This past Sunday, after persevering for roughly 7 months, Jade won 2 red ribbons for S, and yellow one for me ... out of 10 ish horses. Proud would be an understatement!
Jade has gone from tense, generally pissy and unhappy, and pretty dang spooky to relaxed and ear-floppy with barely a spook there. In fact, it's become a RARE thing for me to have to spin her during a ride.
Our rides used to feel somewhat frustrating and literally painful for my back sometimes because she would get so hollow and quick. Looking back, I think a turning point for us was when I finally slapped the draw reins on her. Ever since then, she's been quick to come onto the contact, she's happy to trot quietly with me doing virtually nothing, and the jump work has been pretty darn relaxed and slow.
I took a lesson from the barn owner last week, and it was interesting. She came right out and said I was not going to learn anything NEW or earth shattering; I already have a strong depth of knowledge and understanding, and what we were able to do was have a philosophical discussion about Jade's brain and her idiosyncrasies (sp?). The lesson went GREAT. I jumped her around a full course, and had to circle ONE time; in retrospect, she was tired, her attention span was probably shot, and her tolerance level for being perfect had reached the boiling point. I pushed the envelope, and ended up extending the lesson by about 10 minutes while I circled and arm wrestled her, but finally got what I wanted in the end, but I SHOULD have left well enough alone and ended on a note that was pretty close to perfect ... for HER.
Sunday morning, Jade was pretty upset about the hubbub atmosphere, and was nervous pooping and barrelling around at the end of the reins. My ONLY plans were to school her for S, b/c S's trainer KNEW Jade would be upset and that synapse would mis-fire, and she would lose her brain for a little bit. After being in the thick of the atmosphere, I took her off by herself to the roundpen to mount, and it's like she looked around, took a deep breath, and told herself she could DO it :) We walked into the ring calm and happy, and she was PERFECT tracking left, her hard way. Barely batted an eye. I saw no point in cantering, b/c S entered w/t classes, so I reversed to track right. Ruh Roh! She lost her sh!+. She spun away, gave a little half rear, a little kick out, and tried REALLY hard to bolt away from ... who knows what she was spooking at. I didn't have her in any type of martingale due to the fact that it was a hunter show and she was showing in flat classes, and boy, in that moment I sure wish I'd had SOMETHING on her. I circled around, approached the long side again, and a AGAIN. She flung her head up and got so hollow that she unseated me, and for an instant, I was SURE I was going to hit the ground. Somehow, though, I recovered, circled the heck out of her, and continued tracking right, but this time, as a circle. Gradually, I worked her closer and closer to the long side so that I made a somewhat straight track up the quarter line, and left it at that.
S got on, went to the lower ring to get her bearings for a few minutes, and I talked her through it, then into the show ring they went! Perfection, that's all I have to say. S didn't get tense, Jade went around like she was the happiest thing in the world, and they left with a red ribbon :)
I encouraged her to go back in there and do one more, and the 2nd was an even bigger class than the first, and another red! Amazing, awesome day :) She encouraged ME to do a class, and I agreed to enter the "novice crossrails". In the warm up ring, I did nothing but w/t, then just relaxed under a tree for awhile.
I walked into that ring, picked up the world's slowest trot, and approached the first jump. She was so asleep, I think it took her by surprise! She jumped around slow and relaxed until the line we'd had issues at in my lesson. She did a little "run and scoot" over the 'out' of a line going towards her pasture in the last 2 strides, but I quickly reorganized and pointed her to the final line where she basically trotted over the 'in', landed trotting (which I was FINE with), and jumped the final perfectly. She ended up 3rd with again about 10 in the class, so I was very proud and happy! She has come a LONG way, and she's now really fun and not stressful to ride at ALL. It's like when Tiki finally became a "real" horse, and I knew I could just hop on and have a fun, productive ride ... not a fight. That's where Jade is now; I know the "fights" will still come every now and then when I push the envelope, but she's RIGHT were S needs her to be, so for now we'll just be content to poke along and enjoy the ride :)