Straight up terrible dressage

This is how we both felt after our ride.

Ever have one of those rides where you feel like all you did was argue with your horse over something really, really stupid for the better part of an hour? Yeah, I had that ride today.

A couple of weeks ago, Gina’s usual lesson kid couldn’t get her to canter in the outdoor arena without swapping her back lead. Gina does this when she’s tired or tense; I get it most often when she’s approaching a fence or near the end of a dressage ride when we’re working on small canter circles. I’ve always chalked it up to age and fitness level- she’s old, and when she’s very fit, she doesn’t do it as often. Maybe chiropractic work would benefit her, but I don’t have an endless supply of money to drop on an old, cranky mare who occasionally does a weird thing.

This morning, I planned to take Gina in the outdoor and work on a couple of things: geometry and cantering. I felt like my position was on point today, which was nice. I really sat up, squared my shoulders, and didn’t lean to the inside. Gina warmed up okay, but wouldn’t relax. She couldn’t stop eyeballing a jump about 20′ away, spooked at some funny lines in the dirt, and stayed super tense.

Geometry was marginally successful when Gina wasn’t lurching sideways to avoid scary scary footing or scary scary crossrails. Cantering was an ordeal; Gina was having A Time cantering past (by which I mean 20′ away from) the jump to the left. She kept scooting sideways while counter bending to give it a hard look and eventually began trying to stop dead midway down the side of our imaginary dressage arena. The right lead was even worse: there was dolphin leaping, followed by crow-hopping, and honest-to-god bucking.

A lot of “GO FORWARD GO GO GO” shouts coupled with Thelwell-style kicking eventually resulted in a somewhat held-together circuit of the arena, at which point I decided we’d just cool out and call it a day. Gina wasn’t quite done yet- she spooked hard at the jump she’d been cantering past when we walked near it. So I asked her to walk over it until she could step over a 12″ crossrail without rearing and zooming backwards at a speed I did not know she possessed.

I texted Johnny to let him know I’d decided to just go ahead and put her down, and he reminded that she’ll probably die soon anyway and I should just save my money. So for now, Gina lives, I roll my eyes, and we start over again tomorrow.

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

24 thoughts on “Straight up terrible dressage”

  1. I think there is a note somewhere on their body that says that mares are permitted to spook at every day things when they feel like it. Like a warning label. Robin full out did the snort and jump sideways move when she saw some round bales that had been in the barn for a few days. Wth.

  2. ugh…… it drives me absolutely batty when my mare is that determined to be spooky (and it only ever happens in our home arena too, wtf mare!). frustrating ride but hopefully tomorrow is better!

  3. Ugh. She and my former stallion must be related. Who’s her sire? Maybe it’s my horse…
    He’s literally afraid of shadows. I ride in the evening after work, so you can imagine what that’s like. He four beats around the ring at the canter because he’s so lazy, and then runs away from all the shadows. The scariest one is his own. Which is pretty frustrating since it follows us everywhere. I don’t have much useful advice except maybe that I do find Depo helps a little. It doesn’t make the voices in his head go away, but it dulls them to a whisper I think.

    1. Her sire is Look See, who was apparently died in 1999 when a tree branch fell on him in the pasture. Maybe Gina’s just looking for suspicious tree branches.

  4. Murray recently unlocked a new spooking skill (sit and spin) and I was like WOAH where did that come from. Some days just nothing I do to get him through it works and it makes me insane! I feel ya.

  5. There are sometimes no words for the dumb that they throw at us. I hate when they are so busy worrying about everything else they forget to pay attention/trust you.


      Gina’s grasp of English is not what it could be.

  6. My crazy well-bred, stunning to look at, spooks at nothing, cut too late gelding decided last night that popping up and striking at horses that get too close is acceptable behavior. Which has nothing to do with your story, but you’re not the only one who is questioning their life choices.

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