Monday, January 19, 2015

Lesson #156: No Preconceptions

I've learned to go into lessons without any expectations in terms of having a "good" or "bad" lesson. I usually make that assessment afterwards and even then, I try to accept things as they are: an opportunity to learn. This is more important this time around because for the last 2-3 lessons, I've wanted to cry after each lesson. I've been struggling with Ariel more than usual. She's a dominant mare and apparently I've been letting her get away with a lot because it's cumulated in one of the most palm-sweat inducing lessons to date.

The lesson starts with posting trot and I'm able to keep Ariel mostly in the corners. I also decided to leave the spurs out and focus on clearing up my aids instead of relying so much on artificial aids because I never needed any before. The left rein has been great and she is bang on with that one and nothing I've done seems to agitate her. Now for the canter: the rhythm is right on and everything is relaxed and clean. However, get on that right rein (specifically in canter) and she's cutting that one corner and just being a plain biznatch. Posting on the incorrect diagonal in the 'bad' corner forces her to rebalance herself and more inside leg is definitely needed but she's ignoring me and getting her way. Sheri hands me a crop/bat and says, "when she tries that trick again, tap her on the shoulder to remind her of what you want." Not only do I have to sit up more so that she doesn't speed off because of the crop but I have to prepare while getting into that corner so that I'm ready both with the correct flexion and body/seat/leg aids. There's no point to fight with her through hands since she'd win every time. As we approach that corner, she's falling in so I push the crop against her shoulder and attempt to push her back out--no tapping or slapping.

It's not an easy feat and I struggle to get it right. At this point, we've tried this several times and only partially with success and she's not at all happy with me and with a mixture of frustration and anger, she's started rejecting my requests and deeking inside at that corner so it doesn't matter what I do. What happens next is probably the most nerve-wrecking situation I've had to deal with, to date. She plain refuses to do as she's being told and in addition to the deeking, (mini-) rearing, backing up, side stepping, shaking her head, leaping into the air and ignoring anything that's being asked of her.

And pray you don't fall off!

Ariel and I are having a full on fight; a battle of the wills. And I better win because I'm not going to be very happy if I don't. Things happen very quickly and Sheri tells me, keep cantering large and speed up just a touch coming into that corner and really push her back out. In that whole mess of things, I remember fearing for my life, almost toppling over her head, getting jossled about, smacking her shoulder firmly and wanting it all to stop. Even as Sheri is firmly telling me, "Ride through it! Sit up and canter now! Bring her back to a trot ... and canter! Go go go! Don't let her stop!!" I remember responding very loudly as I zip past her, "Okay but I'm really scared right now!!!!!!!" *eeep!* Even recounting this escape makes my palms sweaty!

Somewhere in that whole mess with Ariel, we sort out our differences and Ariel snorts in submission. *THANK HEAVENS* Now I can focus on what my body is doing correctly and incorrectly. I realize that part of the issue is I'm telling her one thing and then asking for the opposite. My right shoulder actually falls in so my own body is torqued. I make a point to ensure everything is turning and going the right way even if it feels like too much. Things get better and more snorts of submission and relief.

We end the this stressful flat lesson with a lengthened and relaxed trot with the aim of having their heads low and the reins to the buckle. I slow my posting and in a few steps, Ariel slows and reaches and her head drops in a relaxed state. We then alter between seated and posting trot with the aim to "listen" to them to understand whether we are doing the right thing for them by ensuring that their heads remain low/relaxed and the rhythm remains unchanged. If they get tense at seated trot, we return to posting trot. And guess what? This mare's right on her game when she's submitting to your requests. We manage to get around and around at a even rhythm with a relaxed pace at both posting and seated trot. I do manage to get moments of that swinging motion in seated trot and it's evident when everything about Ariel remains as is and we go round a few more times.


  1. Oh boy, that is stressful. I am sorry you are going through a rough patch - I have definitely been there this winter! It does really affect your confidence, doesn't it? I know all the reasons our instructors want us to keep going and not stop, but sometimes it all just seems a bit too much when we are flying around by the seat of our pants holding on for dear life. I guess that is part of their master plan to build up our nerves of steel but… ugh! Glad your ride ended on a happy note.

    1. so.stressful. :\ i'm definitely proud that i rode through it and ariel eventually submitted but i was really really nervous up there. i'm definitely still anxious when i'm asked to do certain things but i work really hard to set that fear aside and focus on what's happening at the moment and getting that right because once you get through that rough patch, you feel SO GOOD.

  2. nice work riding through it despite being scared - that's definitely not easy to do! hopefully it's also not something you'll have to repeat very often...

    1. thanks! i really wanted to get off and probably would have, if i didn't have more faith in my instructor... which goes to how much i actually trust what she tells me to do! but despite that, i definitely am not looking forward to going here again.