To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

You knew it couldn't be all sunshine and roses, right?

As I mentioned, it took a looong time for Stella to decide to get in the trailer for our outing to Perrydale Trails last Tuesday. I said "for some reason;" I have a pretty good idea what at least part of the reason was. A couple days before I had decided to long-line her for I think the third time since our lesson with Suzan. The first two times we practiced it Stella did great even though I don't have a round pen, but the third time she was more reactive. I thought we were working through it when she started panicking and took off, yanking the long lines out of my hands. Of course the lines 'chased' her, which panicked her more. She ended up jumping the 4' arena panel into the strip between the arena and barn, where I was able to catch her and 'rescue' her from the lines. (I shudder to think of how bad things could have gotten if she had jumped into the pasture and run through the fir trees which she often does....) When I tried to load her Tuesday morning there was nothing behind her at all, but she definitely acted nervous at first. And once she loaded and we set out exploring Perrydale Trails, she was so wonderfully calm and thoughtful that I was over-the-moon happy with my girl. But I suspected that long-lining again would be a challenge, to say the least – a challenge best left to a professional at it. Since Wednesday's forecast showed rain more likely from late morning on, I texted Suzan about a lesson. She was agreeable, so Wednesday morning I loaded up Stella (Rick was there and stood by, so she got right on) and off we went for a lesson.

I shared what had happened so Suzan backed up a step, putting the outside line over Stella's back instead of around her haunches. She did let her trot, however, which seemed a step forward after the first lesson when everything was done at the walk.

But in spite of that lovely, animated trot, it was apparent to all that Stella was still quite fearful of the long lines. So Suzan took off the surcingle and just worked on desensitizing her to the long lines.

You can see from Stella's lifted back leg in that last photo that she is still quite worried about that outside line. I feel bad that a confidence-destroying wreck happened on my watch, but there is no point in wallowing in regret; we must move on and rebuild trust.

Yesterday I ground-drove her for the first time since the wreck. Had to do a lot with the outside line over her back, just like Suzan did with the long lines, but slowly and carefully graduated to walking behind her. I doubt I'll try long-lining her without a round pen again or at least for the foreseeable future; we'll stick to what we can safely do with what we have.

Stella isn't getting all-day turn-out now that we're getting some rain; I don't want her to slip and injury herself running around in the pasture. Instead I let her burn off steam in the arena; it's been awhile since I've gotten to see her frolic like this!

I'm finally back in the saddle again with my big red goober. After getting treated for his injured ligaments, I started hand-walking him. Had to use a stud chain, because even a lazy boy gets cooped up and full of himself after too much stall rest! After a couple weeks of that, Rick said we could continue our walks under saddle. It is so nice to see this view and have a conversation in "dressage" again; I didn't realize how much I've missed it while working with Stella. Someday she'll learn to speak "dressage," too; I'm looking forward to that!


Terry said...

There will always be wrecks, no matter how careful you are. It's what you do after them that matters. It's great that Suzan backed up a few steps and took off the surcingle. It's also great that you have that view between Lance's ears!

Michelle said...

Thanks for that reminder about wrecks, Terry; I needed that! We will slowly regain ground lost, and move forward eventually.

Retired Knitter said...

Question - would you consider her "high strung" and maybe that her nature will always default to a little over excitement or do all horses go through this - sort of a "taming down?" I know in pets so much hinges on how they are handled during the first few months of life. But even with proper handling their nature may never be calm - just wondering if it is the same with horses.

Michelle said...

Yes, Elaine, it is the same with horses. They are all individuals, with different personalities, energy levels, and preferences.

Kim said...

Gosh Stella is a looker! Yes, as Terry said, there will always be wrecks. Moving on cautiously is a good thing, and boy is it golden to have a knowledgeable person to help both of you come back! I spent a lot of time long lining and driving, way more than on their backs I think. It seemed that way at the time anyway. I almost lost a mega-expensive horse once! Good thing he thought with his stomach!

Michelle said...

Stella can be quite fearful of some things, Kim, so she is taking MUCH longer to train than any other horse I've worked with. I know there's no deadline, but I want to be able to ride her before I die!