You remember my elephant; Fear is his name. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can catch up here.) Fear is a big, burley guy who likes to try and push me around. He's all about making me feel small and powerless. When I am feeling cheeky, I quip about his big, saggy ass. Take that you giant lump of lard! In reality, if I let him hang around, I don't have much fun, and I find riding kind of scary. He's definitely not a Facebook friend, and frankly, I wish I knew how to ditch him permanently.
Fear called last night while I was riding. When I heard my ringtone, I checked my caller ID, saw who it was, and immediately hit ignore. Fortunately he didn't bother to leave a message. I know why he was calling, but I refused to answer. I don't need him in my life.
Sydney had a MELTDOWN last night. Seriously. What the hell? Just the other day I posted about how we cantered and how it was finally soft and relaxed. Five days later we're back to bolting and rearing? You can see why Fear decided to give me a call. He's always looking for an excuse to to dial my number.
So I am starting a new series: Defeating the Demon. This isn't a question. This will happen. I will do it. Here's what I am up against.
- This behavior started last October, too.
- The cold weather is not our friend.
- The dark is not our friend.
- Long work days are not our friend.
- Contact is not [yet, anyway] Sydney's friend.
What do I have going for me?
- My tool box is fuller than it was last year.
- We still have some warm days coming.
- There are only two months until Christmas vacation when I can ride in the middle of the day again.
- Weekends are our friend.
- Contact is GOOD!
Alright already! What happened? Thanks for asking. We started out like always - loose rein, relaxed trot, kick, kick, kick to get him moving. After our big loopy, relaxed trot, I let him stand and relax while I gave him lots of good boy pats.
I shortened my reins (not too much, just a bit) and asked for some smaller circles to work on establishing the inside bend while asking for a little sideways movement. Things were going well, and then I felt it coming. He squealed and slammed on the brakes.
Not wanting a fight, I grabbed a lunge line and put him to work without worrying about getting bucked off. The first few rounds on the line included some serious bucking and deep galloping. I gradually shortened the lunge line and slowed him to a canter so that he was really working. By the time he was done, he was soaked in sweat and blowing pretty hard.
I got back on and still had a demon. He just didn't want to bend. He tried everything to quit working: blow through the shoulder, rear, hump up, whirl, rear, bolt (he only made it a step), and on and on.
What went well? He NEVER got away. I never felt afraid. I never got mad. As he reared up, I pulled his head around and smacked his neck and cheek HARD which really sobered him up. I kept his head and neck moving so that he never had any way to grab on and run. I moved him sideways. Frankly, I just rode him.
Ultimately, he agreed to walk. He was tense and wanted to be at the gate, but I said no. So we walked in a 20 meter circle and spiraled in and out. In and out. In and out. Finally, he took a deep breath and stretched down. I let the reins slide through my fingers and halted. I hopped down and acted as though he'd won a gold medal.
I feel as though I won this battle. I didn't get the trot work done that I had originally wanted, but he didn't get to be done when the "real" work started. With the time change coming, I don't know what strategy I'll need to take as my battle with the demon continues. We'll ride this weekend and see what happens. We have a lesson on Monday so I'll get a chance to talk to JL about it.
Let the games begin.