Letting Go of Control
   

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Letting Go of Control

This is a discussion on Letting Go of Control within the Horse Talk forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category

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        12-07-2012, 04:38 PM
      #1
    Yearling
    Letting Go of Control

    Well, I'm so excited, I just had to share this. I've been taking lessons on a rather difficult horse for the last 2 months or so. I enjoy challenge and so was assigned her. I've literally never ridden anything quite like her. She's an 8 year old Arab mare named Silk 'n' Satin - her nickname at the barn is Silk 'n' Satan because she's so unpredictable.

    She's usually pretty good, right up until we get to the canter. The first time I cantered her, she would do flying lead changes at random, especially in the corners of the arena, which is kind of unsettling in a small arena. She progressively got worse, where every time I cantered her, she would come to a dead halt and start rearing, leaping, crow hopping and pretty much any other type of contortionist movement she could think of. The lesson I ride in alternates between flat work one week to jumping the next. In jumping, she will go at an easy trot or canter until we're about 15 ft from the jump, and then bolt like a bat out of hell down the line. If I try to hold her back, she does one of two things; she either stops and starts doing her weird rearing, crowhopping thing, or sticks her nose in the air and bolts through anyway. With her head in the air, getting into my two-point is really challenging.

    We've come to the conclusion that she has a really tender mouth. She's never ridden with anything but a snaffle bit and another person who rides her decided to try a bitless bridle. I wasn't there, but from what I understand, it was utter disaster. She still did her kooky antics, and was worse because now there was absolutely no control.

    Last night was jumping and I had a decision to make. I could try and hold her back and fight her every step of the way, or let her go and see what happened. I decided on the latter and it was the scariest ride of my life. Not because of her acting crazy, but because I decided to put all of my trust into this seemingly unpredictable 1000 lb animal. Despite being terrifying, it's probably the best ride I've ever had on her. Yes, she went fast, but that was it. She did a 3 stride combo in 2 strides. There were some sharp turns, but I discovered she can turn on a dime, and despite them being faster than I was comfortable with, not once did she trip or stumble. She also put her adeptness at flying lead changes into play and every time we switched direction, I didn't even have to cue the lead change.

    I relinquished control and guess what? Nothing happened. I lived to tell the tale. In fact, for the first time since I've started riding her, she seemed calm and happy. There was no fighting or rearing. Usually she is a frothy, sweaty mess when we're done our hour lesson. Last night she was a little damp. The whole experience has been so humbling, because she ended up teaching me, not the other way around. I have stuck with her over the last 2 months because I knew I was missing something, and I honestly think that was it. My first instinct is to correct or control bad behaviour, and this has shown me that I have to take a different approach with her, and I'm super excited to see how it will work in flat work next week.

    This was such a unique, exhilarating, terrifying experience for me, I'm just wondering, does anyone else have any stories where they've successfully just let go and had the horse respond positively?
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        12-07-2012, 06:47 PM
      #2
    Foal
    I understand your situation completely! I ride a mare (coincidentally also an 8 year old Arabian) who has a very light mouth, and she gets extremely angry and fights the bit when she has too much contact for her liking, mainly at the lope. When I ask her to lope and she races, it's easier for me to just let her go for a few strides and use gentler half halts to bring her back where I want her, dropping my rein as soon as she responds, rather than holding onto her and having to fight her.

    She's so much happier when she's allowed to have her head, and not have pressure put on her mouth all the time. For that reason, she has to be ridden by someone who knows what they're doing and by someone with soft hands (something she's taught me to have!).

    I was in the exact same situation as you, until I learned to just let go.
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        12-07-2012, 07:44 PM
      #3
    Yearling
    Awesome, so there is hope yet. I'm usually pretty soft with my hands, or at least I thought so until I started on her! I still have to figure out her random flying lead changes that she seems to enjoy so much, but one thing at a time I suppose.
         
