Stuck in the Mud in More Ways Than One

I rode outside yesterday because they were doing work in the indoor.  It was a beautiful day, so I didn’t mind but PJ wasn’t thrilled.  He really didn’t like that the outside ring has a slight hill and didn’t want to put the effort in to go up the hill.  After trotting in each direction I cantered him to the right first.  He was calm – too calm.  I had hoped cantering would reave his engine but no such luck.  I changed direction and asked him to trot out more but he tried to pick up a canter.  He leaned on my inside (left) leg and every time I put on my let to send him forward he cantered instead of trotting.  I finally ended spinning him in a circle, kicking with my inside leg to get him to move his inside hind leg. He eventually just trotted with some energy and I never did canter him that direction.  I took him for a walk around the field to cool out.

Today I had a lesson and told Barbara about what happened.  I was feeling a little guilty for beating on my horse.  She reassured me that sometimes you have to “get mean” because as long as you are being definite, you are not really being mean.  In fact, having loose reins can be more abusive to a horse because he doesn’t know what you want and gets confused.  The fact that I finally got PJ going right after spinning him around means that I was clear in what I asked and he eventually answered and understood that what he was answering.

But today he still wasn’t paying a lot of attention to me.  I tried waking him by sending him forward but he was not listening and just twiddling around.  Instead, Barbara had me do lots of transitions, both within the gait and between the trot and canter.  At first, PJ didn’t really half-halt but eventually he started listening.  I had to separate my hands from my seat and legs.  I didn’t realize I used so much hand in the half-halt.  Barbara was pleased that I started to use my aids independently and that PJ actually was listening.  I didn’t see it.  I felt like my aids were muddled and that PJ really wasn’t paying attention.

Next time PJ doesn’t react, I have to change the game.  I have to demand that he does what I ask when I ask (without pulling on the reins).  Sometimes it definitely feels like I’ve taken a step back, or at least I’m just stuck in the mud.

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