Monday, November 9, 2009

Dressage brilliance and REALLY annoying (read: idiotic) horse buyers

Well it's the end of another long day and I am eager for those clean sheets, so this will be quick!

I missed the chance to work with any of the horses Saturday, as I ended up stuck in town. Yesterday though I had some prospective buyers interested in Missy and so had her ready for 3pm. My intention had been to work Missy in front of them, work Link before 5pm (feed time), then maybe even work with Cody a little. Well 3pm rolled around and the people wanting to see Missy had not shown up or even bothered to call. She still needed to be worked though, so I put her through her paces both on the ground (just the usual stuff) and under-saddle - w/t/c (her canter is getting a lot better!!!), leg yields, bends (she gave me some amazingly light and loose bends!!), etc. She had a LOT of impulsion, so I had a lot to work with, a lot of clay I could mould, so to speak ;) At ten to four, the people (we'll call them Dad and family) finally called - they'd lost my number. They were nearby and wanted to see Missy? No apology or anything of course. Of course though I said yes, and Missy and I cooled out and waited for them. When they arrived, they seemed surprised she had already been worked. Well, yea. My life does not (*gasp*) revolve around you and I still have horses to work. So they switched saddles (they wanted to ride her western) and all clambered aboard, one at a time: dad first, then daughter #1 (the one in need of a horse), then daughter #2. I have to say this: Missy did awesome. Dad definitely alluded to knowing more than he did; not only did he not know any correct terms (for example, he asked me if she "sat back on her feet"...he meant "does she collect"), he asked all the textbook questions you would ask from reading a book rather than through experience, and his equitation was lacking. That's okay, we all learn at our own pace however I need a buyer to be honest and up-front with their skill level, so I can ensure a successful match. Then he proceeded to tell me Missy was not trained as much as he'd like. SHE'S A GREEN HORSE! I TOLD YOU AS MUCH!! IF YOU WANT A FINISHED HORSE, BUY A FINISHED HORSE, NOT A GREEN HORSE! Don't expect some poor green horse to be finished. My horses take time, but they come out good horses. Better horses than the ones who are forced into frames and over-loaded with expectations and piss-poor training lacking in a strong foundation. Besides, SHE WALKED, SHE TROTTED (endlessly, I might add), SHE CANTERED (ALSO endlessly, and on the CORRECT lead each time), SHE SIDEPASSED (something she has just learned to near-perfect), SHE TURNED ON THE HIND. She backed, she did everything a green horse with her (limited) level of training is supposed to do. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT FROM A GREEN HORSE?! Apparently she was not "trained enough" because she was not "reined". Yup, "not reined" means "she doesn't neck rein". A dressage horse does not neck rein. *Ahem* a GREEN dressage horse does not neck rein. Neck reining, I point out, is NOT something I teach a green horse. It is something that just comes as you "finish" a horse in a curb bit (because you're riding one-handed). It is definitely not something that I expect or even ask for out of a green horse. You're just going to end up with a confused and stiff horse. The other reason she wasn't "trained enough"? She does not fully collect. May I insert a newsflash here? She's GREEN. Collection is something that is developed with TIME. It does not come with about 90 SPORADIC days on a horse (which they were aware of). You have to be working with them consistently. Then he has the GALL to tell me her trot is rough. Just as we watch Daughter #1 float past at a beautiful trot. I made sure to make it clear her trot was NOT rough. You know why it felt rough to Dad? Equitation. No offense, but don't walk in here and treat me disrespectfully, pretending to know ALL, and act like my horse is not properly trained or worth the pitiful amount we are asking for her. ESPECIALLY when I have had dressage professionals walk in here and really like her, compliment her gaits, and be impressed with where she is at, particularly with how little time this year I have had to devote to her. The fact that Missy carted around all three family members, at all three gaits, BEAUTIFULLY and without complaint (she worked for TWO hours between my working her and their working her), I think says a lot. She tried her best and worked very well for them, particularly for the 13yo daughter. For a green horse, she really wowed me - she acted like a finished horse, especially since she was under green riders. Anyway, I do make this sound worse than it actually was - Daughter #1 got along fabulously with Missy and though I didn't care all that much for Dad, Mom was fantastic and the daughters were great with the mare. Also, I know if Missy went to them that she WOULD be going to a home where she was well-cared for and she wouldn't be abused. I was still pretty irked at Dad though - the gall! Anyway, by the time I was finished with them, it was past feed time and I couldn't pull Link away from his food (not when I wouldn't have much time to feed him afterward and he cannot afford to miss a meal!), so catering to Missy's prospects meant I missed out on working with Link - which only served to piss me off further. Missy's awesome-ness did cheer me up though. I keep calling her green, but she has really almost crossed the line into "broke-with-basics-horse", or "young-but-solid-and-with-experience-horse". Now, really she is just a young horse who needs further developing.

