Reset Button

It is normal that, as with everything in life, sometimes you need to push the reset button. If I have learned anything with the horses that I have had in my life it is that none of them are the same. Sure there are types and similarities but each of them is an individual. The trials and tribulations that I experienced with Houston as a young horse could not be more different than what Annie throws at me.

I am going to level with you. Coming off our last event I was defeated. I know without a doubt that Annie could be a successful event horse. She has actual springs for feet and when there’s jumping involved I’m not sure I have ever ridden a horse with more heart. She might be green but she doesn’t hesitate. When I say jump she says “how high”. Unless of course I am riding like a drunk monkey – then her self preservation comes into play. Fair enough little mare. 

It wasn’t the over fences phases that had me down (though there is a lot of room for improvement there too). It was the dressage. I have never been more mentally and physically defeated by a horse on the flat than I am by Annie. I actually used to love dressage… Some days Annie is actually pretty pleasant. We will have a bobble here or there but we recover and continue about our business. Lately though we have been going 0 to 100 real quick with no reset button. At Spring Bay literally the only thing that went right was that she managed to pick up the correct gaits in generally the right place and we managed to halt and not plow down the judges booth.

*not my image

I wish that I was being more dramatic but it truly was that awful. It is infuriating to feel like this horse could be winning but unless I can tame her inner giragon (giraffe x dragon) it will never happen. So with my trainer out of town… what did I do… I pouted. I did a lot of reflection about why I even bother. Dramatically I even contemplated not eventing anymore. Not wanting that to fuel Annie’s fire with my own frustrations I didn’t ride. I called the vet. Then it rained for a week.

The vet has seen Annie numerous times and before spending even more money than I already have on diagnostics for what I am pretty sure is just a bad attitude for hard work we opted to try some hormones. We’ll see where we get with that and then reevaluate. I want to do 2 doses before I make any judgments. Luckily avoiding the saddle was supported by the cruddy weather.

Yesterday I finally hopped back on and in an effort to both have fun and focus all of the energy we set up one of the exercises I learned from the Lainey Ashker clinic. We only went through maybe 3 times but it was just what we needed! It likely won’t mean anything new for our dressage work but at least we had some fun. What do you all do to reset? Anything that helps you get out of a funk (aside from gorging yourself on food and wine…)?

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  1. Annie sounds VERY simiar to Macy. I’m hoping the hormones work! Sometimes my reset button is just to step back and slow down. Start from the beginning again. Make it fun and not challenging for a bit.

  2. Sometimes Mares can be so frustrating! My mare is so horrible to flat. I think I have a solution for you. Just send Annie to me and she can be my jumper. Ha ha ha just kidding, not really 😉 I have a five-year-old gelding right now that most of the time is pretty great, but some days can be a real brat about going forward into the contact. I found that one of the best things to do with him is to take him out in a big field and really push him forward, like galloping. For me, this resets his mind and gets him moving forward and then I can pick up the contact again. I have had some horses that like to be giraffe in the past and are quite belligerent about it. I know this isn’t the most popular opinion, but on those horses I have pulled out a pair of draw reins every once in a while. As a rule, I don’t love using draw reins, but they can be effective on getting the message across to some horse. I keep them really loose. Basically, they only come into play when the horse puts their head up really high. Almost like a running martingale, except you have more control about when they come into play.

  3. I think we all go through phases where we hit a problem or plateau and need to take a step back and re-evaluate. Like you said, that’s just part of life!

  4. This might not be related to your experience but the ground work horsemanship pro I have worked with always tells me that horses learn in peaks and valleys, but that the general trend is usually upward. It can just be hard to see that from the bottom of a valley. He told me to get excited about those valleys tho bc they can often mean that a break through is on the way. My fingers are crossed that the hormones prove to be just the thing to help push you and Annie over that hump!!

  5. darn i left a comment and it looks like it got eaten… so… apologies if this is a duplicate!

    anyway i don’t know if this is related to your experience or not, but the horsemanship pro i worked with always told me that horses learn in peaks and valleys, but that the general trend is usually upward. it’s just hard to see that from the bottom of a valley. he encouraged me to get excited about valleys tho bc they usually mean a breakthrough is on the horizon.

    in any case, i hope the hormones prove to be just the thing to push you and Annie over the hump!

  6. Wish I could be more helpful, but I know all too well the struggle is real. Fingers crossed that the hormones will make a difference. She’s 5, right? My dressage trainer always said to me that if you could make it through the 5 year old year, you could do anything. 5 year olds are pretty much teenagers, and teenagers generally suck.

  7. I think what I am learning about young horses from my own 6 year old that is mentally a 3 yr old, is that they require everything. All of your patience, all of your mental capacity, all of your emotional stability. Just hand it over. That might be slightly dramatic depending on the day too.

    So- to answer your question- I reset with whatever sounds good at the time. It’s usually wine, rides on a well schooled horse or spending money on tack. Fingers crossed the hormones hit somewhat of a reset for Annie and you guys get to trot off refreshed and focused.

  8. Ugh. That’s tough. My guy has gone through phases like this. Honestly I tend to do a literal reset and just take a huuuuge step back to things I know we can do well. If that means all we do is practice walking and trotting on a loose rein in the field for a week, then that’s what we do. It’s frustrating in the moment, but it always gets us out of our funk. I try to take the opportunity to reset myself too, and think really hard about how I ask for things and use my body. I’ve often found that part of the problem was me screaming with my body cues when I could have just been asking politely.

    I’ve also had really good luck with the hormones in other mares though and even a few similarly temperamental geldings, so I hope that works well for you guys as well!

    1. All of this being said, even with years of flatwork, I know for a fact that Val just doesn’t have the brain or patience to get through a whole dressage test, no matter how chill he is. He’s just plain too reactive, and it is a whole lot of work to keep him quiet and relaxed through all of the test movements.

  9. I have no words of wisdom that others haven’t already shared (or that you haven’t shared with me already!), but you got this! And really, maybe age will help? People are always telling me that the magic year is 8 (and it kinda has been so far for me?)

  10. I frequently reach a point where I need a reset with Nilla. She’s the most difficult equine I’ve ever had to ride. However, we do a mix of eventing and endurance, so when I get frustrated with dressage, we just go and do some trail riding for a while to reset.

  11. My most recent reset method is to go ride something else. I go take a lesson somewhere on a lovely school horse. It helps me refocus on the correct ways to do or ask for things without any of the preconceived ideas of “oh, he doesn’t like when I do this, or he’s not responsive to that.” For me, most of the conflict comes from asking or doing things the way my horse and I do them rather than the correct way.