Monday, August 18, 2014

meet Isabel

True story - the first time I rode Isabel she bucked me off. 

She was accustomed to not really having to work. Her owner enjoys the freedom of galloping around in the woods, but is bored by endless circles in the sandbox. However, by skipping out on flat work, Isabel had become rusty at a very fundamental level. 

that place bores me. let's not go in there. 

Quick side note: It's actually pretty random how I found Iz in the first place. Her owner was a regular customer at my mom's cafe, and mentioned that she was leaving the country for six months and wanted to lease out her horse. So my mom told her to call me. 

I was actually kind of ticked because my mom isn't a horse person and doesn't really know anything about the different disciplines. (Does anyone else have relatives who say, "Oh you jump over stuff? So you steeplechase. Cool." No. No I don't steeplechase... it's totally different.... but I digress)

So I figured it'd probably end up being a barrel horse or something else equally alien to me. But fortunately, when the owner called everything sounded like it could actually work, so I went to meet them. 

it's a pleasure to meet you?

At the time, I had just started riding again a year earlier after a 4 year hiatus. Those four years off had seriously diminished my riding abilities, and it was frustrating to *know* how to fix a problem, but be physically unable to do so. Plus, I was discovering that my confidence was totally shot. Like, it just totally disappeared. #adultproblems

So my plan was to use Isabel to build my strength back up between my weekly lessons at a hunter barn. Of course, it was clear from the first moment that Isabel was no hunter. 

'this is my preferred discipline' -Isabel

Isabel wasn't bad, she just kinda wasn't very good. The owner's demo mostly looked like they were putzing around. She was really easy to get going coming towards the gate, and really easy to stop going away from the gate. And she would bury herself in the corners of the arena near the gate. But it was clear the owner wasn't really asking for much. 

Then it was my turn. Izzy is a very sensitive mare, and she was HOT. Her owner told me that she has a very light mouth and goes on loose reins. So I rode the horse described with a big loop in my reins, rather than riding the horse I felt under me. My mistake. 

out of shape pony is out of shape 

Isabel had no rhythm and was very inconsistent. She'd really suck back going away from the gate, and try to zoooom home. She steered well, and was responsive, but you kinda got the feeling like she might bolt at any moment if she didn't like your vibes. 

Plus, at the canter she did this weird bouncy thing - like, barely moving forward, just kinda up and down. Cantering around toward the gate, I could tell that she wanted to break but I just kept my leg on, thinking 'ok pony, you can do your up and down thing all day long, that's fine. but you must canter past the gate.' 

So she did keep cantering. And she kept doing the up and down thing. But she added a nice bonus of putting her head between her knees (recall that my reins were just flapping around in the breeze). 

It wasn't a huge buck by any measure, but it was more than enough to unseat me. I landed on my ass facing her with the reins still in my hands. And I was livid. 

I think she realized that it was a bad move on her part. I got back on, and PICKED UP my reins, and rode her around some more without another single hiccup. 

She needed work, but I knew that this horse would help me reach my goals. And amazingly, the owner was cool with it all. Two years later and the owner is back in the country, and I'm still working on it with Isabel.  

14 comments:

  1. Very cool! It is always interesting when they just sort of "fall into your lap". Looking forward to more adventures with you and the arabian pony!

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    1. thanks for reading! Izzy really did appear out of nowhere - but it's been an amazing two years, with a lot more on the horizon. stay posted for more!!

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  2. Nice to find your blog! Sounds like the two of you have a nice story.

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    1. thanks! i enjoy following your progress with Chester too :)

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  3. It's so cool to read more about how you found Izzy! I don't know a lot of people that would lease a horse that just bucked them off LOL! You go girl!

    Maybe the up and down thing is what Chrome is doing? How long did it take before she stopped doing it? I've often wondered if it's because of his stifles. :\

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    1. isabel stopped doing the up and down thing pretty much immediately, bc it was 100% a case of 'i dont wanna and you cant make me.' once i picked up my reins and put my leg on, she understood that i meant business. granted, she's not green like Chrome - so working through resistance with him might take longer (and require more patience) before he understands that sometimes he has to to work even when he doesn't feel like it.

      obviously exploring physical and/or saddle fit issues with Chrome is never a bad idea, tho he seems awful young for stifle problems. in any case, good luck!!

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    2. He has locking stifles. It's only a problem when he's doing nothing or doing too much. I think it's due to his conformation and lack of muscle. That's why I'm trying to ride more consistently. We will keep working away at it. :-) :-)

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    3. oh no! i didn't realize that, poor guy :( my knowledge of stifle issues is pretty limited, tho i've heard similar things about 'lack of muscle' and needing more fitness to help them out.

      maybe another plan is to focus on the transitions themselves - get a nice organized trot, ask for canter, canter just until he's settled into the gait, then transition back to an organized trot. rinse repeat. the beauty of this is that it'll develop hind end strength, plus you can do it at different points of your 'arena' and he'll need to focus too much on you to worry about the car/gate/whatever. and it'd simultaneously help with the downward transitions...

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    4. That sounds like a great plan. I've heard transitions are great for building the correct muscles. I sadly don't have an arena though. The only place open enough is the pasture and he's horrible in the pasture. Balky walking away from the gate and rushing toward it, making hairpin turns to go to the gate, etc. I also haven't started riding him on a contact yet because I'm a little unsure how to go about it... I've always ridden horses who already knew about contact... so I'm not sure how to go about teaching it. That's why I think I'm going to work on fitness, fixing the barn sour issues and trail riding until I can take lessons. I need my trainer's help so bad to move on to the next step with him. Chrome isn't my first horse to start under saddle, but he's my first horse to teach dressage to. :)

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    5. true - all very good points. and yea, i've never started a horse so early, so not sure about introducing contact either! lessons always help so much - and i'm sure chrome will love your trainer. in the meantime, who doesn't love trail rides :)

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  4. Ha! Quite the test ride. Glad you have fun with her.

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    1. lol it certainly wasn't the ride i was expecting!! but yes, we DEFINITELY have fun now :D

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  5. Hahahaha what a great story. Day 1 with mare: reminder to ride like you mean it! Follow your gut instincts! She has come such a long, long way. The owner should be head-over-heels grateful for all the training you've put into her horse.

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    1. lol yea this horse has never hesitated to teach me any much-needed lessons! i think the owner is happy, but maybe also feeling a little bittersweet since she's been sidelined with an injury for close to a year now and is DYING to get back into the saddle. soon tho!

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