Sigh. For two seconds, I thought I might have been making some real headway with O in her dressage work. But.... I suppose I was wrong.
I go through this about once a month, or once every other month.... I get super excited about dressage work/eventing work, buckle down to polishing out dressage work, completely fail, decide she has no real future in dressage, get to doing other things with her, marvel at how well she does other things, get bored, try to do more dressage, completely fail again. I'm a halfway decent jock and have a lot of tools in my toolkit for dealing with evasions and problem horses of all shapes and sizes. But O... O is easily the most difficult critter I've ever sat on.
Some days, her dressage-esque work is en pointe. She relaxes over her back, stretches out, and takes a nice contact. Sometimes, we literally can only trot for about 5-10 strides before she careens out of control again, and we can only go in straight lines along the fenceline, but it feels like something of a victory. Sometimes we can put together a whole walk-trot test. Sometimes. Maybe like, once every few months or so, we can do it. Sometimes we can canter, and the canter is good! But, once we canter, the trotwork totally falls apart, and I have nothing again. The more we canter, the worse everything else gets.
For every good dressage ride, we have several terrible ones. She came to me a year ago with every evasive trick in the book - that's why I got her for so cheap, after all - and she uses them all at the same time without any particular warning. Ignore your half-halt, curl behind the bit, and take off? Her specialty. If you put your leg on to push her out to the bridle, she takes off. If you release her in front so that she can stretch out to the bridle, she takes off. If you half-halt her to stop her from taking off, she curls behind the bridle and takes off anyway. The more she zooms, the more she wants to continue to zoom. And you just can't wear her out... you just can't. An hour into our ride today, I was so fed up with her zoominess that I just let her gallop on to get it out of her system.... she galloped for at least 15 minutes full out, after a full hour of a completely horrible ride already. I was jelly in the saddle at that point, and she was still galloping as fast she could round and round. She was churning along so fast that I had no brakes anymore, and had to engage my e-brake and pull her around into the fence to stop her before I completely melted into a puddle and fell off. Did she quiet down after that? Of course not. I think this horse would rather gallop until she collapsed rather than put in quiet work. She was lathered in sweat and all she wanted to do was keep running. I managed to get her walking quietly for about 10 minutes, with my usual 5-10 trot steps along the fenceline, before finally just calling it a day. What the hell was the point of all of that?
And yet, I NEVER have problems riding her out along the trail, on a loose rein, at whatever speed I choose. She is ALWAYS perfect. If I choose to take a contact out there, and put her to work while moving along the trail? Always, always perfect. Always. Dressage on the trail? It's always good.
But put her in an arena, or confined area, and go round and round in the same setting? She is an absolute hellish nightmare. This is the only time we fight with each other. This is the only time that she reverts back to all of the horrible evasions that she came with.
If there was such a thing as trail-ssage, we'd be all over that. We'd win everything. But, there is not. And so, like we do every month, I throw my hands up, again. And as I do every month, I beat myself up about it, because I feel like I am giving up. I feel like any horse can do dressage, dressage is good for every horse, dressage is the foundation for all of everything everywhere. I feel like if I only tried harder, if I only figured out some other way of better explaining things to her, if I only keep at it, somehow I surely will get it with her, someday. But I also feel like every horse has their strengths and weaknesses as well as things they enjoy doing versus things they don't enjoy at all. I know a lot of horses who are arena only horses, and absolutely lose their every-loving minds when you take them out of the arena. I know horses who you couldn't get to gallop if you tried, ones that are super happy to just plod around forever. I know horses who can't stand jumping. I know horses who you can't get down the alleyway for rodeo events. And, I know horses who think arena flatwork is the most boring, miserable thing you could ever do with your life... and O is one of those horses.
Is it training? Is is personality? Past issues? Current issues? Some of the above? All of the above? Yes, to all of it, to some extent.
Could we go event and do ok? Yes, I'm sure we could. Well, I *know* we could. But after doing eventing for so long with such a winning horse, just going in and doing "ok" is not what I want to do. I don't want to waste the money just to do "ok." I was horribly spoiled with having an awesome winning event horse in Gogo. Now, I want to go event and win, if I am eventing. I want to do recognized shows, big shows, if I am eventing. Otherwise, I don't want to waste my money. I've already been there and done that. And everything is different now to me, since I lost Gogo. Some days, I miss eventing something fierce. Some days, I don't think I'll ever want to do it again. On those days when I miss it, I get excited about working on flatwork again. On those days when I don't miss it, I am more than happy to throw up my hands and say *&@! it, I don't want to do this anymore.
Do I want O to event? Of course I do. Am I going to be disappointed if she doesn't event? A little, yes. Maybe not at all. I'm not sure. Am I willing to dump her and go find a different horse that is more suited mentally to eventing? Of course not. I'd rather make some other goal for the both of us to achieve instead, something we both love and want to do.
I've been going through this sort of identity crisis ever since Gogo died. Am I going to keep eventing or not? I thought I was going to. Now I'm not sure. But who am I, if I am not an eventer? Am I still an eventer if I haven't evented in 5 years? Am I going to event with this horse? Am I going to event with a different horse somewhere along the line? What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Where do I go from here? Am I a complete failure, or am I just going in a different direction?
I don't know.
One thing that I do know.... it's deathstorm season here in Texas. This one passed us by, thankfully, but I think Pmare was not impressed...