Two Hops Forward, One Step Back

“Adventures Are Not All Pony-Rides In The May-Sunshine”
J.R.R. Tolkein

This is a warts-and-all blog, right? Well, we had a bit of a set-back. TLDR: Milton had an fit of the hops. I sat it. Commence mental gyrations.

The Timeline
T-2 days. Milton had two hissy fits while being lunged. Both times occured while he was being asked for lateral work. Both times, I was just about to say, ‘oh, he’s doing well.’ when he flipped his pancakes. Apparently, it was too much. Even though it was only a tiny bit of quasi-sidewaysness, we need to make it half of a tiny bit, 1 or 2 steps, rather than 3 or 4. He finds lateral work hard. Now we know. He gets upset when life is hard. That we knew.

T-day. Muddy. No way to work in the ring. We did one lap around the pasture at a walk. The next lap, we did the first half at a trot. We had trotted in the field before, but up the hill rather than around the edge.

Milton was not pleased. He laid on the reins and thought about playing the I Was A Racehorse card. He never does that. We pulled up after the trot segment. He started curling his front leg, one of his tells for stress. We walked. We finished up the lap at a mild trot. So far so good.

We start the next lap. A pole sat in our way lengthwise. Crosswise, we could have trotted over it. I told Milton he had to pick a side, one way or the other.

He lost his freaking mind.

Hop. Hop. Hop. Full-on, head down crow hops. I pulled on both reins, as one does. Hop. Hop. Hop. I realized that two reins is a pulling contest I can’t win. Pulled on one rein. Hop. Hop. Hop. Pause. Hop. Hop. Hop. Pause long enough for me to debark.

Regroup.

I got back on. Go me.
I walked. Yay.
We did a few steps of super mild trotting, on a circle, in the ring. It wasn’t the original question, but I was on & we were trotting. Go us.

T+2. Went ahead with jumping lesson [Reaching for the Big Trot]. We know he likes the Falcon Hill Farm ring.

T+4 Schooling at Full Circle Horse Park [Where In The World Is Milton?].

The Upsides
The intent was confused not evil. This doesn’t make a difference when one is pogo-sticking around the pasture. In hindsight, he was expressing himself, rather than trying to ditch me. If he’d wanted me off, off I would have been.

I was yelling NO! as he hopped and I pulled. Ground crew says the No!s were working. Not much, but a bit. No! Maybe? No! Maybe?

I did not feel at any point that I was coming off. I did feel one hop away from that feeling a few times. I had time to wonder what the exit strategy was going to be.

The Whys?
Bad footing? Maybe.

Cold? Possibly. For a Canadian horse, he doesn’t do low temps.

Riding out in “the open”? Who knows.

Did I inadvertently ask him to do lateral work when trying to get past the pole? Maybe, but he was already in a mood.

Was it the new saddlepad? I had tried Milton in a lovely sheepskin halfpad. Day one had been good. Day two moderate. This was day three.

Did he not want to trot around the field again? Clearly.

The Action Items
Can’t control the weather.

Saddle pad is gone. No messing with his tack.

Continue lateral work in hand, where galloping off just means going back to the barn to collect him.

Be mindful of footing issues.

As for riding in the open, that is where the ship of progress took the biggest hit. What I didn’t say in the FCHP post is that I backed out of cross-country schooling.

1) Adding XC to the day would have more than doubled the schooling fee. Walking over a a few jumps would not have been worth the cost.

2) The footing was not bad, given the conditions, but the rain was making the grass slick. Did this count as bad footing for Milton? I didn’t know.

3) I could have walked over a few, like we did last year [Mr. Excitement Regards His Future]. I probably could have trotted (jogged) at one or two really low ones, maybe. I knew I didn’t have it in me to ride forward at the jump and forward away from the jump the way we had done our jumping lesson.

The Upshot
It will be a while before I test the comfort zone again. Fortunately my comfort is zone bigger than it was 4 years ago.

Not as upset with myself as I might be. I stayed on. I got back on. I had a jump lesson. I’ve halfway convinced myself to blame the saddlepad.

We are making progress over stadium jumps. Once we are trotting and cantering those with aplomb, that will remove one of the variables from the XC jumps.

Maybe if my stirrup hadn’t broken four years ago, we’d be further along.

Of course, I wish I was braver and bulletproof. That never stops.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Categories: Horse Behavior, Horses, Riding, Sports Psychology

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