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A Humbling End

A week has passed since my life was turned upside down by my new coach/trainer (see introduction, 3 posts followed recapping the clinic), and unlike clinics passed I was raring to go with a newfound motivation and inspiration.  In one of my previous posts I touched on the impression that we began to uncover the roots that posed so many issues throughout our past show year, and I feel like I learned so much more about my horse during the clinic.  I found the transition to riding without being barked at (said with love) tough, and found myself wanting to revert back to some old habits but I did my best to remain confident, trusting and supple in my own body.  The arena has been fairly quiet during my usual ride times as of late and I took advantage of that to utilize the entire arena, play with going more forward, and dabble with the flying changes.

Sierra had Monday off and Tuesday we started back lightly with just a very forward flowing, easy ride with a loose contact.  We schooled some transitions, albeit probably not as many as we should, without contact (or with minimal contact), and Sierra felt very happy in her work.  I kept this fairly short and simple given that she was likely still a little sore and tired still so my intention was just to get her moving and grease some tired muscles and joints.  Sierra also had Wednesday off as I had other plans that evening but it didn't stop me from bringing her in for a brush and to turn her loose in the arena.  Currently we live in a horrendous ice-field, so I have been trying to get Sierra on some solid ground as much as possible.  Monday - Wednesday, we also took advantage of the Theraplate that is available on site and Sierra seems to really enjoy the vibration!

Current view of Sierra's [ice] Field

Thursday was much the same, but I asked a little more of her and we dabbled with the flying changes.  Much like Tuesday, I warmed up with some circles and serpentines but tried to keep things flowing as forward and engaged as possible by utilizing the entire ring and some longer lines such as diagonals, etc.  When I first picked up the Canter nothing changed; we went large and played with finding that more forward, driving momentum and schooled a few simple changes before asking for a flying change.  As a refresher for those who read my recaps; on the weekend we could not get anything however my trainer was 1/1 for a clean, perfect, beautiful flying change.  Much to my surprise, Sierra changed the back and then careened around the arena disunited and wonky. I immediately burst into laughter as I was overcome by a hilarious memory from my childhood where a barn-mate was teaching her horse flying changes and had a similar response and yelled out "IT FEELS LIKE A BROKEN TABLE RIDE". I will never forget that day, and now I was on my own 'broken table ride', lol.  Anyway, I corrected it with a simple change, set her back up and asked for another the other way with the same result.  It seems meager, but I was really, really excited. It was only 50% of a change, but that was 100% improvement from the last time I had tried!  I didn't want to overdo anything nor did I wan't to wreck something, so I ended with some relaxed forward flowing trot before calling it a day.  

Friday mirrored our ride on Thursday, however this time after speaking with my trainer I let go of Sierra even more as my trainer felt I may have had too much contact or been too restrictive and 'over riding' again when we tried the changes because it's 'new' and 'new is scary'.  She felt excellent and happy in her work, but no matter how hard I tried I could only get her to change the front this time instead of the hind!  That being said, we had two clean changes and one that was late behind by about 2-3 strides.  After the first clean change (our first ever, WOOHOO!) I was so excited I went up into a half-seat and let Sierra hand gallop around the ring to her hearts content. I'm pretty sure I massaged her neck for a solid 2.5 laps.  I then packaged her back up and got another clean change the other way, followed by the one that was late behind.  I could tell she was getting tired by that point, and I didn't want to keep pushing the envelope and get greedy.  The progress I was feeling was huge!  She did have several changes where she only got the front, but I was thrilled with the two clean changes we got and one that was late behind, but eventually came to fruition.

Living for the Theraplate - when it's so good you can't even hold your own head up

