From Endurance to Dressage
Releasing the Halter
I am not ready to talk about Sunday's lesson. Instead I'll share how the halter releasing went.
End result - excellent! But the truth is, I was really worried about being successful.
Frankly, I was able to buy Sydney cheaply because he had baggage. I don't know exactly what size his luggage is or whether it's an indestructible Samsonite, soft-sided, or just a small carry-on. I do know that he was bred and raced in New Zealand and then exported to the USA, which isn't cheap. Someone got him his Hunter/Jumper card thing which also means someone was spending big bucks on showing and trainers. Neither thing, racing or jumping, worked out for him, so he slowly made his way to the barn of Debbie Davis, re-homer of the can't quite make it where they were.
Why didn't Sydney make it on the track or as a hunter/jumper? Was he simply too slow, too clumsy, or was it something more insidious? Was he untrainable? Too sensitive and anxious? I tend to gravitate toward the no one really wants 'em kind of horses. I've had hot ones, wild ones, and even one that tried to kill me. [That was Speedy G - and he really did try!] In the end, they've all turned out to be really great horses that garnered a great deal of respect.
Each time I start a new one, I go through a period of buyer's remorse. I think, holy crap! What have I done? There's no way I can make this one work. And each time, I figured the pony out and was honored to have him or her in my life. Right now, I'm there with Sydney. I keep reminding myself that it's been less than a year and we are making progress. But every time I lick one issue, two more crop up. This haltering thing was just one more in a line. Take a number and all that.
When I woke up on Sunday morning, how to fix it consumed me. I thought about it long and hard but was overwhelmed with feelings of doubt and fear. What if it just gets worse, and I can't resolve it? And there it was, the root of all my anxiety, especially the issue we worked on at our lesson. What if I don't have the skills to deal with Sydney's baggage? What if he's untrainable? What if I get hurt?
Meet my new elephant. His name is What If. Unfortunately, he's lived at my barn before, so I know him well. I kicked him out a couple of years ago, but you know how these freeloaders are. They sneak back in while you're not paying attention.
So dealing with the halter thing was a big deal. And when I solved it, even if just for one day, I felt some of my confidence return. Sydney is teachable!
I didn't do anything special. I just used what I know. I started in the outside run of his stall and asked him to lower his head by pulling steadily on his lead rope. Once he lowered his head, I gave a good boy. Next, I gently rocked his head toward me. More good boys. Then I wrapped the lead rope around his neck and repeated the first two exercises. Downward pressure, sideways rocking. I loosened the halter and moved as though I was going to "release" him. As I knew he would, Sydney tried to jerk away. I was hip to his game and caught him smartly, and sharply, with the rope. The halter was back on before he knew what had happened. And I will say he had a mildly surprised expression on his face. Something like, what the hell just happened?
I love that look because it says a lot about a horse's ability to follow the rules. There was no pinning of the ears or swishing of the tail, gestures that say, screw you, lady! Instead, just surprise. I repeated the process again, and was rewarded with a pony whose feet were bolted to the ground. He was rewarded with a small cookie and lots of very good boys!
I gave Sydney a break while I did some other chores and then we moved the lesson to the arena. No bolting, jerking, or other shenanigans. Just a pony who seemed happy with the rules more clearly defined. I think that as long as I insist on a lowered head and a nose bent to me, we'll have no repeats of the jerk to be free maneuver.
Mr. What If, would you kindly remove your over-sized butt and get the hell out of my barn? You are decidedly not welcome here.
2/26/2012 10:17:15 pm
Oh boy - do I know the "what if" monster, and the whole buyer's remorse thing. It's worked out for me so far, but you are so right when you say there's that period of time that you wonder whether it will just get worse and you won't be able to fix it.
2/27/2012 08:27:52 am
Mel - thank you so much for taking the time out of your VERY busy day to share. Vet school is keeping you busy, I know!
Ooh, I was wondering how the lesson went all through yesterday. Glad to hear about the unhaltering success though - good on you.
2/27/2012 08:30:18 am
Thanks, Kelly. I know it takes time, but it's easy to dubt yourself in the meantime.
2/27/2012 09:59:23 am
I think blogging is as much about sharing the mistakes and uncertainties as it is sharing the successes. In most cases, I think that blog readers can relate better to the failures and setbacks and helps us feel a deeper connection to those around us. HOWEVER - it's not exactly easy since blogging aobut something means we can't just put our head in the sand and ignore a looming issue, or a setback. As much as I SO DID NOT want to post that Farley's legs had filling this afternoon - I HAD to - for the integrity of my blog, and to make sure I didn't take it lightly. For me, blogging is the ultimate reality check.
2/29/2012 04:54:49 am
I think you made short work of that problem. Even if it comes back a little bit, Sydney sounds very teachable. I am sure that it will be a thing of the past before very long.
3/1/2012 09:55:50 am
I hope so! But you're right - the teachable part was what was important to me, particularly right now. :0)
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
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3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: