The point of this post is not to ask for advice, although if you have an insight to share you are absolutely welcomed to do so. This post segment having a near *perfect* horse with a quirk. Do you a much loved or trustworthy horse with a quirk? Please share!
Farley had a complete melt down during our last lesson.
This is not the first time.
This will not be the last time.
The difference? That day it was a lesson and my trainer was there.
For the first 30 minutes of the lesson we worked on trotting and the sitting trot. It was LOVELY. She got round and soft with a very soft jaw. I was keeping the lesson easy because we hadn't gotten a lot of work in that week, and I could feel that she wasn't in top form that day. Just having one of those "Mental Mare" days. That doesn't mean that she doesn't work, but it does mean that I'm sensitive to the fact she may need some extra special tender attention and understanding.
Near the end we asked for a canter departure. She immediately got pissed off, said "I'm not going to play anymore". We cantered (badly) until it was good enough to quit (it was still bad). She then proceeded to blow through my half halt and my trot. Totally ignored my aids. Heavy heavy and more heavy. It was like I wasn't even there. She knew it was close to the end and she was determined to make it come sooner rather than later by just not responding at all.
When this happens, I pick one simple thing that she needs to do, and then we can be done. It's all about salvaging something good....All I wanted was a halt that was soft. That's it. Didn't even have to be pretty, she just had to acknowledge my aid. Then we could be done.
My trainer was a bit shocked at her behavior. I'm glad she finally did this at a lesson. At home, I have to deal with the rushing, horrible, stiff canter, and the temper tantrums. I think I've been handling them well, but it's nice to have the trainer see some of the stuff I have to school her through - she's usually very perfect and compliant during lessons.
The trainer got a lunge whip and while I asked her to flex, my trainer tapped her hocks, making her really work at the walk, stepping through. Then as she got soft, I let the connection down down down until she was walking with the rein all the way down. Then we quit.
The melt downs are unpredictable, although most of the time, some (but not all) of the following elements are present:
- In season (a factor in this melt down)
- Not ideal weather (a factor in this melt down - it was sprinkling)
- Worked too many days in a row
- Given too much time off
- Worked in the arena too many days in a row (probably a factor)
- Worked at a time of day that is not "typical"
99% of the time Farley is a very good pony indeed. During these meltdowns she completely shuts down. Unresponsive, sluggish, ignores me etc.
My "Dear Farley" note of a past post was partially a result of one of her melt downs.
Most of the time I try to manage them by:
- giving her adequate time off
- working her regularly when she's not on vacation.
- putting her back into work slowly when she's been off for a while
- don't do the same thing every day - have fun days for playing only.
- Recognize what is happening and try to end on a good note before it turns into a battle
- Salvage whatever good thing I can from the work out and end on a high note, even if it's in the middle of a huge pit - for example softening into the bit at a halt.
- Keeping positive and upbeat no matter what and treat it like a game.
*sigh*. Every horse has it's *thing*. And for a mare she's remarkably consistent and not moody. So what if I have to occasionally work through one of her "moments". She has to work through my "moments" too. Just like all relationships, it's not going to be roses and peaches all the time. In reality, she has an "episode" less than once per month. I'm sure I get unreasonable and grouchy more often than that! It happens.
After the melt down:
The next day, after the lesson we went out on a lovely 15 mile trail ride where we did a little bit of everything - walk, trot, canter, and gallop. I've never actually opened her up full throttle. We've galloped, but I've never asked her to go faster and faster and FASTER. As Buster the Standardbred (the eye of my blog) started to gain on her, she pinned her eyes and slipped into a gear I didn't even know my little pony had. The difficult thing of course is that her long mane gets tangled with the reins at the gallop, which gets tangled in my gloves, which leaves me zero control, but hey - that's the fun of it right? The best part.....my front renegades I was using stayed on!
After the fabulous trail ride where the little pony redeemed herself, she got 2 weeks off....
So how did the precious pony do after 2 weeks off? Was she peaches and cream, or did it resemble more of a screaming hell cat with some hotsauce? Stay tuned for part 2.