I was slightly apprehensive about having my lesson today as Pea's had the past two days off due to me working 14 hour days and he was a bit manic Tuesday when I schooled him! However, I'm really glad I did have my lesson as I learnt a lot about why we're having a few issues and I have lots of new exercises to work on!
As I haven't had a lesson for a couple of months, I explained what had happened since - so about falling off out at dressage, having the physio and the saddler, etc. She straight away suggested that we did some different pole work exercises to loosen him up but also give us some variety in our work.
Whilst Cathy set about putting some poles out, I started to warm up Pea. We had a walk, trot and canter round and Cathy noticed how reluctant he is to move forward when warming up, especially in canter. This then leads to him getting slightly argumentative if I ask for a bit more. She's suggested that I look into getting him either a hand held massager or a magnetic rug so if anyone has any recommendations then that would be great :) I'm also going to have a chat to a woman at my yard who is an equine masseur and see if she can give him a session.
We started by working over some long poles (about four human walk strides apart) in walk, just to see how he was picking his feet up and help to loosen him up slightly. We then did the same in trot and there was a slight bit of difference in him moving forward but still lots more to do!
Cathy then moved the poles to be closer together so that they were more like the standard trotting poles. For Pea they were about 4 and a bit feet heel to heel. We repeated the exercise the same as above - so walking over the poles a few times before trotting them. Once he got the hang of it and started to loosen up more, we moved to raised poles. Using two poles at the side to raise the poles onto and then raised alternate poles. She also moved them slightly closer together as he would be going higher and so not quite as far. We started in walk and the first time we did it, he half fell on his knees over one of the poles. We walked them again and this time he picked his feet up and learnt from his mistake so we progressed into trot where he was foot perfect. We only did the raised poles two or three times as Cathy explained that it's a lot of work for him as he has to really pick his feet up - a bit like running up the stairs a few times!
The fourth exercise was one completely new to me and consisted of the poles being set up in a square, about 14 human strides apart, with one side being three trotting poles. For this exercise, Cathy explained that it was to get him to loosen up laterally as the straight poles had loosened him up longitudinally. She explained that you can trot round the outside of the box, ride inside of one of the poles and then outside the next, inside all of them in a circle, etc etc. It was actually a really good exercise but she did tell me that I have to let him make mistakes. Everytime he got a bit close to the pole due to not listening to me asking him to bend round my leg, I corrected him. Instead, she told me to leave him and let him knock the pole as it would teach him to listen more and therefore work properly. Similarly to when he fell over the raised pole, he learnt from it and picked his feet up the next time. This is definitely something to work on as I do tend to over-correct him and so he carries on doing it, rather than learning from his mistake!
This has given me lots of new exercises to try out and she suggests that I do pole work at least once or twice a week. She's also suggested that I don't have to do them ridden and instead do some in-hand work over the poles or lunging over the poles. I'm also going to long-rein him with a bungee on and then progress to lunging with two lunge lines as she thinks using a pessoa might be a bit too strong for him at this stage. She's also suggested jumping him on the lunge as he needs to work on picking his feet up a bit more and not necessarily with me on board.
It was also good to have a chat with her as I've questioned things lately about how I've had him seven years but felt like I've not achieved a great deal. Cathy was really good and reminded me that Pea is a really quirky, opinionated horse and that things aren't ever going to be easy but that we do need to work on getting him more confident about opening up and working more forward which will hopefully also help me get more confident that he's not going to keep attempting to chuck me off.
We're out for another lesson tomorrow at a yard nearby with Leanne Jackson. It will be our first lesson away from home but it will be nice to get him out and also get a second opinion. Fingers crossed he behaves!
Thanks for reading,