So the problem with moving barns in the middle of winter is that it's freezing and your already somewhat fresh horse becomes an overstimulated wild beast who has lost his grip on reality.
I can tell you about this, because I'm now through the worst of it, and have had some better rides (that start out with lunging, obviously).
The first couple of days Tucker was at his new farm I free lunged him, since we're allowed to do that in this indoor. Since the last few barns where we've boarded don't allow free lunging, Tucker forgot how to do it. So basically, picture a wild animal that was shot with a blow dart full of amphetamines trapped in a maze with a herd of lions, and that's how Tucker free lunged the first two times. There was a lot of running full speed, getting stuck facing the corner, then frantically trying to decide whether to go left or right and getting lost (???) in the process. At one point he ran behind a mound of extra footing, then couldn't figure out how to retrace his steps so just took a flying leap from a standstill over top of it. These were special moments. I'll cherish them always.
By Day 3, a giant lightbulb flashed above his head and he remembered to go in a circle, which worked out way better for both of us. Glad it wasn't a real lightbulb though because he was spooking at EVERYTHING. Picture trying to do flatwork on the giraffe from Madagascar:
Every noise, every lack of noise, every tangible object that move or doesn't move was highly suspicious. And then sometimes there'd be nothing to spook at but the Tucker brain would do something like this:
trotting... trotting... trotting... I think she's saying something with her left leg but I'm not listening... trotting...
GGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH I'M A DRAGON OMG
woah... that was crazy... trotting.... trotting... trotting... what is she saying I can't possibly listen with everything else I have to keep an eye on right now...
I've described since way back on this blog that Tucker has a very unique way of demonstrating his freshness. He does this sort of insane head tossing thing where I see his left profile followed by his right and then flings his feet around in stabby motions. If you've ever seen someone try to catch a marlin, it's exactly like that.
|There is a reason those people are strapped to their chairs.|
|I freaking love the internet.|
On Day 4, I was feeling brave (or possibly I was drunk, I'm not sure), and tried to climb on without lunging first. That was a mistake. After he walked around snorting for a bit I thought maybe he'd settle if I let him trot forward. I don't know if I can adequately describe what he did but I'll do my best. Picture the most uncoordinated person you know. Picture that person really drunk, and trying to kick-box. Now picture that person attempting a roundhouse kick while someone jumped out and yelled BOO! Whatever you're picturing is what my horse did.
Then he rolled one crazy eyeball back at me and said "You should probably not be up there right now. Definitely not safe. Probably gonna get worse." And I said "Forget all this anthropomorphizing, listen to the talking horse," and swung my leg over and down. Based on the twitchy lips and saucer eyes he gave me while I ran up the stirrups, and the insta-bolt once I stepped back from him, I'd say he was right, things were gonna get worse. I climbed back on, and after another hour of trotting he was somewhat rideable. Somewhat.
Days 5 and 6 we turned a corner. We lunged in side reins, because it was now safe to tie the beast to itself, and under saddle we focused solely on relaxation (HA! Look at me using that dressage training scale like I know things!) and thankfully, reasonably achieved that goal.
This week's goal has been relaxation and forward. (HA! I did it again!) He's pretty sure a four-beat canter is appropriate (we don't go forward when we're fresh. We get stiff and slow and hold our breath), but he's at least coming to the table for negotiations. And for the most part, he's stopped pretending he's a dragon. So we'll call that progress.