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Monday, August 15, 2011

On Courage

I read a quote on another blog this morning that seems to sum up my current state of mind.  It is
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear."  Last Friday, I experienced fear for the first time ever on Riva.  I got really shook - physically & mentally.  I had a good long cry.  I did not like my horse when I left the barn. 

I have still been riding every other day - working in hand or taking her for a hand walk on the days off.  As Riva has gotten sound, she is getting strong and fit.  She is feeling good - which is great!  But she now has muscle to back up her melt downs - which is bad.  When she is willing and moving - she feels and looks great.  Her trot is really developing and she is learning to hold and carry herself in canter with a rider.  But, her periodic meltdowns have turned to explosions.  You know when they are coming - she slows down and stops.  If you use the crop of her - cow kicks which lead to huge bucks.  If you spur her, huge bucks.  Growling and yelling - same.  And on Friday - she reared, bucked, and spun - in quick succession.  Somehow, I managed to stay on...but I was rattled, scared, and crying.  I walked her out - showered her off - and put her away.  Cried most of the way home.

I needed back up and a plan.  I emailed my trainer - who was competing at a sanctioned dressage show this weekend - and explained what was going on.  I told her I really don't think a lesson is in order yet, since we are only supposed to be working straight lines until the vet clears her (her appt for a recheck is in mid-Sept).  But I don't want to go back to just walking until then and lose muscle Riva has built.

While waiting to hear back from her, I talked with my daughter about riding her for me.  She agreed to ride her for me on Sunday - suited up in her Tipperary vest and helmet, of course.  Lex is young and talented - and she does not take crap from any horse.  So Sunday Lex got on Riva, after I had lunged her.  Riva pretty much tested her right off the bat.  Lex stuck with it - got nice trot and canter work out of her.  After about a 20 minute ride, I got on.  Lex had me trot her 2 laps around the arena on both reins and walk her out - done for the day.  Riva hesitated on the first trot transition, but did not buck or kick - just thought about it a moment and then went.  Same on the other rein. 

Lex plans to ride her again Tuesday before me and follow the same routine.  She will ride however long it takes to get Riva moving willingly in all 3 gaits.  We plan to keep this up until, hopefully, Riva stops throwing tantrums.  I really believe it is a training, young horse issue to work thru.  She is sound, feels good, and looks amazing in all 3 gaits when she chooses to cooperate. 

Which leads back to my quote - the something else that is more important than fear is my working thru this issue, with help.  I know this will all be worth it.  Oh, and I liked my horse yesterday!


SprinklerBandit said...

As a fellow adult amateur, I can certainly sympathize with your fear and I 100% agreed that this is a training issue to work through. I'm glad Lex is there to help--someone young and fearless can be incredibly useful.

That said, it sounds like the key issue is a lack of forward--stopping, bucking, and rearing all mean she isn't moving forward. It's so comfortable and easy and slow to let her drop behind your leg (which allows all of the above), but you must go FORWARD. In order to acheive that, she must respect your leg. I'm sure Lex is working on this with her, but it is so critical to establish this.

And yes, I can say this because I went through it with my mare in her first, second, and third testing stage.

Kelly said...

You mean there are stages?!! Gotta love mares :)

Thank you for the encouraging comments. Daughter is definitely working on forward. I need to try and get some video of this 'stage'. Hoping I can look back on it in a few years and see how far we have come.

Megan said...

It can be scary when your horse acts up. I'm glad you have a plan to work through these issues!

achieve1dream said...

I'm glad your daughter is willing and able to help. :) I know this is probably a dumb question, but do you reward her for going forward? It doesn't have to be treats, just a scratch and verbal praise works for a lot of horses. It sounds like she doesn't like moving forward because it's a lot of work. Once she's cleared for circles you can use turning her in a tiny circle for getting her back under control when she starts bucking. If she does it to you again to where you're too shaken to stay on you can get off and lunge her to work through her stickiness. Don't think of it as punishment, just a training tool to get past the stickiness. I don't think lunging should ever be used as punishment. Just some suggestions that I hope are helpful. I think you're doing the right thing for now having your daughter work her. Eventually though you'll have to get her to respect you too. Keep up the great work!

Kelly said...

Daugher & I are both big believers in praise for going forward - verbal and neck/whither scratches. And once she is cleared for circles, that will help with the bucking. Right now, we are getting her off balance when she cow kicks or bucks.

I know Riva has to learn to respect me also - so I get on her after my daughter rides her and we are working towards shorter sessions each time daughter rides her and longer session with me on board.

Tuesday was our second time trying this and Riva was much more behaved - no rearing and only a couple of cowkick attempts that my daughter was able to catch before they happened. So...encouraging!

achieve1dream said...

That's great. It sounds like you know exactly what to do, you just need to give it the time to work. :)