So this summer I had lots of time to do what I do best, trail ride! I feel so much more confident working on forward issues on the trail and I believe that you can work on one problem by fixing another area. I made it a goal to work on solo trail riding with Stella. It's a big boost for me, and if I can get Stella to go forward on a strange trail in the middle of nowhere, I can get her to go over a tiny fence! Plus, my barn owner was out of town for two weeks and if I don't find a way to force myself to ride during that time I get pretty grumpy!
I'm still picking trails in public areas where I can easily walk back to the trailer, and there are people to find my body. They still have plenty of nature, and added benefits like people bicycle racing and screaming children. I do a variety of all three gaits. Sometimes I let Stella pick her speed and sometimes I pick it for us. She moves out really well alone, while in groups she has started to get lazy. Perhaps a sign of being comfortable? I've had to start working on a forward walk in groups now.
I also let Stella have snack breaks. I figure if she's calm enough to graze while all alone she's comfortable doing what we're doing. She does take advantage of this, and gradually sneaks to a nice looking patch then ducks her head down. When we ride behind a slow horse she will graze until they are out of sight, catch up, repeat.
Bad habit? Probably, but oddly enough she has never once tried to snack when we are out XC schooling on the grass. She will stand on a buffet on a slack rein. Maybe she knows the difference?
Usually the only horses we see are their leftovers! Stella likes to take time to smell the poop to see if she knows them. I did run across other horses here, and it was a big WHAT IF for me because Stella has been herd bound in the past. Could I get her to keep going by a group of other horses? Would she have a meltdown and try to follow them? She has had issues being buddy sour at other trail rides and shows. We ran into a few groups here and Stella didn't care at all so I think her confidence in me as herd leader has been growing. Or she felt they were beneath her.
This sign was very spooky. We were trotting and Stella made a really big zag and I was thankful for the big pommel on my endurance saddle. We did lots of snorting and she tried to back up and spin around. I kept my reins short, used my spurs, and would not let her turn away. We made it past this sign and the 50 other ones some kind person put out!
This park bench was also a doozy. In a blind corner (why are spooky things in blind corners?) but I was able to get Stella by this as well.
Overall I have been really pleased with our progress solo trail riding. I've had to get off and lead her before, either because it was an unsafe area to deal with shenanigans, or because I wasn't making any progress. Last month she had a meltdown on a ride with a friend. We were on day two, and the area was hilly and rocky. It took nearly 30 minutes, her rearing, and me getting off three times and walking before she would go, and this was with another horse! It really helped that the other horse didn't care about Stella drama, and that his rider was able to move him safely out of our way. I think that ride was really a turning point. It was really ugly, but sometimes you need to make a stand. Stella and I both did and I think I won! You can either go forward or you can go forward.
I'm also tickled pink that I have a horse I can ride solo, and a horse that I can gallop down a trail and not only not have to worry about not being run away with, but that I am secure enough with to do it in the first place!
I'm hoping that this helps our jumping in a round about way. It sure isn't helping our dressage!