Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Closer, but no cigar

We didn't get out onto the trail today, either, though we did get a little closer to it.

Part of the issue today was, I think, the weather.  After a lot of nice, sunny days, today was overcast, chilly, and a bit damp — we were supposed to have some rain, but I think we just got mist instead.  I met Zans's owner out at the barn, intending for just the two of us to hit the trail, but it didn't work out that way.

Both Panama and Zans (unusual for Zans) were fired up.  Panama wasn't as bad as Monday, perhaps because it was only him and Zans, but I could still tell he was "up."  He was doing a better job of listening to me in the arena than yesterday, and I figured I couldn't begrudge him being excited as long as he listened, so we headed out of the arena into the field...

...And he immediately lost all semblance of control.

He was excited to get out there, of course, and tried to take off at a run as soon as we left the arena gates.  That earned him a one-rein stop and an itty-bitty circle until he settled a bit.  We rode the horses through the obstacles behind the arena, and I could tell things weren't looking good when Panama decided to act like a nutjob rather than walking through the practice puddle.  I worked with him for several minutes on that, until I finally got him to put a couple of feet on the edge of the concrete, and called it good.

There was a horse in the round pen in front of the house that sits back behind and to the side of our barn, apparently in quarantine, and Panama chose this moment to start getting excited about a potential new friend.  Plus the draft horses were out in the pasture behind the field, and they were pretty interested in what we were doing, so they were lining the fence.  Zans's owner and I decided to take a few laps around the field to decide whether or not they were settled enough to hit the trail.

It took half a lap to determine that they were too fired up for the trail, so we just rode in the field for a bit and worked on the basics: responding to whoa, waiting for us to give permission to get a bite to eat, etc.  I worked a lot on Panama paying attention to me.  If I could tell his attention was getting fixated on something, I twitched the rein on the opposite side from where he was looking; if a twitch or two didn't work, I pulled his head around and turned him in a tight circle before continuing on our way.

By the last lap, he was responding to the twitch (no one-rein stop needed) and halting when I asked.  But by this time we'd been riding for 45 minutes or so, counting our time in the arena, so we called it quits.  It was a somewhat disappointing ride, and I couldn't shake the feeling that I should have ridden him alone for a while in the arena, until he settled down a bit better.  However, my legs were tired and I was, quite frankly, mentally exhausted from our power struggles.  So instead of looking for perfection, I decided to accept the minor improvements I'd gotten from him, and called it a day.

It's always so disappointing to fall short of what I wanted out of a ride.  Do you ever have times like this, where you just have to take the best you can get and call it good?  How do you handle it when things like this happen?

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