Although we made progress, it wasn’t like Gracie was 100% better. I knew a lot of it had to deal with horsemanship, and her resistance to going forward wasn’t really an under saddle question. I focused a lot on horsemanship and then with the onset of winter gave her time off. I realized when spring came around that I was procrastinating our work. I was apprehensive about starting the process again and suiting up with the mental armor to deal with her bucking. I was ready for the worst and preparing myself to start from scratch again.
But two things happened instead. First, I spent the winter doing horsemanship, which had a profound effect. Second, I learned how to find my frog legs and was no longer blocking her with my thigh and knee. The result: a horse that willingly and comfortably moved freely forward in all three gaits. It was like turning a key and unlocking a door that you’ve been knocking on with no answer for a year. I didn’t realize that those little details could make such a huge difference in the way my horse behaved.
More recently I’ve tried to keep Gracie focused doing other activities. I try to keep her jumping at least one to two days per week. I put out cones and barrels to ride her around, and then slip in the dressage between those activities. I also try to ride her in the outdoor arena as much as possible. She likes to “people watch” and observes all the people and traffic from the road nearby and the local businesses across the street. Mentally, I was also able to let go of any ideas or plans for dressage. Kind of like loading a difficult horse in the trailer – you’re always more successful if don’t have plans and the intention of taking all day if it’s necessary.