Ferociously cold weather has kept me out of the saddle for the last few days – when it hovers near zero, the arena footing freezes, and it’s really not healthy to work the horses in those temperatures.  I did get a ride in on Saturday, which was the first ride since the craziness of last Thursday.   Annoyingly, I was jittery and it took me a while to start breathing – despite the fact that Mads had returned to her sweet self.  It wasn’t a terribly satisfying ride, because by the time I got my head together, my legs were done – the muscles I’m re-building still don’t have a ton of stamina.  I decided to quit before I lapsed back into my old, still-more-comfortable bad habits.

So I was looking forward to tonight, but the drama llama made a return.  Invisible bogeymen were inhabiting the far side of the arena.  It was pretty windy out, and the doors were banging.  The far corner of the arena apparently hid a large population of them, because Mads was bothered by that corner, cutting the turn short. I took a deep breath, steadied my position, dropped my heels down, and rode.  We did little circles all over the arena, switching direction and changing things up.  Mads kept an eye on that corner. I kept breathing, made a point of not looking at the corner, and tried to stay relaxed, even as I bent her closer to the bogeymen.  I tried to yield her out to the rail with no avail.  Not wanting to set that precedent, we moved away a bit, and I insisted on the yield, and got it.  I’ll be frank – I’m not quite confident enough to ride aggressively (as in insisting on the yield and not compromising if the horse resists) in this sort of situation, and I don’t want to pick a fight I won’t win.

Another rider was having a lesson on her steady-Eddie gelding, who was blind to the corner full of lurking gremlins.  He trotted along the rail, totally unconcerned.  Remembering how George Morris had a dependable horse give a spooky one a lead over a scary jump, I waited for the gelding to trot by, and put Mads right behind him.  First time by the corner she was better, but not 100% great.  Second time, even better.  Third time, not a look.  Good mare!  I decided to move on from all the circles and yields, and started working a little shoulder in down the long sides, half halting and doing “little trot” on the short side, and then asking for a bigger gait on the long side.  I wanted to refresh my half-halts and work on adjustability within the gait.

On the first couple passes, I didn’t get much of a response from Mads when I asked for a bigger gait.  Going into a short side with an unenthusiastic trot, I half-halted the mare and in the same instant pushed her forward, bending into the corner.  A ha!  Her back finally came up, and I felt her step smartly underneath herself.  I gave her a cluck, closed my legs, and invited a bigger gait by increasing the “air time” of my post.  Bam! There it was! The power of that gait never fails to surprise me – it’s an altogether different gear.  When I get that gait from Mads, I feel like the world is our oyster, and we can do anything.

There was one problem.  In that strong transition up to the big trot, I partially lost a stirrup – it slipped back onto the arch of my foot.  I HATE this feeling – and it’s not safe.  Normally, I correct it immediately, which for me, means dropping to a walk, because I’m not yet adept enough to move the stirrup around on my foot while going at any sort of pace, and definitely not when Mads is in “warmblood” gear and is trying to strut it like Totilas.

Okay, I exaggerate but you get my point.

So, back to my situation.  I knew almost instinctively that I had to keep going in that gait I had sought and asked for.    I had to ride her and encourage her forward, and reward her correct response to what I asked.  I rode that lovely trot for almost a lap with my foot hung up in that stirrup.  I then half-halted and asked her for a nice downward transition on my terms, and got it.  Then I fixed my stirrup. We went back to work, and she moved out nicely for me, adjusting well within the trot.

I was glad that I rode her through the sillies and was able to get some good work.  Part of the new confidence comes from my more secure position, which gets better and better – and stronger – with each ride.

About Sarah Skerik
Sarah Skerik is an experienced digital business executive and strategist with a long track record of success in team leadership, employee development, marketing and business development.

3 Responses to Bogeymen

  1. Oh Silly Maddie! That was definitely one of those “up and down days”…going great one second, awful the next for no good reason! Been there, done that!!

  2. dressage rider says:

    LOL! I rode a mare like that for many years. Funny but it was roughly this time of year that I notice the behavior start. Hmm, maybe Jan/Feb actually. It got to the point that I started to wonder if she was in season. That may explain some of the mare’s behavior.

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