A Lesson Learned

So this is my make-up post, and I will post another tomorrow.

I had a lesson yesterday, well, two days ago, since today is technically Friday. I am posting this at 12:30, because two hour delays are freaking amazing.

A lesson, meaning Sherwin trying to keep calm while he realises just how clueless I really am about this whole horse-training thing. Typically, I have my lessons with Winchester. But Robin and anyone else who has handled Chic apparently complained to Sherwin about how poorly mannered she is. (She really isn’t that bad with me–wait, nevermind. She really is awful.) So, Sherwin decides to have my lesson with Chic instead, working on ground manners and slightly above basic riding cues. This actually works out, since I don’t have an English saddle that fits Winny, and I have wanted to do a lesson with Chic for a while. (Killing four birds with one stone: Blog update, journal entry, mentor contact, and annotated bibliography WOOT!)

I start off with lunging Chic with my arm driving her and the lead rope dictating the circumference of the circle, which is quite small. Sherwin is on the phone, so I have her trot, just to warm her up. She’s such a nervous little brat. Tried to switch directions on me a few times, but I am zippy and correct her. Sherwin gets off the phone (he actually gets about three phone calls during this lesson, but it was still totally worth it) and gets a longer line to lunge her on. He ties it to her halter and takes her to a corner of the arena to work with her and asses how much she knows. Nothing. She was walking all over him. Naturally, he wasn’t having any of it, but still. She is a very smart horse, so obviously she has a bad attitude and way too much energy (although I can’t use that as an excuse for her behaviour). Sherwin works with her for several minutes, explaining to me what he is doing, which is teaching her to engage and disengage her hips. Basically, turning her in a circle around him, and then pulling her in so that she turns on the forehand. Horses are prey animals, so they do not like exposing their flanks. This is playing on that instinct, and using it to teach a horse to respect a human’s space. The goal of disengaging is to have the horse stop directly in front of the person from a respectful distance. This means that Chic is not all up in Sherwin’s grill. Well, ideally. Really, she was all over him for the good first five to ten minutes of this exercise.

Then Sherwin had another phone call. He hands the lead line to me.

Heck yes, I can do this.

I had been watching his every move, charting it in my mind and practically worshiping his skill. (Because he is a freaking magician with horses. As difficult as Chic was, he still made a lot of progress in those first few minutes of working with her.)

I start trying to do the same thing while he is on the phone. Holy crap, why is she trying to push me over? Wait a second, oh, I got it. I just put pressure here and she’ll move this way. Wait, no, not right! Stop moving! Hold on a sec. Okay, okay, this is working, Crap, no it isn’t.

The wizard gets off the phone, and I imagine that he is inwardly shaking his head as he approaches and takes the line from me. He shows me how to back her up and then draw her in. He says to build up energy in my torso and my hands, and to try to move her backwards just from that energy. This is witchcraft. He effortlessly asks her to back up, and she does. He closes his body, makes it smaller and she come close. My turn. I end up having to wave the line back and forth, smack her a few times, and jerk the line backwards on her halter to get her to back. Sherwin said that I shouldn’t have smacked her, she was already backing up. Grr, he’s right. He smacked her a few good times, too, but those instances were properly executed corrections, not needless reinforcements to a request that Chic was already meeting.

She has no respect for anyone’s space. It’s my fault, I didn’t do a good enough job of teaching that to her.

On to the mounted portion of the lesson. That was rough. Sherwin has me trot her in circles, trying to get her to slow down her pace and relax. This is very difficult to do. Luckily, I have worked with two other horses much like Chic. One wasn’t quite as bad, and the other was much, much worse, and I was able to make significant progress with both. (The worst one was a Missouri Fox Trotter with an owner who had absolutely no clue what she was doing. The horse’s name was Dessi, and she had a SERIOUS rearing problem. I thought that she would flip over on the both of us several times. I switched her into a simple O-ring snaffle, from her previous weymouth-type bit with five inch shanks. We rode together a lot, and I was patient with her. In three months, she went from rearing at her own shadow to having days where she wouldn’t rear at all. I even took her on a trail ride with my boyfriend. I was riding Dess, and he was on Winchester, which was a lot of fun. 🙂 This is so off-topic, I don’t even. But my point is, I have dealt with worse. I guess I am trying to reassure myself that I got this. Three months to turn this train-wreck of a filly into something that somebody would be willing to buy for $5000 to $6000. Yikes, I am freaking out.) Anyways, I guess I really need to go back to the basics with Chic, and I need to try to ride her/work with her every day for the next three months. She isn’t skin and bones anymore, so I don’t have an excuse to wait on her.

She needs work. I need work. I love this little brat to death, but she is a PITA pony, as my farrier says.

Ugh. This senior project will literally kill me. (Knocks on wood.)

I have learned a lot. Now I get to learn how to apply it. YAY!

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