Lostine's walk/jog exercises were a disaster today. It wasn't just that she was copping an attitude and flipping me the bird the whole way, which is par for the course, but both of us kept having little accidents that were adding up to create an anxiety-laden experience. When I first mounted, the saddle started sliding down her side. I had rocked the saddle and checked the cinch, but she must have been bloating her belly, and then decided to let all the air out when I mounted. The trainer recently had me adjust my cinch settings, so I'm lost on which hole is the right one to use.
Anyway, while I was trying to rock the saddle straight, Lostine walked off, so I pulled her head around and she just kept spinning and spinning, the whole while her saddle was sliding down more and more, so I was putting my weight in the other stirrup, which was putting her off balance, she stumbled and finally came to a stop so I could dismount and fix the saddle. Only, because the saddle was in an unusual position, when I dismounted, my left foot did not come out of the stirrup when I thought I pulled it out. The tread got stuck on the leather and I horked my knee a little bit when landing on my right foot.
But I knew I had to push through it, so I got back on and rode for about 15 minutes doing nothing but one-rein stops because Lostine refused to walk. I couldn't even get to the point where I could ask her for the jog, because she was already trotting her way into a lope as soon as I gave her the cue to walk. I tried getting lighter and lighter on my cue -- no legs, just a quiet cluck -- and she was jerking forward into this run like she was terrified that if she didn't move fast enough she was going to get beat. She was so nervous about having her head pulled around that she tripped and fell on her face. Fortunately, I stayed in the saddle.
Then the ear pinning, back hunching, and backing started up, and I thought, "This is not the horse I used to ride in the Eastern Sierra. She was quiet, gentle, fairly reliable and trustworthy."
I noted that she was chomping nervously at the bit and jerking her own head around, zig-zagging like she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and I just couldn't do it anymore. I halted her and reflected on how she becomes a nutcase every time I bring a horse trainer or equitation instructor into the picture. If it's just me and her doing what we do, everything is fine for the most part. But each instructor I hire teaches me a different technique and Lostine just doesn't adapt well to change.
I cued her to walk off and continued thinking all of this over, and before I knew it, we had walked all the way around the arena without her taking off on me once. She was walking in a relaxed manner like she did on our trail rides. I got the sense that she's perfectly willing to let me ride her as long as I don't make a lot of demands. The trainer had me riding her so actively that I was changing up my cues every other second, and I think the poor old horse was on overload. I know I certainly was.
My homework assignment was to jog her for no more than two fence panels or ten feet, and then walk her for two more fence panels, then jog her for two more fence panels, etc. The trainer's goal is to get Lostine to be putty in my hands and respond to my every command immediately, so that she'll be safe on the trails. The thing is that she's never been unsafe on the trails. She only acts out in the arena when she's being schooled. However, the trainer feels that the horse has to learn to be ridden and follow our cues in any environment.
I started thinking about how I really don't want someone standing in the center of the arena giving out orders for me to perform on my horse while she watches and critiques it. I want someone to ride one horse while I ride another out on the trails. I want to put on miles. I'll have to redirect my lessons back toward that goal.
I decided to toss the walk/jog assignment out the window for today and just enjoy my horse while she was relaxed and happy. I even got to take some pictures from the saddle because I knew I could trust her to stand still for that.
I think it's funny that she won't hold still in the arena just because I asked her to stop, but if she sees there is a reason to stop, such as I need to take pictures, then she obliges willingly. I think with this mare, less is more. If I respect her and don't jerk her all over the place, asking her to stop and go and speed up and slow down every other second, then she's a nice ride. Otherwise, she gives me hell.
I really don't want to degrade my relationship with my horse by treating her like a slave or toy. She's a being who has feelings. There has to be some give and take. Who cares if she's not willing to relinquish her throne as alpha mare to me? As long as she's well behaved on the trails and looks out for me as well as herself, she can be in charge. I just don't want a spooky or crazy horse thinking he's got the upper hand on me. I'm not mentioning any names.