to immediately turn to big tools the second something's going wrong.  That being said, it's not safe to be riding a six-year-old idiot running around saying "screw you" to the simplest possible exercise (you don't even want to know how many circles we had to do before she did one full one without flipping out so we could stop and I could finally get off and end my marathon lesson).  I also have no knowledge whatsoever on tie downs, martingales (running or standing), or any such contraption.

This is where you readers out in blogland (if there are any) come in.  What do you guys think? What experiences has everyone had with using training tools like martingales? I've done a little research so far, but good descriptions of the differences in action between running and standing martingales and tie-downs would be helpful.  What's my long term course of action if I do decide to use one? Keep in mind I currently have an English saddle but a western bridle with no noseband.

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