So after our trainwreck of a XC outing, I consulted The Knowledgeable Ones (thanks, Felicia and Nicky) about what to do. It was decided I should try a ginormous gag bit to stop my Very Special Freight Train. It so turned out that the other Percheron/Mammoth cross at our barn has a big-boy-sized bridle with a gag bit, so I decided to test it out.
So out we went into the covered arena to do some Very Special Flatwork. Just walking along felt like normal. We trotted along, and it felt like normal.
And then I asked him to halt, and he was pissed right off. “WHAT THE EVER-LOVING FRESH HELL IS THIS? WHAT SORCERY DID YOU DO TO MY HEAD?”
He tossed his head, snorted and huffed and was generally pissed off. But he halted. Timely, too. And slowed his roll when I asked him to while trotting. “OMG OMG OMG MOM, OK, OK, I HALT. I HALT. WHY YOU ASK SO MEAN.”
Apparently, all he needed was a little tiny bit of poll pressure (I was still being super soft) to smack him back into submission.
Now cantering? We were… a bit of a mess. He/we couldn’t find the balance between OMG STOP LEANING ON HANDS and OMG STOP. He can do one or the other. He’s apparently not a one-trick pony… he can do two. Poorly.
But not long into our ride, I was smiling and cackling like a fool.
I felt him sheepishly turn to me and say, “Um, mom? You know how I don’t really respond to seat cues? I, uh…. I remember now. I think I had amnesia or something. IT’S NOT MY FAULT. But I totally remember and now watch me do it. Look, see, right now. There you go. Maybe don’t use the reins at all? I am cool with that. Just letting you know.”
So we ended the ride with me feeling a bit more confident. I realized the combo of the figure eight and the single-jointed gag was maybe a bit much given the fussiness he was displaying, so I bought this.
The top one. Yeah, it’s partially rubber. But when I used it in my next lesson, he was like an angel the whole time. MAGIC. I have never had a lesson where I’ve smiled so much both before and after. All I had to do was think slow down, and he halted instead. I have never had an overachieving horse, and suddenly I had one. He decided he’d rather listen to leg aids, too.
So, progress once again. But all is not perfect in the Land ‘o’ Balls and Ollie. As I’ll tell you about in my next post, I’ve had my own mental setbacks lately that have contributed to Ollie and I falling apart a bit performance-wise. Like Denny Emerson recently said in one of his ever-insightful posts, confidence is a circular thing. So, we’re taking some steps to try to get that circle back to being a circle… instead of a pissed off octopus on roller skates.
But I leave you with this. Ollie recently fell in love with our resident donkey. He wasn’t sure what to think at first, but then soon was shoving his head up under her crotch like the pushy man he is. Apparently anything worth doing is worth OVERdoing. But then she followed us around the arena a bit anyway. Sweetest donk ever.
WHAT ARE YOU?