The reason I’ve been so ticked off at my gray pony is really not entirely his fault. Well, yes, yes it is his fault, but only because I am not more of a taskmaster.
You see, I am finally ticked that he has NO ACTIVITY BEHIND. Judges have commented on it, clinicians have pointed it out, and my trainer (poor thing) has been saying it weekly for two years. I finally heard myself saying it. That’s why I can’t get him off my inside leg and stretching; he won’t move his dang hind end.
So I am telling all of this to JL before we started our Friday morning lesson. I know she was trying really hard not to smirk smugly at me. I know just how she feels: I can show my students how to simplify fractions using the Greatest Common Factor all year long, but it’s not until they finally see how much work it is to use the 2 that they want to do it correctly.
That’s what Speedy has been "letting" me do: simplify with the 2. It takes forever to get anywhere, and you’re forced to keep repeating the exercise over and over until you finally arrive at the correct answer. If you can’t remember how to simplify fractions, here’s a quick example.
JL suggested we get some activity behind. Her plan was this: rev him up quickly, ask him to stop quickly, rev him up some more, get some decent work out of him, then be done. So JL instructed me to canter without all of the ambling around to “warm up.”
I put my leg on and said MOVE. Like I knew he would, he leaped forward and gave a few I-Don’t-Like-This-Kind-of-Work bucks. Half way around the circle, she told me to ask for a quick whoa. He slammed on the brakes; I pat his neck, and then sent him forward again. The second time I asked for activity, he changed his bucks into the I-Hate-YOU variety. Speedy wasn’t watching where his bucks were taking us, but I was. A jump standard was fast approaching headlong, and I knew he was going to crash into it.
I wrestled with his head, but he was so focused on expressing his opinion that I couldn’t get him to watch where he was going. At the last possible second, he looked up and braked hard while ducking to the side. It was almost a slow motion maneuver, and I almost held on, but not tightly enough. I rolled over his shoulder and landed on my butt.
The dirt was soft, and I was back on my feet before I knew it. Speedy whirled and bolted for a step or two, but when he realized I wasn’t with him, he turned back to find me. Cute, Buster, but too little, too late. He came back up to me with an apologetic look on his face, and I picked up his reins and pat his neck. No harm done, but I was a bit embarrassed as it was the first time I’ve come off at a lesson.
I quickly climbed back on and continued with Operation Rev Him Up. Within only a few more minutes, Speedy was actively forward which means he had a gigantic WTF? expression on his face. JL explained it like this: he didn’t know what the heck was happening. Was I mad at him or trying to pick a fight? Throughout the whole exercise, I kept patting his neck and telling him that he was making good choices.
Once we got him moving forward, the real work began. JL had me make a circle in one corner of the arena to see if I could establish a nice inside bend and some sideways movement. Aha! Funny how it’s easy to get a correct bend and movement off your inside leg when there is sufficient ACTIVITY BEHIND! We tracked left for a minute or two to confirm that I could also make the circle bigger without losing the activity behind and thus the contact.
Tracking right, Speedy decided that while he could move his butt, he wasn’t going to bend so JL had me make a very small circle with my inside rein pulled to my knee and my outside leg saying MOVE YOUR BUTT. When he finally gave me the bend, I relaxed the inside rein and pushed him out with my inside leg. When we were moving inside leg to outside hand, he got a little walk break. Again, life is so much easier when they listen to your leg aids!
Just like tracking left, we worked on making the circle bigger without losing the inside bend or the activity behind. When tracking right, it is easier to maintain the activity on Speedy, but the bend is harder to establish so I did lots of little circles as reminders. As soon as he let go of the inside rein. We were done with the lesson.
My homework this week is to do daily rides of REV HIM UP, work quickly, and then be done. JL suspects that Speedy’s little Arabian mind needs to get to the work more quickly instead of slowly and steadily. As a corollary to that, I’ve also figured out the following: Speedy does better at shows and clinics than he does at home because he has more activity behind. While many horses get too high at events, Speedy gets just high enough to give me the activity that I need without having to beg/nag it from him.
As a post script, my show schedule has changed again. We're going to the 2-day El Sueno show next weekend after all.