Sunday, August 26, 2018

Growing Pains

I typically love the days following a show weekend. Usually my horse seems happy to be home and feeling more relaxed and confident after a weekend expanding the bubble.

Shiraz got two days off and my first ride would be our Wednesday jump lesson. I was a bit hurried as the coach asked if I could start a half hour earlier than originally scheduled but I still took the time to lunge first which resulted in some pretty impressive bucks. There were a lot of people riding in the ring at the time so I felt horrible for disturbing the peace but quickly changed into her bridle and hopped on to join my coach and the other rider in my lesson.

The wild beast taking a nap before her next rampage.
Shiraz felt so tight as if she might buck even in the trot. I did not think much of it aside from feeling frustrated that we yet again were having trouble in a lesson. Over this summer I have learned that while one ride can be a total shit show, the next ride could be amazing and to just roll with it for now because she is green. We attempted to follow the exercises but this day Shiraz was having no part of it and I ended up needing to slow things down. I spoke for a while with my coach (who seemed pretty sure it was a pain issue) and decided to excuse myself from the lesson and work on relaxing Shiraz on my own so the other rider could move on to jumping.

I left that ride worrying that my horse had ulcers/painful teeth/ misaligned spine/or some bone disease affecting her hocks/hips (and most likely all of them at once) and her well-fit saddle probably needed replacing too.

Then I came out the next day armed with ulcer treatment, a flashlight to try and see her back teeth and a stool so I could reach all the spots to give her a complete massage. I took her out to ride first to watch for triggers to her behavior. Except there were none. She was a fucking saint.

The next two days I also came out to ride; one day they were working on a new fence using a circular saw to cut boards and randomly moving the tractor just through the trees which has been her trigger in the past for extreme spooking. The following day the hydro company parked the truck on the road right beside her 'scary corner' and was working in the ditch there. Shiraz was completely fine with it all.

So what is going on? When I look back on all my lessons with this coach, Shiraz has only been calm for one lesson. Of course she is going to think something must be wrong with her! When I ride on my own I can take my time, warm up slowly and adjust the plan as I go to help Shiraz be calm and comfortable. Lessons tend to be at a busier time at the barn so the atmosphere is different. I am less relaxed too which does not help. Then add in a faster warm up and Shiraz loses some marbles.

I am still treating for ulcers and teeth will be done next week (I had already planned on doing her teeth this fall regardless). But honestly I think Shiraz is just a sensitive young snowflake that is expressing her lack of confidence. When I slow things down she can be very relaxed and happy to play.

I don't want to avoid pressuring her; she needs to learn to put on some big-girl panties and deal just as I have. I just feel like I need to set her up for success by making sure the pressure is fair. So I have asked coach if I could be switched to a private flat lesson for the next little while so we can work on more simple exercises at a slower pace and build back up to jump lessons as we go.


  1. ugh i'm sorry the lessons haven't been super productive - but good for you for being able to sit back and figure out that "one of these things is not like the others." private flat lessons sound like a great idea. it's supposed to be constructive and confidence building, not always creating extra tension or feeling like a setback. hopefully the new plan works out!

    1. It has been kind of embarrassing and frustrating in lessons--Shiraz has been a total turd for almost all of them and coach hardly believes she even knows how to horse. The thing is, I can flat on my own just fine and really need coaching specifically for I am not sure how much of a solution this is. Except maybe with private flat lessons my coach can get a better idea of the whole picture and maybe believe me when I am pretty sure she is just being emotional versus something physical is wrong.

  2. This sort of thing is very very frustrating. Do you have the option of hopping on her before the lesson to begin her warm up? I do that with Carmen and it is helpful (well most of the time depending on the mood of the mare....)

    1. I think that was a large part of the problem--it was a terrible time for me, but the coach's only time with other students jumping my height so I was trying to make it work. It was always rushed because of work schedule between my husband and I, and kids ensuring someone was home with the kids. But hopefully the new private lesson will be at a more manageable time (still waiting though to find out what works for coach..) and I can spend time warming up pre-lesson.

  3. I went through a similar period with my old horse. I feel like partly she was nervous and anticipating having to work hard and learn (she doesn't like to be "wrong") plus I got a bit uptight over it side was she figured it out as she matured and gained confidence. I still can get uptight when I feel like Im wasting money/other people's time, so sadly I dont think the improvements came from me!

    1. lol, the great thing for me is I don't seem to mind wasting money, hahaha! (oh my gosh, I hope my husband doesn't read this!! lol). But, holding up a group of riders because I can't get my horse to trot along the rail in a straight line because she is too busy throwing a fit about a blade of grass that moved really makes me feel horrible! And then add in coach feeling like my horse must have something wrong with her… ugh. Nope, just a green, emotional little turd. :)


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