Coming Together


Tonight was our third lesson during Fiction's training.

We had a great 10 minute trail ride followed by a very nice walk/trot/canter warm-up before we got right into it.

The points of the lesson were really simple, as all I am trying to do at this point is emulate what Trainer does when she rides him.

We worked a lot on shoulder-fore down the long side at the trot and canter just so we could get off the circle. He did very well. Much better to the left than to the right.

Then we returned to the circle to do some spiral in/spiral outs at the canter. He was absolutely fantastic to the right but we didn't manage to get video of it. We did get video of his left side which is a bit more difficult. Still - it's a great enough video to really show me how he reacts to every little thing that I do.

In the video you will see:
    • Canter to the left - spiral in and spiral out.
    • Spiral in, haunches first - spiral out.
    • Expansion and collection of the canter.
We have some bobbles and some moments of tension, but for those of you who have simply observed from my blog, let me assure you that this is miles ahead of where we used to be.

It used to be an absolute nightmare fight every time I asked him to do something simple like this. He would brace and bolt and throw himself to the inside and no amount of leg could get him back over. He would pin his ears and throw a hissy fit, get super heavy in the bridle, and buck.

Now he maintains a gentle rhythm and while he loses his balance from time to time or reacts/tenses up at random things (including things totally caused by me), he is calm, adjustable, and workable.

I have gaits I can work with instead of worrying about not blasting out of the arena. I'm not dying of exhaustion halfway through the ride. He connects through the bridle with little to no contact (mostly at the trot now - he still needs a lot of help at the canter). He moves off of the leg with very little pressure. He is no longer combative.

Sometimes it saddens me to have a 9 year old green bean (Trainer said she would still consider him green until his bobbles and periods of tension smooth out), but we're making progress. Two months of professional training was enough to get us over that speed bump we kept encountering. It won't be smooth sailing, but at least I don't feel like I'm smashing my face into a brick wall over and over again now.


I need to have more faith in my own capabilities


On Saturday I rode Fiction and tried my best to emulate what we had accomplished in our lesson. There was no jigging and no craziness, but Fiction felt locked and unresponsive.

Lesson #2 came on Monday. Fiction warmed up calmly and remained calm for the most part throughout the lesson. No chewing or chomping, flailing, or bolting. It took about 20 minutes to get him to fully soften and relax, especially since there were various puddles in the arena that he was particularly adverse to.

This lesson built upon the foundations of the last lesson. Now that I know how to place myself, the next step was to get Fiction's body to move in individual pieces. We focused on keeping him bent in one direction but pushing his rib cage from side to side.

I had to remind myself to really let go of the outside rein when he bulged to the inside and to apply apply the outside leg, as his bulging throws his shoulder inside but his rib cage outside. It seems completely counter-intuitive and almost like I'm thinking backwards, but it works to bring him back into proper alignment.

We did canter this time. To the left his canter departures were instantaneous and amazing. The canter itself felt correct, collected, and powerful. We had some issues with straightness due to the puddles, and I had to remain vigilant to ride him properly with every step.

To the right the canter was a bit of a crapshoot. Fiction decided he wanted to leave and kept trying to shift his way towards the exit. It took way more leg than I had to keep him straight and I overcompensated with my hands. We worked on dropping pressure from the reins to check how well connected he is - one rein at a time - and then fixed what we felt when he offered a response.

It was a good lesson. I have video that I'm going to try and upload sometime this weekend.

We discussed putting him into training for an additional month but Trainer said she thinks I'm more than capable of continuing his education as long as we boost lessons to once a week rather than once every two weeks. That would require trailering to her place either every week or every other week, depending on her schedule with my current barn. Then, further down the road, if we decide he needs another crash course, I can send him back to her for a little while.

In other news - his Shoofly Leggins do not stay on, which is a real bummer. We're not sure how they keep coming off, but I'm starting to think he's just too rambunctious out in the field for them. I may be offering them up for sale here shortly.


Some things wont change


I rode my horse for the first time in 1 1/2 months yesterday. I didn't go in with any grand delusions. I know how damaged Fiction is. It takes a long time to fix a ruined horse.

Fiction was quite uppity. I don't think he gets enough outside time at the training barn & he is now quite fit, so he's a lot to handle. That will never change.

We spent the entirety of our 45 minutes lesson doing the following:

    • Walking. Extremely slow. As slow as I could get him to walk. Then, at the walk, isolating the left seatbone to push him over, followed by the application of the left leg to continue to push him. Then straighten the hips and let him walk forward. Repeat 10000000 times both directions.
    • He is not allowed to jig. Shut it down immediately.
    • Same concept at the trot - posting only. Keep the trot dialed way back. If he freaks out or bolts forward or breaks into canter, no matter the reason, shut him down immediately and return to walk.
    • Keep loop in inside rein, outside rein elastic. Keep feet flatter with weight rolled into little toes to open up the hips.

Fiction is an exceptionally sensitive horse who is also a complete brat and a bully. It may seem like I am anthropomorphizing him, but he does have a unique personality I have never encountered in another horse. 80% of the time he is relatively willing to listen and do what you ask, though he will attempt to bully his way out of it and take control. If you remind him that you're boss, for the most part he will accept it. 20% of the time he will tell you to fuck off and will require a hard reset. This is Fiction and this will never change. What will need to change, however, is how we approach our partnership moving forward.

While his personality and work ethic have not changed, there have been some clear changes in capability. He's consistent in his rhythm and his entire body works together now instead of in disjointed pieces. He feels so darn powerful - it's like riding a gigantic warmblood. Before it felt like we were just playing at dressage, whereas now he actually feels connected and through.
Trainer let me know that during my lesson I rode Fiction better than I've ever rode him before, which was a super nice compliment. However, she did discourage me from showing him this year, save maybe for a schooling show in August before I pop off to Asia. No big deal. Moving forward, our rides are to be simple repeats of the lesson combined with trail rides. No canter work at all. We'll see how it goes.


Nothing New


Nothing new to report, really. Fiction is doing very well. He's putting on a lot of weight and muscle.

I went out to see him and gave him a part-spa day complete with a good curry, liniment rub down, mane and tail conditioning, etc. He also got to try on his new Shoofly Leggins. I nabbed them as alternatives to the flyboots I was using before, as these are not tight around the legs and since he'll be out 24/7 I wanted something loose and airy.

I'm still working on getting him a new flysheet. The cat had to have his teeth cleaned, so all my pennies went to that. Needless to say, Cooper wasn't exactly happy with me when I picked him up yesterday evening.

We should be having a lesson this weekend (fingers-crossed). Then Fiction gets his feet done on the 8th by a temp farrier.