PLP, kudos on your excellent report! I have no doubt that you have the courage and persistence you need, but don’t be hard on yourself for the natural reactions you’ve had over being hurt. We’ve all had the same struggle at one time or another, those feelings are not a mark against your equestrian skills! You sound like an excellent horsewoman to me handling that mare! She, being a mare, must have her ‘say’ in things. Obviously that sensitivity comes from being smart (the arabs are notoriously intelligent), and if you are determined to make it work, she will figure it out. You have a winning combination.
Joe-Joe gives great advice, I’m not a dressage rider, so I can’t give you that kind of advice, but I caution you on throwing too much at your horse at once. I use sidepassing as a regular correction/attention grabber. When your mare is upset stick to basics she knows, a routine of flexing or sidepassing or practiced movements so that she is comfortable in the drill. Sometimes their confusion leads to upset and frustration, so on that always have your step 1 to go back to. Confidence is built with success, and always giving her successes will build on your relationship and break up the negative energy. (And here’s where the balance comes in, avoid boredom caused by asking for the same things too often, and that’s where Joe-Joe’s advice comes in). There is a fine balance between routine and boredom, horses love routine but hate boredom. That is where your knowledge of her will pay off. Clinton Anderson’s methods worked to a degree for me, but he works with QHs and at some point we get off that with arabs or pasos, because flexing 457 times is not fun for anybody. But he has a great method for corrections that applies across the board, and that’s the phase where you are. Reward the smallest thing – even if you can see she is just ‘thinking’ about it right – reward it.
My mare is a saint for me but has given some hairy rides to others (I’ve seen it). When I bought her she had had several owners, passed around almost yearly until she was 7. For whatever reason, we clicked, and she makes up her mind to be my pal every time I get in the saddle. It is a decision – a choice she makes. I think your devotion to your mare will get you there. Thanks for keeping us posted – keep up the good work and the faith.
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...