Thursday, April 2, 2015

How To: Not Giraffe

Its been a hot minute since I've had consistent coaching on a regular basis. We're talking, ohhh about 6 years, give or take a little. I used to have two amazing coaches throughout high school and I lessoned weekly. What a treat that was!

After high school, I couldn't afford to lesson on the reg, thanks to college and all the expenses it entails. Broke bitch status continued throughout the wonder years and even after graduation I could only get a lesson here or there when we were really having issues. Ballpark, I think maybe a grand total of 6 lessons over the past 3 years. 

Seriously, those of you that lesson regularly, SAVOR IT! I might give my left tit for  the chance to lesson weekly again.

That being said, I was beyond stoked to find a trainer in my area that I meshed with AND specialized in OTTBs. I will FULLY disclose, I was skeptical at first because I had never heard of her before but I didn't judge too quickly. Her facility was amazing, I had an excellent referral and my first impression of her was fabulous. What. A. Doll. Just picture like, the cutest & sweetest horsewoman you can muster and that is my new trainer. She's a gem! I hope I can continue to afford bi-weekly sessions because we galloped through so many barriers last Sunday. 

For one, B loaded and unloaded like a semi-normal equine. That alone was an absolute victory in my mind.


I will admit, I was extremely discouraged when he began executing classic Bacardi misbehaving and evasion techniques the second we stepped in the indoor. I wouldn't say it was equivalent to the fuckery in the field, but I was unable to get him to calmly even walk in a straight line. Like, could I at least get one lap without a snort or jig?

Bacardi
In his defense, there was an extreme amount of commotion going on; construction in the barn tack room, the wind was howling outside, another horse in the arena and the ring was full of scary jumps. But still, Giraffing and spooking were not okay. We are brave eventers, dammit!

I was preparing to put foot in mouth and let everyone tell me how wrong I was and this horse is practically impossible/useless. Close to tears and I hadn't even been in the saddle 3 minutes. Awesome.

Perfectinstructorlady came in and immediately put us on a 20m circle. I was all like, but he's spooking, but frame, but tempo, but engagement, but giraffe and she was like, stop it and ask him to MOVE. She completely ignored his spooks when the sand hit the barrels and just said 

"Push HARDER, forward, engage his brain. He lacks consistency"


Once we got a really forward, but awful trot, we then started asking him to move his shoulders in and out of the circle, and only his shoulders. Which, by the way, is NOT easy on a green, massive bodied OTTB. Inner thigh burn.

I was still like, but frame, but engagement, but proper bend, but tempo, but giraffe and Perfectinstructorlady told me to ignore it for the time being. This might have been even more difficult for than than asking him to move his shoulders in and out of a 20m circle for 15 minutes straight.

I think Bacardi struggled with the concept of this exercise more than myself though. You could almost see the toggles in his brain flipping about. 



B was completely distraught with the fact that we were ignoring his now minor flaws and working through a problem by continuously asking him to move his shoulders in and out in and out in and out. I think it was mentally killing him that I wasn't giving up. He was so offended that we were asking him to do SOMETHING with that beautiful body of his, for once.






t was also killing me to not concern myself with the fact that surely he looked like a giraffe traipsing around. Killing me. 

And then after 25 minutes of shared frustration...engagement. Relaxation. Responsiveness. I was able to move his shoulders freely, and he executed perfect 20m circles on the bridle, through the contact, STRAIGHT and 100% listening to me.

I wish I could describe what I was doing with my seat, legs & hands during this exercise so everyone can understand, and I wish I could convey the 180* difference I felt in my horse. It was in him all along! I just needed to unlock his brain and find a way to communicate with him!


So we tried in the canter. It was a bit more difficult in this gait, especially since we haven't cantered since October, but the effort was A+

After all that,  I addressed all of my fears and concerns that while he's big, beautiful and bouncy, he has a  hair trigger when it comes to spooking, especially over fences & it worries me he will never be a successful eventer.

So Perfectinstructorlady asked if it would be okay to trot over poles. She wanted us to begin at ground zero, literally, and work up. Sure, he can jump 3'6, but to what end? (Taking it slow is so so so difficult. And I thought I WAS already taking it slow with crossrails and tiny verticals.. Apparently not).

At this point, we had only worked for about half an hour so I was like, well, we can try, but he usually spooks at them and refuses the first few times.

He of course, did. So we ignored it, and kept pressing him forward with lateral movement. Sounds contradictory, but it kept his brain unlocked and concentrated on what I was asking and not the horse eating thing on the ground. B realized that it wasn't the pole that he was bothered by, in the end, it was that the ride r(me) was justifying his concern with more concern and attention to said pole/spooking. 

Eventually, we had him trotting on a 20m circle over 4 poles, no problem. He didn't even bat an eye at the last two. I was ecstatic. I could've cried! WE did this, TOGETHER!

Look at us, two spazzes getting along.

I'm hoping the next few lessons  (bi-weekly hopefully!) will progress as far as the first. In time, I KNOW this horse is going to be something someday. And I just knew all our issues revolved around that damn field. 


Le tired ponykins

.......Until next time.

10 comments:

  1. WHOOOOOO! Go Bacardi! My trainer keeps telling me the same thing with my giraffe, too!

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  2. That is awesome!!!! I'm so glad you found a trainer and I'll keep my fingers crossed you can go biweekly. :)

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  3. Your description of this ride reminds me of something I watched a few weeks ago. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before but my trainer rode around Rolex when she was 19 (something of a child prodigy/all round badass), well she found her advanced horse Alexander when she was 14 and he was straight off the track. Recently, she showed me the video of the first time she tried him and it was UGLY. More or less the behaviors you describe with B, and talk about an inverted giraffe! But... she said that day she rode him for 2 hours while the owner and her Mom took shelter indoors away from the freezing, howling wind and snow... she knew she was sitting on something REALLY special and she was determined to unlock just a second of it. Call it teenage optimism, call it a gut feeling, but she knew that he was going to be tough, but so, so worth it. I'm not trying to imply you'll be heading down the jog at Kentucky next year, but she went on to take him all the way to advanced and rode around 12 long format courses with him with ZERO XC penalties. He was an absolute beast xc and watching their videos, I don't know how she didn't have her arms ripped out and dressage was always "interesting". The tough ones are really worth it. I believe they have a lot to teach us, especially if we are willing to meet them half way. I'm really excited for you guys!

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  4. So happy to see the trainer is working out well!

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  5. Glad you found a good coach to help you both!

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  6. yay sounds like an awesome lesson!! having that reaffirmation from a trusted professional that you *can* actually do it and have the skills is so so so helpful some times! good luck :)

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  7. congrats on finding a good trainer. I just did those endless circles Thursday, so hard but sometimes what silly pony brains need to reboot.

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