But the lights are fixed, the rain wasn't due until 8ish, and my barn mate and I want to prep for this weekend. So off we went!
Both my friend's mare and Isabel made it immediately clear that neither felt much like working. In fact - both were so tense that we each trotted around for the other to watch for signs of lameness. But no. Both mares are sound. Just tense and not particularly cooperative.
braced & behind my leg
This was reminiscent of my meltdown ride two weeks ago... and I really didn't want to go there again. I need to figure out how to reach Isabel when she's in this kind of mood.
I don't think the answer is getting after her. Tried that last time and it didn't work for either of us. And she's too smart to trick. And my strategy for snarky OTTBs - let 'em run around until they're a little tired (ie - asking to stop) - has the exact opposite effect on my arabian.
But I wondered if some sort of combination of those approaches might work.
We walked for a lonnnnnngg time, using an exaggerated inside bend until she released through her neck and went low. We had *some* success here, but not much and I think she's figured that trick out.
As she came into a (relatively) steadier contact, we moved right up to trot and started on circles, changes of direction, and transitions. She is becoming gate sour again, and I really believed that problem was solved a long time ago. Frustrating.
rooting the reins
But I told myself: "We are not fighting tonight. It's a conversation. Soften your shoulders and elbows - give when she gives. Keep the reins at an appropriate length: hands *out* of lap and wrists unbroken. Long legs - don't nag. Light seat, upright back, stable core." Over and over and over ad nauseam.
She worked ok-ish, but wasn't particularly good. There was a lot of pulling and rooting, mixed with head tosses just for kicks. Plus rushing towards the gate, then going all crooked and twisty away from it.
I could tell she was anticipating canter (Izzy thinks she knows the drill) and wasn't really focusing anyway, so we just moved up into what was actually a pretty nice jumping canter.
And we cantered. And cantered. She maintained a flowing rhythm, and I mostly stayed in half seat with minimal contact. After a while I started sitting into the saddle and softly organizing a bit. We randomly hopped over a single crossrail once and she nailed it. This was mostly to keep it interesting and get her mind on me.
We cantered for a lonnnng time on the right lead - and she eventually felt pretty steady, even if it wasn't exactly the canter you'd want to see in a test.
Then a lonnnng walk break (noticing a pattern here? The name of the "Emma doesn't lose her temper" game is patience). Then back to work at the walk and trot. It still wasn't Isabel's nicest work, but it was looser and more relaxed - like the canter almost helped us 'reset.'
We did more walk-trot transitions, changes of direction, circles, etc. - not drilling but just showing her that what I'm asking really is ok, and she can do it. And she did.
We cantered again to the left - not for nearly as long, but just to get it in there. We popped the X once more (and she gobbled it up - just moved right up to it off a short approach through traffic) to break up the monotony, then back to trot, then walk, then trot, then walk, then long reins and a slow cool down.
I dismounted in the center - our new norm since noticing the resurrected gate problem - and left through the *back* gate to go the long way around to the barn. The gate sourness really bothers me - but I suspect it's a rebellious phase while we settle into flat work bootcamp.
In any case, it wasn't an inspiring school. But there were solid improvements and progressions throughout the ride and I avoided a total mental breakdown. Yay me?
So now I have a better idea how to help Isabel (and me!!) through these moods - especially if they crop up at inopportune times (like our show this weekend....).