I stepped away from the blog because I didn't feel like I had anything to contribute, and like I hadn't really made any training progress with my horse. I'd open the blog to start a post, then shut it down again. We've done lots of things since I stopped blogging, couple shows, trail rides, but it all felt like 1 step forward 3 steps back.
I took Stella to an open show where she showed in one halter class and one under saddle class as our canter skills weren't safe for a group outing. She dealt with the waiting and the crowds great, her first flat class was in an arena of 18!!!! and she didn't put a foot wrong. There were mules, people out of control, horses and carriages, and pretty much everything at once. However, she became totally attached to her trailer buddy and was a screaming mess in her stall half the day until she gave it up. She also reared when I decided to ride her past her stall to see some friends at the end of the barn aisle. I ended up getting her past it and circling her stall for the next 20 minutes so she knew it wasn't a good idea.
She attended the fall HT at the facility I take lessons at. She had a meltdown on day one out on the XC field because she didn't want to go past the scary brush and jump the teeny tiny log. Ended up rearing out in the field until I got her past it and over the log.
The next day she had a half rear in stadium not wanting to go back away from the barn, and then went around in what I thought was a really nice XC round by jumping all the fences on course until she decided she'd rather be done early and go home and went totally vertical in front of the very last fence on course. I ended up vaulting off as I was afraid she was going over backwards, and I was halfway off anyway. Honestly it scared the shit out of me and there was no reason for it. Yes, I recognize that my skill and reaction time isn't fast enough, but a full out almost going over rear over a log isn't acceptable behavior period. I really thought of it and balanced how much was my fault and how much was a horse personality issue.
After that I took some time to regroup and decided to just go on lots of trail rides where she could work on being really forward.
That turned out to be a disaster and her behavior went from good trail horse to me getting off and leading her a dozen times. My friend's horse who was green on the trail but had just come back from 4 months of training wouldn't go in front at all, and when Stella started acting like an idiot and backing up her horse did the same thing combined with trying to bite Stella. Second ride, same deal. I got off and walked a lot. I admit I just wasn't feeling overly confident to push her hard enough especially when I felt her get light in front. I also really had to watch my retaliation because the other horse was right on top of us the entire time trying to bite and just refusing to move.
I regrouped, spoke with a friend who said that horses will come to rely on you getting off and leading them and to pick a fight and win it. So I thought about it and went out with a stick the next time.
I went to war with her and when she started rearing and acting like an idiot I got off, lunged her, ground drove her down the trail, and got back on. She even got tangled up in some weeds backing up and acting like a fool and almost came undone. It seemed to help a bit, toward the end she was less reluctant to go forward and I was hoping that she would continue to improve. Unfortunately at some point she kicked herself in her stupidity and ended up lame for a week.
During that week she was off we decided to see if the problem was the two mares together, my friend took out her reluctant trail horse/dressage horse and I rode her horse. No problems.
The next week Stella looked back to normal so we took out the dressage horse and Stella
This ended up being a real eye opener. While at first Stella was reluctant to leave the trailer and be in front about 10 minutes in she sighed and I was able to get her to go past the other horse and take the lead. The other horse only had to take the lead a few times. The other times I was able to use my stick and she moved smartly forward. She was content to walk or to motor, and left her companion in the dust several times.
So the answer to trails clearly had something to do with both a reluctance to go forward combined with a hatred of her trail riding buddy. Not sure how to fix it.
At home I have not been riding much. I have been doing lots of bombproofing. It's not that Stella is spooky, it's that when she doesn't want to do something she isn't going to do it and she doesn't respect my forward aids enough to be obedient. On the ground she is usually chill with things. Under saddle she prefers to stop and contemplate things for 10 minutes before deciding it isn't a big deal and moving on. If you push her she reacts, and if you get forceful she reacts big.
I am hoping that by presenting her with things that might cause her to not go forward, and ending up going in the right direction I can back track her forward problem to the beginning and fix it like I should have originally. Like I said, she came with the grow roots and say no issue when I bought her but I wasn't really that worried as it's not like I have not dealt with horses that don't want to go forward. She had been making progress and was much more forward at home. So what's different? A different type of horse personality? A stubborn reluctance instead of a fear of what happens when they do go forward? Bad match? Pushing her past her comfort zone before she was ready causing regression?
It's a problem she came with, a problem I have been working on, a problem that has been getting better, and a problem that isn't fixed.
So that is why I have not been blogging. I have been in a slump. Doubting my skills as a rider and trainer, doubting if she is the right horse for me, and basically feeling sorry for myself. I have not taken any lessons since the October show since I feel like it's a waste of money and time. Not that I don't value the instruction and that it isn't quality training, but more like I don't deserve to go take a lesson when I can't get my horse to do something simple. Like I'm wasting my trainer's time and the time of those in my lesson. I thought trail riding would be a solution to the forward, but then we backslid with that even more due to the dynamic with her and the other mare.
She has these moments when she's going under saddle and she's utterly connected and through and I have this big stupid smile on my face because she is the absolute best moving horse I have ever sat on in my entire life and I feel like anything is possible in the saddle. Like she could really smoke the competition at show.
Then she has moments where I want to get off, tie her to a tree, and leave her there.
And that is where we are. Where we go from here I do not know.