Saturday, July 9, 2011

Extra Flying Changes Do Not Equal Extra Credit!

I love my mare without question, I have her portrait tattooed onto my arm in case there was any doubt, but some days I wonder if I would be better off with a less intelligent horse. She reminded me today why I don’t always enjoy showing her. Not only do I have to ride every stride, but I also have to out think her while she is working to out think me.

When I saw that we would be using Western Riding Pattern #1 at the show today for our pattern, I saw all the areas of the pattern that I could use to get my horse back to me. At the last two shows she started to rush while on pattern and by the end we were both frazzled. I’ve been working on it at home and the result has been a much more organized ride and a cleaner pattern. I have yet to have a ride in the show ring that is as good at the ones we have at home. I thought I had it figured out today when I came up with my plan to utilize my corners and turns. Grace in the meantime was working on a plan of her own.

The pattern started with jogging over a pole, then picking up the left lead. The first series of changes were line changes that started on the other side of the arena. I planned to use the first corner that we came to keep Grace together. I had that in mind as we picked up the lope after jogging over the pole. Two strides later Grace threw in a flying change. What?? I didn’t ask for that. I changed her lead back on the next stride and continued to the corner. On our way to the first cone Grace changed her lead again and then back a stride later. We were not even to the first change on pattern yet and she had executed 4 flying changes. Her line changes were actually not half bad; she started to rush on the last one so I used my corner and the turn to the first cross change to get her back to me. The cross changes felt good, in the past this is where she has rushed in the pattern but this time she stayed in a rhythmic lope. I had to be very clear with my body in order to keep her from changing early. I thought we had it under control, but as we circled around the last cone to come down the center of the arena she started to run. I stopped her in the middle of the arena where the pattern asked for a stop. It was an ugly stop; Grace threw her head up in the air when I added my spur to her girth. She backed up crooked while I was cursing her under my breath telling her that she wasn’t allowed to run away with me on pattern. This was when I remembered why I had stopped showing. It was this moment of utter embarrassment as I walk out of the arena with everyone looking on. I know that Grace is better than that, we both are.

I started to wonder why I was there. Why am I showing at all? It would be so much easier to just perfect it at home, or maybe just go back to trail riding or cow sorting. It just seems like a lot of work for another crappy performance. Luckily Sarah was just a phone call away. I let her know I was in need of a pep talk. I asked her if I should even been showing at this point or was I just wasting my time. Sarah reminded me that the issues happen at shows so we need to haul to them to get it worked out. She pointed out that I have Grace sound and straight now, so it is due time to get some respect from her. I’m sure there was a time where Grace had to think for herself when I rode her, but in the show ring I need her to wait for me, and the only way I will achieve that is to get it at home first. Sarah suggested that we no longer practice flying changes – Grace clearly has those down. Now is the time to go back and practice counter canter and not doing changes. I will need to make it very clear to Grace that she is not to change leads unless she is asked. Sarah even suggested practicing the Western Riding pattern in counter canter. Sarah also pointed out that I may not be doing enough in my warm up. I admitted to her that I intentionally take it easy; for fear that I will have no hocks left on the mare for my classes. Sarah suggested tiring out Grace’s mind and not her body prior to my classes, lots of transitions and counter canter. Grace needs to be ready to wait on me when we walk into the arena; Sarah’s guess was that she was still too fresh.

I am going to give it another shot at the next show in two weeks. As much as I wanted to walk away from it all at one point today, I want to conquer this even more. I love that little mare and I know her potential. It frustrates the hell out of me that it doesn’t show up in the show ring. I really don’t want to be the only person on earth that knows what Grace is capable of. I have my marching orders and a lesson planned before the next show. I swear if I ever get this mare figured out, every horse I sit on after this will be a piece of cake.

1 comment:

  1. These are all things I've been thinking on lately too. Dee seems so sensitive lately to my every move that a slight bobble can be interpreted as a request for a lead change. Or sometimes just the fact that we crossed center can be interpreted as a request for a lead change. Trying to get her to listen and wait for me is proving difficult.

    Last summer when I actually tried showing her I really blew it with the warmup. By the time we went in the ring she was tired but still hot, if you know what I mean. A combination ripe for mistakes. So I'm looking, too, for a warmup that will give me plenty of horse, but also a horse that is focused on the job at hand, and focused on me. A delicate balance.

    I hear your frustration. I'm almost afraid to try showing again for fear it will end in embarrassment...and I think that's made extra difficult when you know in your heart you have a horse that can get the job done. You are very lucky to have Sarah. Things will come together for you, I'm quite sure.

    I look forward to hearing about how you tackle these challenges.