So here's where we are now. First me - I am a lot more confident and balanced riding Starbuck, which is good because she still likes to throw in a buck or a spook every now and then to mix things up. I've also mostly dealt with my fear issues which I never talked about much on the blog but were definitely there. Part of this is confidence in my riding and in Starbuck, but I like to think that another part is an improved ability to "talk myself down" and relax my body even when scared shitless. I don't mean to say I'm a great rider by a long shot - I'm still far from even an independent seat, just that I don't fall off as easily as I used to. In Starbuck's multiple injuries and illnesses this and last year I've been taking jumping lessons with school horses and can now stay on without interfering too much for a 80 cm course of 6 jumps or so.
Now Starbuck - earlier this year my vet and I detected some back pain and had a physical therapist give her an adjustment. The physical therapist told me she had really weak abdominal muscles, so thanks to that I spent a good two months with lots of different longeing exercises over small hills and cavaletti, asking her to keep her head down so her hind legs could really come up under her body. Then the poor thing got two abcesses - one in each hind hoof - and once those were drained my vet advised me to shoe all four hooves, not just the front ones. So fully recovered and newly shod, my instructor Marina and I have spent the last 6 weeks getting her in the best shape she's ever been and trying to be a little more military with obedience. She suddenly stops to scratch her nose on her foreleg, or breaks gait from a trot or a canter? Sharp tap with the crop! We're trotting along the scary side when a kid runs out of the bushes and she starts to tapdance? Shoulder-in until she relaxes! We're headed back to her paddock and she veers off to eat some grass? 10 steps backwards! She throws a buck at the canter? More forward! Honestly, she behaves pretty well, but she is the poster child for "give her an inch and she'll take a mile" and she's also easily bored and distracted, so the theory is that eventually with so much correction she'll give up and realize that life is just so much easier if she'll calm down and pay attention to me instead of everything else in the wide wide world.
And indeed all of this discipline and the long hours I was able to put in at the stable over the holidays are really paying off - I now actually enjoy riding her 95% of the time and the other 5% is at least intelectually interesting (why on earth did she do THAT? How can I fix it?). I ride in lessons 3-4 times a week and on my own another 2-3 times a week, which doesn't leave me much time for anything else but is exactly what I want to be doing right now. I've also let a couple of other folks ride her - a teenage girl who used to ride an even more challenging mare before she was sold and this crazy fearless guy from my jumping class. So she has things mixed up and gets a break from my own personal body problems every now and then. We're working on jumping fluidly and can do about 60 cm well. In the dressage line, I use a lot of lateral movements to get her attention and build up those abdominal muscles and am trying to work on balancing impulsion with relaxation. And we've been on several hour-long or so trail rides where she's behaved surprisingly well. She's not quite what you'd call rhythmic in her gaits and like I said she still spooks if given half a chance, but the difference between what we used to be able to do and what we can do now is like night and day.
So that's it for now, I'll throw in a couple of recent pictures for good measure and hopefully it won't be so long before I post again. Happy trails!
We have new dressage boots (front) and a new orange saddlepad!!!!
Devil horse will eat your soul!!!!