Fear… Again

Ah horses.  Always something different; always something the same.

At the end of every winter, I’m fearful of cantering. Too much horse. Fear of cantering after a winter of walking and maybe a little trotting if the ice isn’t too bad.

Last weekend Jigs and I had a great lesson. This week it was … not great. The horse that showed up wasn’t my Jigs. I got a forward, let’s go, buck into canter horse, I haven’t seen in…. okay never.  As my friend reminded me, “you have to ride the horse you have.

The clinician told me, “when you come up the long side ask for a canter.”  Took me four times at a fast trot before I did.  Jigs shook his head and kicked out.   I executed a one rein stop.  “Keep him moving forward, don’t reward him with a stop.”

“My fault,” I admitted, “my seat says go, my hands say no”  

He agreed. “Try again.”

I trotted around 5 more times before trying . “Ask for a canter now.”

Jigs picked up a fast canter and we flew down the long side.

“Now try the other side.”

I trotted around counter clockwise a few times.  I kissed to Jigs, but never cued with my leg (lack of commitment again). He took one awkward stride and popped up.  I slowed him down. “My fault again.”

“He picked up the wrong lead and was just trying to correct himself,  try again.”

I did. Jigs dropped his his head and crow hopped to the center of the ring. My foot came out of the stirrup and my seat out of the saddle.  “JIGS cut it out,”  I shouted, all the while thinking, I’m going off.  I’m going off. No. NO  I AM NOT. I found my stirrup and put my butt back in the saddle.

“Don’t stop, you’ve got him. Trot forward.”

We did.

“See, you can ride through it. He’s just feeling good and is a little fresh.”

“Try again.”

“We may have a saddle fit problem,” I said panting. “He’s got white hairs along his back.”

“Is it new?”

“Yes, but we’ve done a few hundred miles in it.”

“But you haven’t ridden much this winter?”

“Only on weekends…”

“He’s just being fresh. He’s been cooped up all winter unable to run. The soft footing feels good to him and he wants to go. You did it in one direction, you can do it in the other.”

We worked on obstacles for a while, messing up and around the gate.

“Ready to canter again?” the clinician asked.

“Nope, I’m just going to trot around for now.”

And we did. Jigs was moving under himself and dropping his head correctly.

“He looks real relaxed and is nice and soft, going to canter now?”

“Nope.”

This conversation repeated itself at least three more times.

By this time I was TERRIFIED of cantering. Jigs really wasn’t relaxed. He was spook shopping near the gate and being a general pill.  Trotting, albeit trotting fast, was good enough for ME now.  Jigs was really sweating- the first time all winter.

I would like to say we finished the lesson with a well executed canter but I didn’t even try.

After the lesson, the clinician ran his hand along Jigs’ spine. “He’s not back sore.  May not be the saddle,  but next time you can borrow one of mine if you want.”

“Thanks, but  I may not be here next week because I have another commitment.”  Likely he was thinking, yeah sure, the old woman is going to wimp out.  But I really do have a meeting next week.

My friend and I discussed it on the way home.  I made excuses- Jigs was being fresh. He doesn’t usually act like this.  This winter it’s been too slippery to ride. It was more of a yahoo let’s go issue.  We were not riding enough. But it didn’t make a difference-  the fear is back.

When we got to the barn she admitted, “when he dropped his head, I thought you were going off for sure, but he wasn’t too bad, he stopped.”

We’ve worked through stuff before. (There was the time he gave out three big bucks when someone dropped a barrel behind him.) We’ll figure it out. Maybe. I hope. We have to.

But I’m not young anymore. Hell, I’m not even middle age anymore. I break too easily. This is going to be hard.

Last summer we were trotting, cantering, I even have a photo of us galloping- all four of Jigs’ feet off the ground.  Now I have to work up the courage to get back to where we left off last autumn.  So much for learning to open gates and side passing….

jigs and me runninglets go

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