I typically give Sierra Saturday & Sunday off because I live 15/20 minutes from town and I am so busy with my own life on the farm it often doesn't yield time or energy to ride, however our schedule was kind of wonky due to the clinic and two friends wanted to have a 'barn morning', so I decided to go and thought it might be a good opportunity to get some eyeballs on the changes.  Our ride proceeded like normal but Sierra felt a little lackluster; she felt a little rushy in the trot and I felt as though I was having to half-halt more than usual, however she responded well to my requests however much like the days prior we were only getting half changes, or late behind.  Sadly my friends didn't have much input and no one had their phone on them to video, but we did get two late-behind changes. After a few attempts I could feel her beginning to pull down on me and it felt like significant work to keep her engaged and pushing without dumping on her forehand so I had concluded to do one more and call it a day.  On the last change, she was successful but a little late behind and following the change Sierra stumbled quite hard, which made it evident she was just very, very tired.  We ended with a little bit of stretchy trot where she continued to feel like she was 'dumping' onto the forehand and just running through the trot so I transitioned down to a walk off my seat where I swear I felt Sierra go "oh, thank GOD!".  She can be tough because she gets sweaty but not like.... excessively sweaty (usually), and she doesn't feel out of breath but she gets progressively heavier.  Regardless, I was really happy with our ride and one of two friends wanted to ride again on Sunday, so I penciled it in before giving Sierra a long brush and hot mash.

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Sunday came and both Barn Friend C and I both managed to sleep in a little and got to the barn a bit later than planned.  Luckily, we weren't in a rush so we tacked up our horses at our leisure and set off in the sand.  Sierra felt particularly 'amped' and 'looky' which was confirmed by two hard spooks out of the 'scary corner' where it took longer than usual to stop her/slow her down.  I will admit, I did not throw my hands forward and 'go with it' as CA would have had me do; I seem to have a hard time accomplishing that in a walk (vs. trot or Canter) for some reason, so perhaps I am riding the walk a little too casually...TBD.  I decided today was going to be one of those days where I just needed to get her feet moving so we picked up the trot and I immediately felt like I needed more contact than I had been attempting to ride with since CA came into my life because she felt like she was ignoring me and just rushing to 'do the things'.  Her brain felt like it was going a million miles a minute so we did some exercises to slow down her feet and make her be patient.  One of my favorite exercises for this is riding up centerline and turning left or right at D/X/G or wherever your heart desires and alternating the direction of turning. Alternatively, you can also ad 10/15M circles in instead of going all the way back to A/C, but regardless it really reminded Sierra that she doesn't necessarily know where she's going, or what she's doing.

Yas girl, open that topline and push

Sierra felt as though she was beginning to relax, but she still just didn't feel quite right to me. She did feel perhaps a little stiff or sore but she didn't feel short or lame .... she just felt mentally very 'not present', 'not herself' and dull.  I parked her in the middle of the ring and watched Barn Friend C ride her dude around the ring while we caught our breath, then she stopped and offered to take some video of the changes for me.  I got her up to speed on how Sierra was feeling, and in speaking aloud about it I came to the realization that Sierra was exhausted mentally and didn't feel 100%.  I truly felt like she was saying "ok I know what you're gonna ask so let me just do it so I can get it over with". She did all the things I was asking, but the quality wasn't there in the least and I concluded I was really happy with how the week had gone previously and I really liked how happy she had seemed in her work and I wasn't about to kill that buzz.  Barn Friend C agreed that perhaps not opening that can today was a good idea so instead, I took some video for her before ending with a little bit more trot.  The break of standing seemed to be good for Sierra as she picked up much better, but upon changing direction onto the right rein she felt quite weak both physically and mentally, so I chose a good note to end things on.  

I had a hard time not feeling discouraged with the ride; we were on such a high all week and I had gotten on with plans of getting some video of the changes but the world crumbled around us and I had to adjust my expectations for the day.  I let myself be sad for a few minutes before giving Sierra a big hug and thanked her for the great week.  Truth be told, I was tired too. I wouldn't say I was 'body sore' but I felt like I had to physically 'think' about posting the trot, and several times my ankle gave out while posting.  I felt a little sloppy in the tack, and i'm sure that didn't help Sierra in the least.  It was a humbling end to an exceptional week and sometimes days like this remind us we are human and need to be kind to ourselves and our partners.  If I wasn't feeling as able-bodied as I normally am, I can only imagine how Sierra was feeling.

Following Sunday's ride, I caught wind the bodyworker will be at the barn the following day so I booked Sierra in for a spa day since she will get Monday to recover before we get back at it on Tuesday!  

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Still very much in love with this mare


  1. Honestly despite the bobbles it sounds like you've had a very positive spin on your riding lately thanks to the new trainer and breakthroughs so don't get discouraged! You are definitely on the upswing!


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