No Quick Fixes

Last week I hit a true wall with the riding lessons and have done some soul  searching about what I want for Jigs and me.

In fairness to Jigs and the instructor, I haven’t had much practice time in the evenings because of work. But Jigs has been getting a bit of riding time without me. One of the kids have been hacking around with him. It’s been good for both of them.

When I arrived at 4:30 Thursday afternoon to get Jigs for our riding lesson, I was rushed. I was late because I had forgotten to get gas in the AM. Not a good start.

Jig was more girthy than usual getting tacked up, which I do before loading him since it is dark early now.

When we got to the lesson, I parked behind the second indoor where we’ve been riding. The trailer was a bit at an angle, but nothing major. Jigs did not like it and did something he had never done before- he jumped off the trailer. I had to grab him. We were too close to our barn and I was afraid he would take off home.

He was wound tighter than I’d ever seen him.

When we got in the area, he was full of himself. They were set up for a trail class on the weekend and the obstacles were decorated with plastic pinsetters and Christmas decorations. Lots of foil and wrapping paper.

Jigs was not having any of it.

This is a horse who finished third in his last versatility with Halloween decorations and flashing lights.

Not a good start to the night.

He refused to step near the pile of wrapped boxes and ribbons. He acted like the mailbox was going to eat him and jumped back from it letting out a loud fart. “It wasn’t me” I said laughing but perplexed.

Everyone ignored me.

We trotted around but he refused to collect. The instructor decided to try draw reins.

I was now too nerved up to think straight and I let her put them on.

It was hard on Jigs. It was hard on me.

He got his head down, but it was not comfortable for either of us.

Jigs was tucking but didn’t feel collected.

By the time the lesson was over, Jigs was dripping. I was a ball of nerves.

It just didn’t feel right.

Someone asked me if it was the first time in draw reins. I nodded. She said, the first time is the worst. “It gets better.”

I wasn’t thinking clearly and just nodded again, not knowing what else to say.

When we got out to the trailer, Jigs was so upset he flat refused to load. After twenty minutes, I had to get the instructor to walk behind him so he would load. He got on but was shaking.

I spent the next day thinking hard. Was putting Jigs through this worth it? I want a partnership where we communicate. The draw reins felt like I was forcing him harder than he and I were ready. It felt wrong.

I contacted a friend who shows/trains jumpers and  has a dressage background. I trust her.

She offered to come out and ride Jigs.

After a few minutes riding him she said, he’s not ready for draw reins. She took time to show me how to collect him with reins and leg.

We worked for a while so he could get used to the way I was asking him.

He started get it for four or five steps.

He can get it without draw reins.

She said they have their place. She uses them when it is appropriate. But this was not the way to teach Jigs or me to collect.

It takes a long time. Jigs is 9. So it will take a little longer. His muscles need retraining.

She said it is like learning a new yoga move. It takes time for your muscles to learn. They ache while they are learning.

We are not in a rush.

Jigs is my partner, my friend. I don’t want to lose the trust we have created.

This week will be my last lesson for a while. I’m going to take my friend’s advice and work slowly, thirty minutes twice a week to teach him and me to collect.

We’re going back to having fun the rest of the week.

I’m confident Jigs and I will get there. We have time.

There are no quick fixes.

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2 Comments on “No Quick Fixes”

  1. rontuaru Says:

    Good for you. IMO, collection doesn’t come from tucking the head in and down, it comes from the hind end. Horses collect from the rear first, then everything else follows. A smart horse who understands that usually fights the draw reins. It sounds like Jigs was having a really “off” night. He’s SO lucky that you understand that and are not going to push him. Hope you’ll stick to your guns … I’m sure you’ll be rewarded for it somewhere down the line.


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