My lesson last Tuesday had some successes but also had some losses. Gem is working hard at not working. I think he's beyond bored. The weather here has been crazy. Turnout time has been reduced at times because of treacherous conditions. Gem and I have been on ONE trail ride this season. I mentioned this to LA and last week she pulled out the poles and caveletti's. It was a good lesson when it came to trotting and weaving through the poles. Lots of fun. However, loping was not so great. Transitioning to a lope - no problem. Keeping him moving - exhausting. Gem just does not want to lope.
LA: Kick his butt!!
Me: I'm trying!!
LA: That's not kicking!
Me: You are killing me!
LA: Keep him moving! Don't let him slow down!
Me: I'm doing my best!
LA: Do better!
Me: You are a witch!
LA: I don't care! Don't let him win!
Well, Gem won...more than once. I was beginning to take his resistance personally. I could barely walk the next day. So, knowing that LA was going to be riding him on Friday, I asked if I could join the Saturday afternoon class just to keep up the training momentum. Gem and I had to iron out some minor wrinkles and we both needed to get our heads in the right place. Saturday's lesson was adequate and it helped with my confidence, so I guess that's a good thing. But, again, I was exhausted from fighting with him when it came to loping. It is not in my nature to get "rough" with an animal and I still have a hard time with kicking. Yes, I know. Convincing a 1300 lb. animal to do something is a little different from convincing a 15 lb. dog. :-)
As much as I was looking forward to seeing my boy last night, I was sort of dreading lesson. I am at the point where my classmates are light years ahead of me when it comes to loping and I am starting to become embarrassed about it. We did our warm up, and then LA said we were going to lope. LA told my classmates they were going to practice loping in small circles and then try to do some lead changes. Then, she looked at me.
LA: You are going to go around the arena twice at a lope.
Me: I am??
Me: You mean, tonight? (gulp)
We walked large and then the first in line would lope off while the rest of us continued walking. My turn came up really quickly. I actually felt pretty good as we took off; butt was in the saddle and I didn't feel like my hands were all over the place. We took the first corner well and didn't loose steam as we caught up to the group. An observer told me that Gem looked beautiful loping. :-)
We all did a couple of more practice runs and then my classmates started to learn how to do lead changes. Pretty cool to watch. I was sort of hoping that I could fade into the background and let my three classmates be LA's focus. No such luck. A 16.0hh 1300 lb. black horse sort of sticks out amongst 900-1,000 lb. 15.0hh sorrel horses. I was told to start loping and to go around twice. I tried. And, I tried. Every time, Gem would cave about one and a half times around and turn into the middle with me loosing stirrups or getting the saddle horn in my gut. It was a blatant case of him wanting to be with his friends in the middle. No amount of making him walk in small circles or backing him up made a difference to his pattern. I accepted defeat. LA did not.
She asked BF to start loping and when he was 1/4 way around the arena, she asked Jean to follow him at a lope. When they were a 1/2 arena length around, she told me to kick that black beast's arse and get him moving. And, I did.
Gem's demeanour changed immediately. When he realized that we were following other riders, he became interested. A new game! His ears went up. His body became lighter and his lope softer. I relaxed and just let him do his thing. The chase was on!
I felt good as we went around the arena the first time. I barely had to use my legs (thank goodness!). Gem's movement is big, so the 1/2 arena length between us and BF and Jean was closing quickly. Gem was sort of prancing while he loped, obviously enjoying himself. I was enjoying him.
LA and CA were yelling words of encouragement from the middle of the arena. As we continued around the arena, the gap between us really started to close. Gem was doing his Seabiscuit impersonation. LA started yelling for BF and Jean to ride faster! BF and Jean were pretty much doing a hand gallop as Gem and I followed closely behind.
GEM AND I WENT AROUND THE ARENA TWICE!!! As we crossed the "finish line" and I said "eeeeeeasy', Gem rounded his neck and tossed his head a couple of times as he slowed to a trot. Clearly, he was pleased with himself. I couldn't stop smiling! BF, Jean and CA were yelling congrats. As I gave my boy' mane a big rub, I thanked LA profusely for coming up with a solution that allowed me to reach my goal.
I was a Chatty Cathy during burgers and beer after lesson. I was elated and my classmates let me run on. :-) We came to the conclusion that Gem just doesn't want to work if his friends aren't. Why should they get to stand in the middle of the arena? He gets bored and needs a challenge. It also became apparent during the feedback that I am in awe of my horse's beauty....but that's another post. For now, I am still in the glow of the memory of last night. The sore back and legs are sooooo worth it!
What was I thinking....?