Today I commenced the day with another dressage lesson on Link. His trot was fantabulous today - absolutely amazing. My sitting trot was also really good. We started off with a sitting trot, something I have never been able to do on him (because I was too stiff and because he was always so hollow, making it even more difficult for me) at the very beginning of a session! We continued it for a good 15 minutes or so, which felt absolutely incredible. Later we also worked on some extended trot (which was really neat to feel beneath me, it was crazy!) as well as some canter! His canter transitions were much better today than last time even, and my seat was a little better for him (I lose my seat credibility at the faster trot as he moves up into the canter). Also, his canter was calmer all-round - so calm we actually cantered down the long side of the arena!!! When I first got him, he was not even safe to ride - forget about trotting down the long side! Now, he trots down the long side, but I didn't think he was ready to canter down the long side - I was wrong!! He had a lot of trouble picking up his right lead (he never did get it this time around) because his barrel was too stiff on that side, but he definitely tried his heart out for me. Man, I am impressed: we both did very well today. I have another lesson Thursday before leaving for work over the weekend (should be back either Sunday or Monday), so I am looking forward to working with Link tomorrow and Wednesday prior to our next lesson!

I admit, I went home for a nap before returning to the horses (lol): I brought in Cody and helped mom prepare for her lesson on Sonny (who did very well for her, I must add - both did very great today, and in a dressage saddle nonetheless!). While she rode in her lesson, I took Cody out for some liberty work - we did all 7 games quickly, including the circling game at liberty (I actually got him to circle in close to me in either direction today), before returning to the arena. Poor guy was pretty stressed out though. I had initialy, after catching him, jogged him from his paddock to the barn, saddled him up, then taken him into the arena. Too much for the poor little guy - he was really nervous. Normally I work with him on the ground first before tacking him up, so he was pretty uptight to be saddled up first - I think it just made him wonder what was going on and what was going to happen to him. The liberty work helped though, and we rode around in the arena (doing nothing much, just some really basic stuff and transitions) for about 45 min, until the end of Mom's lesson. By the end, Cody felt relaxed-ish, so I was happy. I didn't feel the need to really work him, as he had done well and I didn't need to push him too far today. He felt really good today - he is always super sensitive and responsive, but it was so nice having him trot off when I simply "lifted my energy" (NO leg), and stopping when I "drained all my energy". It was pretty neat!

Sorry for the vent, but people can be frustrating at times!

Last but not least, I had to get Missy ready for some other individuals to see her: the lady trying her out was doing so for a friend, who is coming down on Wednesday to see Missy. I got Missy warmed up - she had a lot of impulsion but was not bending much or anything within the first 10 minutes (but I usually don't ask for much from her at all for the first 10-15min so she can just relax and warm up) but she did w/t/c (as well as jumping some jumps on the ground first, before riding). First thing Lady does before getting up into the saddle? She puts spurs on. Why? No idea. Missy had a ton of impulsion and I had a dressage whip to wave at her to get her to move off my leg (of course though I wasn't being as assertive in that respect yet because she'd only been working about 10 minutes so was still warming up). I let it be though, because I wanted her to give a good report back to her friend, who is the real one interested in Missy (she has a daughter in Pony Club). This woman used to be an eventer but was now into the dressage and this woman's ride was nothing like that of the dressage professionals that came out to see Missy awhile ago, the women who were clearly knowledgeable and classical-ly dressage based. This woman boasted to me how she works her horses hard and over short sessions: she used to do 20min sessions but now does 10 minutes of medium work. What horse can actually work, or, really, should be worked, hard, in 10 minutes?! Where is the respect for the horse?! It takes that long just to get warmed up! Of course, she (inadvertedly) showed me what those ten minutes look like (albeit a bit longer because she was trying out Missy): forcefully push horse into frame using spurs and hard hands? Check. I have to add that the frame she pushed Missy into was very artificial - Missy was behind the vertical much of the time, strung out behind for the most part, and working with her nose to her chest - hyperflexed - during some of the time. Push horse through every maneuver possible? Check. Kick horse with spurs when she doesn't understand/respond? Check. Pull back on reins at the canter in an effort to push horse into frame, thereby causing horse to think she should slow, which she does, then get kicked with spurs for? Check check. Pop mare in the head when she turns to have her face rubbed? Check. As terrible as I make it sound, it wasn't quite so bad. It was really just the normal horse world, from my experience in it. I felt bad for Missy, but I didn't want to say anything (and I was a little taken aback, I mean, the woman was checking her out as a Pony Club prospect!!). I would never let Missy go to a home like this, however she wasn't going home with this lady anyway. It wasn't abuse either, just not how I handle or work my horses - I did not feel it was fair or "nice" to Missy, but she wasn't really being "hurt" and our training was not going to digress with only one poor session. Missy bared with everything so well and tried so hard. On the other hand, I hope I made the right decision tonight in allowing this particular woman to continue riding Missy for as long as she did. I did feel pretty upset and pretty bad for Missy - that mare did so well today and didn't show any attitude whatsoever, despite being forced into a lot. I almost would have expected her to act out a little - and I would not have blamed her had she done so. Anyway. I think tomorrow will be a light day for her, just some moseying around and being spoiled. She deserves it after the last two days!!!!

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