I have been avoiding the indoor with Shiraz. Even though she has been going nicely lately in the outdoor, the indoor remained an issue with the large overhead doors on both ends open for the summer. Shiraz had issues with outdoor noises and random people/horses passing outside. I really just wanted more good rides under my belt before tackling it but rain on lesson day forced me to get to it sooner.
Shiraz was tense but I managed to get her trotting out and mostly listening. Drama llama had too many feelings though and in her distress picked up a new bad habit: flinging her head up and down in intense protest of her lot in life. Even once we started jumping the head toss did not let up. The good news was Shiraz was at least giving fabulous jump efforts that impressed coach B.
She ended up throwing in a buck on our approach to the jump line at one point. I was not surprised and felt she was just trying to deal with her tense back muscles. I had to pull up and reapproach which then went fine.
After the lesson Shiraz got a day off and for my next ride I decided to ride in the indoor. It was empty of jumps and freshly harrowed (<3). I focused only on relaxation and rhythm, and eventually achieved it after about 45 minutes of trot circles and serpentines. I loved it.
Then on Monday I had arranged a lesson with one of our local derby organizers. My hope was to get Shiraz out to somewhere new and get more experience before the Willville derby later in August. She is a talented rider and coach that I admire so I was thrilled when she agreed to give me a lesson out at her farm (she has built her own xc course!).
As we started doing basic flat work I was actually pleasantly surprised with how Shiraz was feeling. She settled in quickly to the new space and felt relaxed. And then there were cows.
I sat there kind of hunching into to fetal position and coach P said get her feet moving. I just couldn't at first; instead I said goodbye to my friends who had come with me to watch. I swore. I told my pony about all the carrots that would be in her future if I lived. Then I tried to make her move.
First it was mostly flailing, trying to bolt, trying to rear, then we got some walking happening. As I dealt with her fit and expanded the area we could handle, I started to feel more and more confident to handle it. Soon we reclaimed the whole arena and I was able to make Shiraz ignore the bush and trot forward, albeit now head bobbing with her anxiety.
It couldn't have been a better lesson for me. I was so happy to have ridden through it. By the end Shiraz was back to relaxed and I was able to ride along while coach P gave my friends and me a tour of her xc field. It was only a little disappointing that I didn't get to jump at all. Luckily though coach P invited us back when we can to get xc time with her.
And yes, Shiraz received many carrots once we got back home.