Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Riding with Carrot Sticks

That's my goal.  Every ride until I can execute my simple lead changes on the Question Box with just two sticks.

My biggest hang-up to passing L3 is cantering with carrot sticks.  The only way to get through that is to actually start riding with sticks.  Duh!

I don't often ride with a stick.  I have a couple of reasons:
  1. Cricket bites at the sticks.
  2. I have a difficult time maneuvering the stick with my left hand due to an old injury.
  3. Using the sticks brings up fear and control issues.
That said, it's time to address said issues:

Cricket bites the sticks.  I think this is a mixture of dominance and OR.  I probably released her at the wrong time and may have taught her that biting makes the sticks go away.  The few times I've ridden with sticks recently, I've played friendly game at a halt and in motion.  When she bites, I get more energetic and when she relaxes, so do I.

Maneuverability.  Almost six years ago I broke my left arm and I have some limitations in the mobility in my wrist.  It can be a little awkward and a little painful to hold and use two sticks for an extended period of time.  I do, however, have two "little sticks."  They may be similar to the "kid's stick" Parelli is now selling and they are lighter weight, a little shorter and easier to manage.  This may be an option - at least in the beginning.

Fear and control.  I have a hard time letting go.  I'm sure you've noticed this theme if you've been reading my posts for any length of time.  I'm sure this ties back to why Cricket bites the sticks.  I get nervous, she feels the void and takes over, she pushes back on the stick and I get afraid and too quick with the sticks.  Cricket biting at the sticks just reinforces my fear.

What I've discovered in my last few CS rides is that if I direct more energy to her shoulder, rather than her head, she responds with a yield rather than turning to bite.  She is less reactive even if I have to touch her.  I'm sure this is tied to the LBI "don't touch my face" thing.  Something to keep in mind.

So that's the plan.  Stick in hand EVERY ride - no excuses!

Oh, and isn't it funny that I have no issues riding Bleu with a carrot stick.  None.  Hmm, how interesting.


Tina said...

I like this plan! Don't rush yourself, though...respect your thresholds. I've seen Nita Jo give people two dressage whips to use instead of sticks when mobility/pain is an issue. Seems to work fine as long as you remember that they're whips and not sticks. Might be worth a try!

I have a lot of issues with Dixie and sticks as well, I tend to use them in a way that she perceives as unfair. Then we get into this big go-around and no one wins, so I just haven't been riding with them lately. Big surprise, things have been going much better! I'll have to pick them up again eventually, but am hoping to get better control of my emotions and physical fitness (independent seat) first.

Keep us posted and good luck!

Lisa said...

I'm pretty good at respecting my thresholds but not too good at working through them. Thus the goal of stick in hand, every ride. It will never feel more natural if I don't get it inside my comfort zone.

I'll probably start with just one stick and then move to two for at least walk and trot. If I can get a plan and some motivation, I don't think this will take as long as I think it will take.

Of course the first step to riding with sticks is to actually ride . . .

steveandtania said...

HI Lisa, I too have a stick issue. It's totally different to yours but I do see the similarities between us when it comes to nerves.

When I was 11 yo my first horse was a rescue and it appears that she had been abused with sticks, crops, whips whatever. The first time someone handed me one I was on her bareback and before it hit my hand she took off through a paddock, on to a main road, through the traffic, past a group of shops, down three suburban streets until she reached my home, at which time she screeched to a halt and I fell off hard! I couldn't stop her and couldn't ride very well but managed to stay on until the end.

My poor horse was clearly in fear and I never allowed a whip near her again (probably a bad move but what did I know at 11).

Present day, last Wednesday, my dressage instructor handed me a whip and as she walked towards me with it I felt like I was 11 yo and terrified. I'm 39 yo now and didn't want to show my nerves. It took a lot of self talk in a short period of time for me to suck it up and take the whip from the instructor. Nothing happened but I was genuinely scared it would for a moment.

In retrospect I understand my horse saw my home as her safe place and that not all horses will react the way she did. But as with you the fear was and still is there and I need to learn to control it.

I think it would have to be small steps for us both. Good luck with it and keep writing, I love your blog.

Lisa said...

Tania - fortunately I've never had a bad experience with sticks or whips. My issues stems from the fact that early on, when I was less aware of what I was doing, I gave Cricket a lot of conflicting signals when riding with a CS. Most of our CS rides were bad and I have that history that I need to release.

I can totally understand your gut reaction. My best advice - honor it. Figure out ways to move "sticks" more into your comfort zone. And even if you are okay in your lessons, you might be more worried around Teddy. Take it as slow as you need to so it turns out good for everyone involved.

My issue is simple - clarity and leadership. If fear were mixed in, this would be a much bigger deal.