I've been trying to exercise BG every day for at least 10-20 minutes to keep her from tying up. I've also been wanting to do some new things with Cat on the ground. Fun things. So I decided that it was time for Miss Kitty to learn to jump. (And BG got to jump too. For exercise and demonstration purposes.)
I put them both in the round pen and built a very simple grid, as pictured below.
I walked Kitty through it a couple times. She wasn't too sure about gymnastic work! But after she got her confidence, I think she enjoyed herself. She confidently trotted the grid, and cantered out a few times. She comically over jumps.
BG appreciated a chance in the routine. She usually only gets boring on-line lunging for a few minutes a day. Gymnastics is also great for fitness, especially in a place with no hills.
A new student was added today to Meadowchase Farm's modest lesson program. A timid 14-year-old girl named "Anna."
I usually use BG for first time lessons. BG is good at being polite: tacking up, grooming, lunging at a walk. Always quiet and trustworthy. Today though, BG was very special to Anna.
Anna, despite being timid, is great with body language. I started Anna off (after grooming and such) by asking her to move BG around the round pen. Anna is a wonderful manipulator of energy, and she was able to move BG at a walk and trot in both directions and stop her with a virtually invisible cue. Practically a thought.
So naturally BG liked Anna. Anna was afraid to actually ride BG, but I managed to get the girl on. Anna is a big girl, and I'm rather small... So there was difficulty there. BG squared up and braced, trying to remain as stable as possible when Anna clamored on.
Anna was afraid to walk. Every movement BG made scared the kid. So BG squared up, braced, and refused to move. Five minutes later, when Anna was ready to move, BG took one step. Then stopped. One step. Stopped. When Anna lost her balance, BG popped her shoulder out just right to stabilize Anna.
By the end of the lesson, Anna and BG were walking slowly for 20 or 30 steps at a time, stopping and regaining balance when needed.
Anna's biggest problem of the day was dismounting. Anna couldn't (or was rather too scared to) bend her leg around the back of the horse and slide off gracefully. Instead, Anna leaned forward, over BG's neck, and carefully stretched out her leg toward BG's tail. After finally getting both legs on one side, Anna was suddenly too afraid to slid the short distance to the ground. Anna dangled there, panicking. So BG parked out. Parked out so far that Anna's dangling feet actually touched the ground, and the girl was able to stand.
BG was taught to park out five years ago, when she was sent for two weeks to a local trainer to be broken. I haven't parked her out since, nor as she offered to park out until today. <3
Some horses sense your fear and take advantage of it... But the best horses sense your fear and prove there's nothing to be afraid of. Even though I always say teaching lessons pays the bills and leave it at that... Sometimes you see some special stuff.
I SO know what you mean! Lacey does the same thing.
For instance, yesterday Lacey was thrilled to see her Friday lesson kid. She actually nickered when she saw FLK (she's usually pretty quiet, except to me...so her "talking" to someone other than me = HUGE)!
But then, once we got her all tacked up, she started just acting sassy with a capital "b."
She was sassing allllll over the place, refusing to do things she usually has no problem with, etc.
Then I started looking at FLK. And I realized that FLK was totally stiff as a board, locked up, and just generally freaked out. So I started talking FLK through it, getting her relaxed, having her halt Lacey and recollect her own thoughts when she needed to, getting her body back in the game, etc.
I stopped thinking about what Lacey's problem was and started listening to what she was telling me about FLK.
By the end of the lesson Lacey was plodding around, with her head level and back swinging.
FLK got off and said "Lacey had that whole lesson planned out from the start, didn't she?" And I couldn't say that she didn't.
Most of the time I'm pretty sure I'm just facilitating Lacey's lesson giving abilities. I'm not the "real" instructor...I'm just the instructor's apprentice. Hahaha
And the parents are just like:
So much this: "Some horses sense your fear and take advantage of it... But the best horses sense your fear and prove there's nothing to be afraid of. Even though I always say teaching lessons pays the bills and leave it at that... Sometimes you see some special stuff."
Rode BG on the trails for an hour today and worked on a few obstacles. We're leaving for Virginia Highlands CTR (one of my favorite rides) on Thursday morning. Virginia is a lovely escape from the 100 degree temperatures here in Georgia; it's going to feel like a vacation!
Stephanie and Cheri are judging. I love those two. On paper, it looks like it's going to be a good ride. I'm hoping for another solid ride like Biltmore. Or dare I wish for a crazy awesome ride like the Benefit? Not going to lie, it's been my pipe dream to repeat that performance.
Virginia was very solid. Wonderful, even. Sara wanted to ride by herself, so Michelle and I rode together and had too much fun. It was like we weren't even competing -- just having a little day ride, nothing to worry about.
BG stayed relaxed a majority of the time, which is a major victory for her. Loose rein, no pulling or frustration. I suppose she's been "conditioned" all year just by competing, because it felt like I had a major motor under me going up those mountains. She never got tired.
Saturday night, everyone got to look at their cards. Marty and I were tied for first; each of our horses had a score of 100. I rode out Sunday morning very hopeful that maybe, just maybe, we'd get the sweepstakes we needed.
I thought BG was perfect Sunday too.
However, during awards, Baby Girl's name didn't get called. Marty's horse Prime sweepstaked again.
I got my cards back and saw that BG's final score was a 99.
And I was soooo mad. Not frothing at the mouth mad. But annoyed, what-the-hell, this-is-bull-crap sort of mad.
I always talk with the judges after awards. Discuss cards, thank them, say goodbye. I talked to Cheri first. She gave me a 97.5, which is pretty good. I need to work on flexing my knees and ankles, among other things. I need a lunge line lesson.
Then I talked to Stephanie. She was in her truck and about to leave. Stephanie is basically the happiest person I've ever encountered. It's just her voice. She has an accent I just can't quite place, but it's vaguely northern and totally exuberant. Like she loves everyone and everything and the world is a rainbow and you are a special special snowflake.
"You almost got sweepstakes. That's awesome! Good job!" And she shut off her truck and got out to hug me.
And I thought, you know what. BG was awesome. And just because someone was more awesome doesn't mean that we weren't awesome too. She's better than she's ever been, and I'm proud of her.
NATRC is a game, and everyone comes to play. As Cheri always says, it's a game of nuance. That one point I lost was because BG fidgeted during a sidepass and refused to go slowly and settle. Prime doesn't fidget. That was the difference between BG and Prime this weekend. So small, so insignificant, so nuanced a difference.
I have a summer to find nuance. Because I love this game.