Blimey, this is a fair chapter:
In the five years I've had him I've never fallen off Quadi...till today!
Yesterday was a write-off with the weather, and today the hay delivery was due, but that's been postponed till tomorrow. Which meant I had a whole dry and sunny day in which to do as I pleased today :)
Field poo-picked, I fetched in Quadi, first to take some condition and hoof photos, before I tacked up.
Our start was not the most gracious, but quite funny. I mount and dismount from both sides, and this time opted for an offside mount-up. But Quadi moved forwards as I was swinging my leg over, which takes more concentration from this side anyway, and I ended up behind the sadde, quite unable to haul myself forwards! Luckily I did manage after a few strides. Not exactly the strongest part of his back to be sitting on but bless him for not rocketing me off. Shame he wasn't so mellow for our entire session!
We warmed up by walking up and down the steepest part of the paddock, making loops and figure shapes as we went. This was on a long rein, so nice and relaxed. Then we moved up to the flattest part of the paddock to start our schooling. i must say we got off to a good start. Not great, but definitely not bad either. I felt him stiffer through the left rein than normal and, as usual, more resistant along his right side. I started off with easy stuff, shoulder in and leg yield, and we had more above-bit antics than what has been normal of late. I continued with the big open and very smooth rein gestures I've been using, which I guess is a step-back from where we were pre-move but no matter as it always has to be clear and easy for him.
I wasn't really achieving full-on softness, but we were managing a few strides before we lost it. I decided to really boil it down to very slow and deliberate lateral work. Every few steps we would change from leg yield to travers to pirouette to renvers to half pass to reinback (note that although I describe some advanced moves here, it doesn't mean they're fabulously executed!), and also changing bend very frequently. Whilst doing this I had what was a very basic but huge-to-me revelation...that if I concentrated on flexing my fingers and not using my hands I could achieve more with less effort and, rather embarrassingly, much more kindness to my horse. I'm sure it's something eyes on the ground would have spotted straight away, not always easy on your own! It's quite refreshing to not be riding in a school for this, something Perry told me was ringing in my ears - "ride the horse, not the school".
This really helped and I could feel his back and shoulders lift, it really caught me as I was worried we were about to bounce off somewhere but it felt great and contained. Quadi was, I presume because of my shouty hands, beginning to curl behind. Not always, and I raised my hands gently when this happened to ask him up a shade. Ideally I'd not want to see a horse in any one frame for too long (at this stage of training) and I know a better rider can achieve superior results, and much sooner too! But Quadi is not a blank canvas and unfortunately it's me at the controls! In any case, I feel the lesser of two evils is not to have him star-gazing and building up his braciocephalic muscle. At this stage we were able to halt softly and flex both ways, so I thought about trot.
Now, I didn't wear my new pair of jods because I thought that would be tempting fate with a big red flag. I also was conscious of a thought to have my mobile phone in my pocket and not the tack room. And for some reason, it's been in my head I might part company with him at some point. I can't explain why, this wasn't a self-fulfilling prophecy today. I wasn't nervous, nor anxious, I was prepared for bucks but didn't encourage them.
First trot came a big buck, so much so that his tail flicked right over my hat and dangled momentarily well over the peak of my hat! I wasn't unseated and pushed on. I got what I asked for, a slower more steady rhythm with correct lateral bend, in this instance on the right rein.
We came back to walk with the best carriage he could muster, which wasn't bad, so big paise for him and we regrouped for the other rein. He bucked again and once more I asked for forwards and sensible. At which point we started hippity-hopping sideways, which I corrected and was met with an even larger twisty buck. My foot pinged out of my left stirrup, I was sliding out the side door bum-first and tried to grapple for something to hang onto but such attempts were in vain. Quadi threw his head up, the expression on his face "keep it together up there woman!". I managed to get a foot down but momentum sent me on my derrière in the damp grass. Thankfully are soft so my landing wasn't at all sore :D
Pleasingly, amongst the obvious negatives of this situation, Quadi stood when I was on the ground, so no hooves on me and also no slogging across the field to catch him. I bounced back on and once mounted saw that a neighbour was over the fence straining to see if I was ok :o I gave him a big thumbs up! Mortifying, but nice that someone was there, and useful if I had been hurt.
We went over everything we'd done so far to establish balance and calm, and I asked again. I wasn't being brutish, but I needed to have a positive outcome. Prior to the move he didn't find this work much easier but he tried very hard without such physical evasion. I understand that's it's new and exciting where we are but I would rather he didn't have what may be dangerous to call a strop. Dangerous because being huffy is human and not horsey but I do think they're capable of being 'pissy', it's over as soon as it's thought of, of course! I don't feel this is a physical issue, his saddle is carefully padded for his current physique, he's on his ulcer meds and he's shown no changes or signs of physical issue.
Anyway, when we moved into trot he thought about bucking, but I growled at him and asked him to direct his energy up and forwards through is forehand ;) and then he tried to teleport sideways a few times but I only had to adjust my leg position on his barrel and we were heading straight again :) But he really was setting himself against me. At this point I figured if he's supple enough to buck that high and twist and bend himself sideways then he was ok to work on 15-20m circles at trot. i restrained the tempo with my rises and really gave him all the room a boy could want on the inside rein. He needed a lot of inside leg to stop him motorbiking and one-by-one I shut his escape routes. After a minute he gave and I halted, good boy :) Repeated this on the other rein and once again, as soon as he gave I didn't push him on but came back to walk and told him what a star he is for trying.
Funny thing is, after all that, in walk his frame was shorter and collected, and he was light as a feather. At this point he very much reminded me of the horses I rode in Portugal. For example, just shifting my weight and the feel in my reins gave me a very smooth turn around the forehand. We got in a pickle in the other direction but I broke it down into step-and-reward, step-and-reward. But really, he comes so light it's unreal!
I've been mulling everything that happened today. Should I infinitely postpone even trot work and potentially make an issue of it in my head, or push on and get these episodes over with, risking more bucks? My answer is the latter, which I am aware is not a path everyone would agree with. Also, with using stronger finger and hand aids means a shorter but more embattled periods of resistance, this means he will soften his jaw but is it correct to achieve in this manner? Is it kinder to let him go around with is head in the air and his back hollow? Is it right to have to go through such a rigmarole in order to achieve what I want? With Quadi, I don't see how I have a choice some days...
Challenging times. If someone else had been recounting to me what he's like, I'd never want to blame it on a behavioural issue. But I guess they do have feelings and moods and different personalities, so why shouldn't it be because he's unhappy at being asked to do something difficult?