Saturday, May 25, 2013

Could you just make a happy face ...

Maiden was in the pissiest of moods today.  She was worse under saddle than she's ever been with me.  But then after our ride when I was just standing in the middle of the arena watching someone's lesson Maiden was leaning her head on my and snorting happily and asking me to scratch her neck up at the poll.

I don't know what she was so pissy about.  She didn't want to trot on the lunge line and kept trying to stop and then stand and glare at me.  I was watching for any signs of pain and she didn't appear to have any.  I asked Trainer K. to look for some and she didn't see any.  She'd been eating ok in her stall and she otherwise seemed fine.  When I got on her to ride we passed Trainer K. and Gemini and Maiden flattened her ears back against her head and I couldn't see her face but Trainer K muttered "Could you just make a happy face ..."  She may have been reacting to the horses because it was so busy.  There was a two year old being lunged by Trainer J who Maiden kept giving the stink eye and every time we went anywhere near his side of the arena she'd tense up and act like a predator who wanted to pounce.

Trotting under saddle went badly too.  She tried to run off at a trot but with her head thrown high up in the air, literally chomping at the bit with her ears flat back.  At first I stopped her and leaned forward and looked at the bridle and bit because I was sure she'd gotten her tongue over the bit or a horse fly had gotten under her nose band or something.  Then I asked Trainer K to watch and see if she was showing signs of lameness and she said no, she just looked like she was being contrary.  I'm such a worry-wort that I wasn't going to push her out of fear something was hurting her but Trainer K assured me she saw no sign of that and just to push forward.  So, we fumbled around with me trying to get her to trot, her prancing in place, throwing her head and at one point even giving a little buck.  Finally, she started trotting but she wasn't moving forward, she was running with little tiny steps and her head was way back and I was sadly trying to post without pitching forward or landing with a horrible thud on her back every time I came down. 

The irony was, despite that she is very sensitive about contact with the reins, Trainer K said I wasn't having enough contact so when I shorted the reins a lot (because her head was so high and back my hands were on either side of her neck) she actually started to relax and finally after much muddling she relaxed and dropped her neck and engaged her back and trotted like normal.  But it was challenging.  I don't know what was up with that but hopefully it was an isolated incident and thankfully she didn't freak out and throw me off (which I was fearing).   Then she was all sorts of snuggly and loving so who knows.

Yesterday was my first official day as an assistant instructor/trainee at pony camp.  Lots of "heels down" "balls of your feet in your stirrups" "sit on your pockets when you ask the horse to stop" going on.  I slipped up today and while the student (who is my friend or I wouldn't have said anything) was riding by while her trainer was on his cell phone it slipped out "Keep your stirrups on the ball of your foot - it's scary when they're that far in the stirrup ..." and I realized that is a huge no-no and I hate it when trainers other than my trainer do that.  'Doh! I don't know how Trainer K. does it.  The other dressage trainer at the barn does things very differently from her and he has his students sitting in a position that makes them look to me like lawn darts that could pitch forward off their horse at any second.  But it's not my training.  And I don't even ride very well so I have no business giving advice.  So, I must learn when I leave pony camp to not let all the feet in stirrups, heels up at your hips and all of those thoughts slip out of my mouth.

Pony camp (which is currently just group classes because camp doesn't start until next month) is adorable.  I love the ponies and there is nothing cuter in the world than a yard full of ponies fast asleep in the sun!  I'm going to have to take a photo one day of it because it makes me so happy.  And they all have such distinct personalities and are such "ponies" (meaning they want their way and they want it now). But when little kids are on their back even if they wander the wrong direction or as Chunky Monkey likes to do - walk around behind me and bump me in the butt - they are so sweet and don't buck, bolt or rear with these little kids on them.  Which is surprising because little kids can be quite destructive on a pony with the whole yanking on the reins and kicking at the same time (which is why it's nice to have volunteers one on one with the little ones to keep that from happening).  It's a very well run program and I can already tell I'm going to really enjoy it.  For some of the kids it is literally daycare on a pony, but it is so cool to see others who at five years old are out there wanting to learn to ride and wanting to learn to care for their ponies.  And I think it's so good for kids - learning responsibility and leadership and setting boundaries and speaking up for what they want.  I think the world was a much saner place when most families had horses in their lives.

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