I’ve come to the realization that PJ is stressed out about being ridden. He’s been showing me lots of signs and I’ve had an excuse for each one. There’s the bit issue; maybe it’s more of a contact issue. The recent resistance – he’s really leaning on my left leg and not wanting to go – that could be ulcers. His ears are sometimes back and not floppy. He does this head shaking thing after I put the saddle on him that seems to be related to being bridled (he stops after we leave the crossties to go to the ring). He’s spooking more, which could just be that he’s more fit and more forward, but maybe it’s a reaction to being stressed. I think a lesser horse would be showing more aggressive signs (rearing, balking) but PJ is such a good egg that I think he’s been internalizing his anxiety.
Now the question is what to do about it. The obvious answer is learn to ride better. I’m trying. But besides having a genie who can grant me that wish immediately, it’s going to be a slow process. Part of this is going to involve going back in training, which will be more for me than him. I need to start over and break things down more. I need to concentrate on each individual part individually and then work on putting it together.
I also thought it would be best to get him out of the ring. It was a marvelous day, so outside we went. I really wanted to ride in one of the fields but it was too wet to do anything but walk. I brought him to the outdoor ring and started there. After some walk-trot, I took him to the hunt field to walk around. The whole time I kept a nice contact and that’s mainly what I concentrated on. Then we went back into the ring and walked and trotted a little more, again, concentrating on contact above all else (going forward was second on my list, sitting on my right seatbone third, and turning my shoulders in the direction of the turn was fourth). We finished by talking a stroll down the driveway. I tried to ride to the front field but it was too wet to even get there! I turned left instead of right and returned via a second driveway. It’s supposed to be a wonderful weekend, so my plan is to ride outside every day I can, especially because the temperature is predicted to drop to amazingly cold by Tuesday.