        12-08-2012, 07:41 AM
      #4
    Foal
    Have you tried keeping her slightly bent to the lead she's on, even on straight lines, so she can't switch her lead and stay on the wrong lead easily? I used to ride a different mare who liked switching her leads too, but if I kept her bent, she wasn't able to switch her lead.
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        12-08-2012, 05:04 PM
      #5
    Yearling
    Yes, I've tried that. She seems to really like to do it in the corners (multiple times!?) and I like to do a nice round bend in my corners to the inside. Despite this, she is somehow still able to do the lead change. It's a little unsettling, because we'll be on the correct lead and all of a sudden I'll feel like I'm falling inwards. It's on the straight lines where she'll usually correct herself, or if she's on the wrong lead coming out of the corner, I'll cue the lead change. I have to admit, what she's doing is no easy feat and she's definitely the most unique horse I have ever ridden. I honestly think, because she's extremely high strung and difficult, she's been allowed to get away with a lot and this behaviour has been compounded over a couple of years. Right now, my main focus is just maintaining the canter with her because she has a tendency to come to a dead halt and start rearing. Once that is achieved, I'll start to work on the random lead changes. She's been checked by vet and chiro and nothing appears out of the ordinary, so I think it's strictly behavioural with her. She's definitely better when I use as little rein as possible though so I'm just going to tackle one thing at a time with her. Everything before her canter is fine; she collects or extends beautifully, moves off my leg nicely and is extremely sweet and cooperative. I told my instructor I wanted a challenge and so here I am. :)
         
        12-08-2012, 11:24 PM
      #6
    Yearling
    Hate to sound this way but I owuld hate to be lesson horse as much as she probably hates the contact in her mouth. Im soooooooo glad your lesson turned out positive.

    I used to race my horse all the time Just between the three of us who were at that barn until.... my horse go so competive that he wouldn't stop anymore. I had no control the maybe last five times. And I would fight for dear life on this horse until one day I just let him go. We just kept going until he practically ran into a barn. And then he got that maybe me asking him to stop wasnt such a bad idea. :P Lol. My horse gets soooooo competive.
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        12-09-2012, 12:21 PM
      #7
    Yearling
    Wow, that must have been really scary! I was at least inside the arena. She really had nowhere to go. And I hear you, I don't envy lesson horses, although they are really well taken care of and under good supervision when being ridden... but still. I'm honestly not sure how many people have ridden Silky though. I think she's probably had a few people once or twice, but I think most have quit early on her and it hasn't helped her issues. But she is getting better. Slowly, but surely, she shows a little bit of improvement in one way or another.
         
        12-10-2012, 01:47 AM
      #8
    Yearling
    And I'm sure that's exactly what she needs is miles. Not only for working with you under saddle but for contact in her mouth and just to be socialized. You are(in my opinion) doing the right thing for you and the horse. :) I'm sure just even the attention will make your bond better. :)
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        12-10-2012, 01:54 AM
      #9
    Yearling
    Thank you :). She's really sweet despite some of her issues. And I really only ride for recreation now, so I'm in no rush for shows or anything like that. If it takes another year of riding her in lessons to improve, then so be it.
         
        12-14-2012, 02:57 PM
      #10
    Yearling
    So last night was flat work with Silky. As usual, she was pretty good through the walk and trot stuff. When it came to the canter, my instructor told me to go into more of a hunt seat/forward seat to see if that would help her. I would say overall, it went well. She gave one little hop in her front end and body checked me into the arena wall (ow) right near the start of the canter work, but after that it was fine, aside from being REALLY fast. It was definitely more of a hand gallop than a canter, but there was no fighting, no rearing or other aerial gymnastics. I made several rounds around the arena whereas before I was lucky to make it halfway through one round before she'd start doing what she does.

    My instructor and I have decided to let her go fast for now and once we have both achieved some level of comfort, to start working on slowing her down. I predict a long road ahead, but it's a really good challenge for me. She brings me out of my comfort zone and this is almost completely backwards from anything I've ever done with a horse. I usually like to work on control at a slower pace and speed things up from there, but it has gotten me nowhere with this one, and the last two lessons where I've let her go her speed have been relatively uneventful. This is definitely going to be a long-term lesson project.
         

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