So I need to tell the tale of yesterday’s lesson.
As we all know by now, Mr. Moon does not do well with having time out of the training ring. He goes from becoming loose, soft and listening, to stubborn, obstinate and passive aggressive. And locked up tight.
Yesterday was his first day ‘back in training’ since the leg fiasco. It started well (sarcasm) when he began calling to all the horses in the paddock. Keep in mind, we’re in an indoor arena. Nether the less, he called.
And they didn’t call back. Until suddenly, something happened in the neighbour’s yard, and all the horses were screaming and calling. Moon joined right in.
He was tense. He was ware-rabbit-mouthed, yanking on the bit, hollow through the back, racing and leaning against all of my aids. Ger.
I had a really good realization that when I get frustrated, I tense. And I actually tighten my thigh muscles so much that I lift my seat out of the saddle. Which is the EXACT opposite of what Moon needs me to do. Which is relax, be patient and wait for him to settle. Maybe correct his bad behavior. Instead, I just brace back.
After a number of circling exercises and walk-trot transitions, coupled with probably 30 or so calls from Mr. Moon (I mean, head in the air WHINNYING) in about 15 minutes, W called for us to halt.
He was about 30 seconds away from having a melt down, and I was 20 seconds away from beating him silly or bawling my eyes out. Neither of us really knew which. (seriously, I’d never beat my horse, but you all know what I mean).
So she pulled on her chaps and told me to dismount.
It was schooling time.
Yes, there is a little piece of me that gets disappointed that I can’t manage to break him of it on my own. But sometimes, it’s nice to defer to someone with more experience, watch how they handle it, and learn for the next time. I value having a coach as awesome as W who will mount up and show me and him what we need.
W, who is a very light, classical dressage rider got to experience a full-blown Moon temper tantrum. He threw his head back. He refused to stand. He shoved and braced and pulled and fought. Obstinate. At one point, when he refused to stand and yield at the poll, he gave her a “mini-rear”, barely lifting his front feet off the ground in threat. He did that twice to her.
I adore W. She never got angry. But she got firm.
When he lifted his front feet, she kicked him around and forward. When he wouldn’t stand, she’d refuse to soften the aids until he complied. When he didn’t stop calling, he got a smack and more insistent aids. When he leaned, she leaned back. He was NOT going to get his way, and he was NOT going to push her around.
He spent 30 minutes fighting her. Doing everything possible not to listen. When he softened, so did she. So he went back to bracing. And she kept on asking him to soften. They trotted. He called. He got a smack and more complex work. It went on for a long time.
…until he finally admitted defeat.
He stayed ‘soft’ (soft for a worked-up Moon). He slowed his pace. He listened to the aids.
So W hoped off. Moon was dripping in sweat, purely from being worked up. He had butt butter and had soaked through his pad. The reins were covered in froth and even his ears were sweaty.
She told me that he needs to learn that he can’t push his rider around. When he gets worked up, his answer is to take control and bully his rider around. That’s not allowed. Clearly it’s worked for him in the past. She thinks he used it in the past as a defense mechanism to prevent heavy handedness on his soft mouth, and now it’s his answer to anything. When he decides things are going to be his way, he just tries to force you to comply.
Time for me to be more direct. He KNOWS now that I can be soft and gentle on the bit. But he also needs to know that when he’s being a bully, I WILL remind him of his place and who he has to listen to. Gentle but firm. Soft but insistent. The increasing aids rule.
W did say that at least, thanks to all of our training, he at least is AWARE of what the aids mean, and when you tell him he must listen to them, he knows and complies with the correct behaviour. It's convincing him he has to listen!
So I got back on.
Other then 3 calls, he went wonderfully. In the video I watched back, I can see I’m crazy rigid in my arms. I look tense. So does he. But we were moving better. Guess that’s why we school. I know we have a long road demanding of patience ahead. But we’ve got all winter to work on it. And work on it we shall. Heck, we're being spoiled this winter, and I daren't waste it!
On a good note, I got to try W’s Wintec Isabell on Moon for the entire ride.
Wow. It was sooo comfortable. I loved it. My legs were FINALLY in the right position. I felt deep in the saddle. After the lesson, the marks on Moon showed that it was fitting him well. Hmm…funny too, since W measured him as a medium or medium-narrow gullet…weird.
I LOVED that saddle. I rode in one many years ago, and they’re just so comfortable. For me and Moon. They claim it’s the CAIR panels, which I was nervous about getting because they say they get hard in the cold, but W assures me the barn and tack room never get that cold. Since they have like 5 of them, I’ll trust her judgment…
So I went back to searching for a wintec.
…and may have found one. Just waiting on a shipping quote.
And tonight, a trail ride with T! Yippee! Hopefully the BF is MIA, and we can enjoy one another's company. It'll be sad to not be at T's anymore, but I know she'll stop by to check up on us. And I don't want to miss any more training opportunities.
Now to find that medium weight blanket!
Preference between these two saddles?
VTEK Marathon Versatility BellyBand