The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. And What We’re Doing About It.

I know most of you must be familiar with the concept of your horse knowing your emotions before you do. Most people attribute it to horses being prey animals- they must be hyper-aware of their surroundings. I attribute it to voodoo magic. But whatever you attribute this to, horses always seem to be the mirror that shows us what’s actually going on.

For example: Addy has been refusing jumps in our last two lessons. Most are not dirty stops (though some absolutely are), but my jumping machine seems to have lost some of her hops. We can have a beautiful flowing course, and then she will come to a screeching halt at a simple 2’3″ vertical she’s jumped 2-3x a week for the last year.

I’ve never been the type to get overly worked up about a stop- I’ll give her a good thump in the sides as a big fat NOPE YOU DON’T GET TO ENJOY THIS, but I’m fine with making a circle and re-approaching. I’m not the rider who gets crazy frustrated and starts to cry about how my horse hates me. Instead, I’m more thinking “WTF is going on and what am I doing wrong.”

Key: what am *I* doing wrong. Not what darling pony is doing wrong. Me. Myself. I. Because even if I’m getting dirty stops, that’s something that I need to address. That’s a training opportunity.

So after ending our lesson on a decent note (I actually have lots of videos that I’ll be posting on Insta over the next couple days, shoutout to Manfriend for braving his allergies to get me more media!) I took a step back. I’ve been sick for a couple weeks. I’ve been out of town for several weekends. My riding routine has been disrupted and I’ve almost definitely lost some muscle mass from said disruption. Is it any wonder if my riding has suffered? My job has picked up a LOT lately. Is it any wonder that I’m coming to my lessons with a measure of stress and tension that wasn’t there before?

Addy is a horse that will work with me all day long and give me her whole heart, but she is not the type of horse to work for me. As frustrating as it is, she’s giving me the ride I need right now- reminding me that it’s OK to throw out the pretty equitation and get gutsy when need be.

But I also need to take a step back and realize what I’ve been asking her to do: even though I’ve been riding less so you’re not getting worked as consistently, and I’m tense and nervous and riding weakly, please cart my butt over that 3’3″ oxer. All my aids are screaming “I’m not sure about this,” but please go for it anyway.

Of course she’s not going to do it. Like I said last week, Precious Pony is not getting canonized any time soon, and it would certainly take some saintlike behavior to put up with that garbage.

But identifying this as a problem has actually made me feel tons better! Because now I have a trainer-approved plan to address it: build up our confidence. Her confidence in me, my confidence in her, and both of our confidence that we actually know what we’re doing.

So this involves building lots of positive experiences for both of us. Asking for things that she enjoys and excels at so that she gets tons of praise for succeeding. Taking the pressure off and enjoying each other’s company. Spending extra time grooming and bonding. Dropping my stirrups to get that muscle tone back. Basically psychological boot camp (with a little bit of physical boot camp too).

So when I rode Friday, she got to go on the buckle. I held a very light contact the entire time and just asked her to move freely without me hanging on her mouth. I didn’t ask her to collect or package or do anything too strenuous. Just stretch out and play together. Lo and behold, I got a gorgeous stretchy trot and a quiet, balanced canter. Bonus: I got a great lower body workout since I had basically thrown away the reins and was riding based on seat and leg.

Then just yesterday we went out on a long trail ride with friends. Even though she’s been on maybe 3 trail rides ever, she crossed bridges and trotted up steep hills and went through the woods and walked down neighborhood streets like she does this every day. It was just the reminder I needed that this horse is absolutely trustworthy. She wants to take care of me and she wants to do a good job.

It’s like Nicole explained in her post about the Trust Bank (which I legit refer to all the time because I love it so much)- if I want Addy to save my butt in tough situations, I need to make sure she knows that I will always always always do the same for her. Let her know that we get to have fun together including but not limited to jumping over colorful sticks. That I’m on board and leading and will set both of us up for success.

After all, two steps forward and one step back still counts as progress. I’m really excited about reaching a new level of understanding and communication with my Beastly Creature! I’ll keep you all updated on how it goes.


What have you done when you needed to take a step back to build the trust back up? Any ideas for fun activities we can do together?

18 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. And What We’re Doing About It.

  1. Allison Stitzinger 08/31/2015 / 8:12 am

    YES. THIS. ALL OF THIS. I’m in the middle of my own “psych bootcamp” right now and my personal issues, stress, and anxiety ABSOLUTELY have a negative affect on my riding! Building positive experiences, and trust, is the way to go. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • hellomylivia 08/31/2015 / 9:05 am

      Glad I’m not the only one! We’re gonna rock it 🙂


  2. Britt 08/31/2015 / 8:40 am

    Whenever Foster started refusing fences suddenly, it has almost always been a pain issue- just a thought, has she had her feet done recently (a hot nail or quicked toe could cause a reaction like that – ask me how I know) or her saddle fit, etc? Just a thought that maybe it’s not you or her training that’s the problem!

    Liked by 1 person

    • hellomylivia 08/31/2015 / 9:06 am

      That’s definitely something I’ll look into! I’ve been switching saddles on her a lot lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s irritating her. Thanks for the tip!


  3. Jenn 08/31/2015 / 9:24 am

    “Two steps forward and one step back still counts as progress.” Someone wise once told me that same thing 😉

    This entire post is genius. Period.

    Also, nice shirt #twinning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hellomylivia 08/31/2015 / 10:41 am

      Whenever I say anything halfway intelligent I feel the need to repeat it a gazillion times haha.
      Twins 4 lyfe


    • hellomylivia 08/31/2015 / 3:05 pm

      I’ll learn to love them (maybe) haha. Canter poles seem even harder than big jumps to me!


  4. emma 08/31/2015 / 4:55 pm

    ugh such a hard lesson to learn, but it’s always good to get a reminder about working ‘with’ and not ‘for.’ Addy is such a cool horse i’m glad you’re working to reestablish that phenomenal partnership you guys have!!


    • hellomylivia 08/31/2015 / 8:33 pm

      Definitely a hard lesson, but SO worth it with my lovebug! The happy awesome times outweigh the setbacks by such a huge amount ❤


  5. littlepiecesofme1 09/01/2015 / 7:49 am

    I think it is normal for relationships with our horses to peak and valley…just like with people. I love that you are recognizing and working to build it. That is what will make it great and long lasting.


    • hellomylivia 09/01/2015 / 9:44 am

      I agree completely- these more “interesting” times are what makes those relationships stronger!


  6. Wilbur, Ellie, and Emily 09/02/2015 / 8:41 pm

    Love that you’re stepping out on trails and out of ring work! Sometimes changing up the pace can help both your minds :). I agree with Lauren- pole work can substantially help you eye, balance, straightness!


    • hellomylivia 09/03/2015 / 9:41 am

      I think changing it up definitely gave us the mental break we needed! We played with some poles earlier this week and I will begrudgingly admit that you’re both right 😉 it was a great low-pressure way to work on exactly those things!


  7. Tracy - Fly On Over 09/17/2015 / 12:18 pm

    I too love the Trust Bank blog post! It’s such a great explanation.


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