I am a reasonable rider. I have a good seat and most of the things that Breezy does when she is um… “asserting” her opinion I don’t have any trouble staying on.
What got me was when she started getting nervous or jittery in the ring a few weeks ago. I’d get on her and it felt like I was riding a taught rubber band. Wound, like she could take off or explode at any time. Her walk was short and choppy instead of relaxed and reaching. We always do different things in the ring. It’s never round and round and round, but it is usually in the ring.
In response to this, I went back to working on relaxation in the ring. We went back to groundwork, longing, obstacles, anything to mix things up. I even started longing her before we’d ride.
For a while, that seemed to do the trick. I got on her and she stood at the mounting block instead of walking off while I was trying to get on. She walked off with a relaxed gait and I felt like I had my girl back.
This lasted for a while. For one week, I switched to just longing her in the round pen with side reins and then immediately stopping when she did as I asked. You don’t keep going over and over things with a smart horse otherwise, they get bored or annoyed.
Apparently, she got annoyed with the work in the ring and the round pen.
My trainer rides Breezy once or twice per week, depending upon my trainer’s schedule and the weather. She said she had a feeling when she was riding in the ring last week that Breezy just wasn’t happy. So she rode in the field next to the ring. Breezy had a blast and had a very productive ride.
This was when we started thinking Breezy was ring sour. Ring sour is when a horse just does not want to go into the ring or misbehaves in the riding ring because they are bored / burned out / etc. It is kinda like when you don’t want to go to your job in the morning but you go anyway and then you get bitchy.
On her next ride, my trainer had the same sense that Breezy would not be good in the ring. She took her out on the perimeter trail around the farm. Breezy and I have been around there multiple times, both under saddle and in hand. She said Breezy was great there as well. She worked her trotting up and down the hills.
Last weekend, I thought about what my trainer had said and took Breezy out instead of in the ring. We had a lot of people at the barn, including one of the boarder’s horses being worked (and yelling for her pasture mates), so things were a bit up in the barn.
I led Breezy around the section of the trail where she usually gets uppity, expecting lots of spooks and branching around. She was fabulous back there. It’s the section in between an overgrown field full of deer and woods full of dangerous squirrels. Yes, my brave mare spooks mostly at squirrels. They are all out to get her, after all.
When we got behind the paddocks, the thoroughbreds started running which got Breezy all up. She wanted to run too. I was glad I was leading her. We got around that back corner, past the silly horses running, and then I got on once things had settled. We walked the rest of the trail to the road and she was very good.
But I felt nervous about getting on. I have for the past several times I’ve ridden her. I shouldn’t, honestly. I’m not afraid that I’m going to get hurt. I know intellectually that this is a phase in her training. Kasane was like this too. Isis had her very explosive moments. But we got past that.
I’m not sure what is different here. Is it that Kasane was always my reset? Breezy might do something silly, but then I could get on Kasane and make things right with the world and reaffirm that I am a reasonable rider. I don’t have Kasane as my safety blanket anymore.
I think my jitteriness about riding Breezy is part of a mourning process for Kasane. Breezy can’t be Kasane for me, she can only be herself. I really miss riding a trained horse that I could trust and just go do things. It took many years to get there with Kasane, and now I have to do that with Breezy. I had to do that when Isis died and Kasane was about Breezy’s age.
When I have thought about riding Breezy, I go between wanting to ride and be confident enough for her and for me. Riding with a purpose. I *know* this so why do I get scared and want to curl up and cry?
And that feeling is what made me think that it is tied in with grief. Breezy is using all of Kasane’s tack, too. That was on purpose so I wouldn’t see an empty rack and reach for the wrong thing. But maybe it has a flip side too, that I’m reaching for Kasane unconsciously.
Tie that grief in with Breezy being jittery and maybe that is the mixture of it. Breezy started getting squirrely shortly after Kasane died. It took me a while to want to get back on Breezy because I felt emotionally unstable after Kasane passed. It really tore me up. (Also why there is a gap in posts on the blog.)
The grief feels like part of the issue with Breezy but not all of it. I know I tend to get too much in my head when I ride. I need to just be in the moment and let things go.
My gut reaction to deal with this is to start meditating again to hopefully figure out what my reaction is from and then also let those feelings process and heal. Breezy can be silly some times but it’s a normal horse thing and we can get through this by listening to what she needs. Mixing things up so it’s more interesting. Not always doing the hard schooling and instead of doing days with ground poles and groundwork.
Today, we spent almost two hours playing. I brought her into the ring and let her eat grass while I set up ground poles. I groomed her for a long time while she ate. And then we played with the ground poles and another obstacle I had set up: two grain sacks held in place by ground poles. She loved that.
We did ground poles last time I worked her as well. I can always tell when we’ve done something she likes, because the next time I come out to get her, she is very enthusiastic. Today, she yelled at me and cantered to meet me. That’s a big difference from nickering and then making me walk to her.
We will see what the lesson is like tomorrow. And I’ll report back on what I discover. Thank goodness for fabulous instructors (who is also my trainer). She’s like a safety blanket: I can do anything in a lesson so long as she is there.