Finding a Pattern

Thankfully, horses are not math problems. Unearthing a pattern of behavior in a horse is not so precise as a math problem, and there is no one final answer. That would be tedious and boring. But over the course of the last few weeks, and last few lessons, I have realized something about Eli that, hindsight 20-20, was probably kind of obvious. That is this: jumping him once a week is not enough. Physically, it probably is, and we’ve both got our conditioning back (for the most part on my end; Eli is totally swole). But mentally? If Eli goes 5, 6 days without jumping, he becomes a bit of a handful over fences. He wants to play a little too exuberantly for my tastes after every fence. I did get video from our lesson, just a short clip, and he’s not playing too hard, but he is also not paying that much attention to me. This is the instance where we almost ate it in the combination because he wanted to do two strides in a short three. No.

I can even provide a little more play-by-play. The video is not the whole course, but we come off the white single through a right-hand turn to the Swedish. No problems there. Eli plays just a smidge after the Swedish, but nothing bad. As we come through the corner, he is speeding up and I am trying to slow him down. The distance is fine but we touch a rail at the vertical–I think Eli was simply late with his left front. But then he gets all pissed off because he hit the jump and proceeds to play and accelerate through my hands coming to the combination. Hence the scramble out. You can see me physically trying to reel him in the get the three.

20150711 Karen Eli from rennikka on Vimeo.

That was the worst of it for that lesson. Overall, I’m still pretty happy with his performance. Our lesson this Saturday, he was REALLY interested in playing and running through my hand, so we had that to work on through the whole lesson. He also wanted to drift right and add a step regardless of my right leg, so I had to get a spur. He stopped drifting with the spur, but expressed some pretty strong opinions about that. Thankfully the combination was opened up a little so we didn’t have a repeat of the 2 strides and a scramble. I did have trouble lining it up through the turn and that took some time for my trainer to fix. Fix meaning fix me, not Eli. Like, learn to steer, cookie lady.

Sunday was my epiphany. Eli was quiet, broke, simple, steerable, and jumping well. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing with him on Sunday after Saturday’s frustrating but still productive lesson, and the only tack I had on him was the saddle and his hunter bridle, no running, and I did wear a nubby little spur. The jumps were about 2’9″ and Eli was flatting nicely, so I decided to jump a few short courses of singles and easy turns. Too bad I didn’t get this on video. Eli was doing his best derby horse impression–no sass, jumping well, turning easily, landing on the leads I asked for, simple distances … So my realization is this. He needs to jump during the week BEFORE our regular Saturday lesson so we can have a more productive lesson. I don’t think he needs to jump a lot, or at the height we jump in lessons, but he needs to go through a few courses to iron out our disagreements about steering, playfulness, drifting, and what not. In short, make him rideable. Flat work is not enough for his mental development.

In addition to Eli being basically perfect on Sunday, I rode a friend’s horse at her place and I want to steal him. He’s so pleasant and has floaty gaits, and nice instinct over a crossrail. So Stacy if you are reading this, yes I am plotting to take your pony.

My barn is having a very small playday type of mini show soon. I’m planning on doing the gambler’s choice, but I am kinda toying with the idea of the derby, too. I guess it depends which Eli shows up.

Aug1show
I tried to blur out everyone’s name in the interest of privacy, but LOOK AT MY FUNNY SPINAL TAP JOKE. That I don’t think anyone at the barn gets.

My schooling tall boot search is still ongoing, due to my incredibly scrawny calf measurement of 12 1/2″ in jeans. Definitely not looking to go custom with these, and I do prefer the brown, so right now it’s looking like the Ariat x-slim with my shoe size is the closest fit.

A few things upcoming — I’ve got two custom bonnets on the way, should be here this week! And my new take-everything-to-the-barn-in-one-bag bag should be here, too. I might review it. It’s not specifically an equestrian bag, but I kind of like the idea of doing a series of reviews of things that aren’t specifically for horse people but that fit in the horse world all the same, something like a horse-friendly but non-equestrian brands series.

23 thoughts on “Finding a Pattern

  1. I’m totally with you- my girl needs to jump a couple times a week so that it’s not some crazy exciting awesome thing she gets to do. We need to keep it a part of the routine. I’m psyched to hear about the bonnets and the bag! I also still think you should check out the mountain horse boots- I don’t know my exact measurements but I’m in the scrawny-calf club too and the slims fit like a glove. I’m pretty biased though 🙂

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    1. I haven’t ruled out the Mountain Horse yet! The problem for me is always that I have big wide boat feet, and the slim calf measurements keep increasing with shoe size and though they might fit initially, they stretch and drop too much. But maybe if I got a slim-tall it might work? Something tells me I’m going to be trying on and returning a lot of tall boots, lol!

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  2. I have the complete opposite problem as far as tall boots: my calves are 17.5″ around, and many of the ‘wide calf’ versions don’t zipper more than halfway up. Sad face. Hoping you find something that fits soon! Also, I loooooove the idea of brown schooling boots, so dreamy.

    Please do that post about non-horsey things that can be used by us equestrian peeps. I’d be interested to read that.

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  3. Have you ever tried circling between jumps? Even in the middle of lines if space permits. I find that it helps focus their brains and makes them pay attention. Good luck with the boot search!

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    1. I’d like that schedule myself, but I’d have to drastically change my work schedule and I don’t think my boss would let me do that one day a week. Yet. You’ll be back in that schedule sooner than you know it!

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  4. I have the same “problem” with one of mine. In an effort to save his joints, I’ve tried to limit the number of times that we jump on a regular basis….unfortunately he’s the type of horse that doesn’t do well with mostly flatting; he’s easily bored and will channel his displeasure into airs above the ground…often at the least appropriate times (cough, show ring, cough). So, my best intentions aside, he is best behaved and happier if we jump at least 3x/week.

    On the boot topic: I also have small measurements, and I prefer mine quite high. Ariat has fit me well.

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  5. I too need to jump more than once a week! It’s hard for me, though, because there are SO many other things I want to do with pony, and I usually have abbreviated riding-weeks due to weekend travel. So in my five rides I’m supposed to jump twice, ideally spaced out by a few days, have some fun, get some dressage in, and not blow poneh’s mind somehow?!?! It’s hard. But I also reap the rewards, so.. there’s that.

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  6. i have to relearn this lesson with my mare pretty much every few months. she’s good and goes nicely, so i think i can back off on the intensity – giver her a ‘rest’ so to speak. and then the wheels fall off and suddenly we’re not good any more. she really does require consistent work. not wet saddle blanket treatment – but just regularly scheduled sessions in which we press all the buttons to make sure they still work. perhaps Eli is the same?

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    1. Yeah, he’s much easier to ride when I ride him consistently, that’s for sure! I enjoy his excitement about jumping and all, but I just have to channel it better.

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  7. It’s funny sometimes how long it takes us humans to catch on to what our horse is telling us. All of the intricacies of learning to manage a horse properly are so important, yet so difficult!

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