Let me start with saying that Loki's answer to being confused or afraid has always been to runaway. This is not a new thing for him. What is new is my sudden inability to deal with it. I guess I should also start out by saying the only thing hurt was my pride!
My trainer asked me if I wanted to come along XC schooling on Monday. I said sure without much thought but as we were driving to the course I had this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that maybe this wasn't the best idea ever. I have, after all, only been back to riding (for real) for about five days. As I was getting ready to mount up I found myself hit with some of the worst case of nerves I've had in a really long time. I really can't explain it but that's how it was.
We started off with an easy warm-up in the dressage arena just walk and trot. He got a little quick in the trot but nothing serious. After that we each took turns galloping in a large circle. And this is where we lost our minds, temporarily. It wasn't a bolting thing as in he didn't just suddenly take off on me it was just a gradual quickening until all the sudden I realized we are slightly out of control and that is when I did something I haven't done in a long time with horses, I panicked. It probably only lasted a couple of minutes but I was shaken. Lori talked to me about it afterwards, pointed out some of the things I did wrong and let us catch our breaths as she galloped another time and then had us try again. And the same thing happened. Two more times of it actually before I finally hopped down, after getting him stopped finally the last time, and said enough is enough!
Lori got on him after that and while he did want to get quick with her she was able to slow him down and stop him without too much trouble. And that is where the wounded pride comes in for me b/c obviously it is a ME problem.
After Lori rode him for a while I was able to get back on and we did school some very easy jumps and a couple of ditches without any issues and I was even able to ride him on the buckle afterwards. In the end I was very glad Lori made me get back on because we were able to end on a really good note. And on the positive side of things the jumps are absolutely NOT an issue at all anymore. This is a big change from last year.
So here are my thoughts as to what went wrong:
#1 I think I expected way too much of myself after having the 9 months away. This tendency to get quick is not a new thing for Loki. Last year I was handling it alright, not perfect perhaps but it wasn't really an issue 99% of the time. I know I am capable of getting past this but I just need to give myself time and set both of us up for success with better planning the next time out.
#2 My saddle is causing some issues. Basically it is putting me nearly in a chair seat. I can't quite get my legs underneath me and my knees are getting pushed up almost but not quite over my knee rolls. This is creating yet another problem which is it is easier for me to pinch and grab with my knees than to use my whole leg. A swinging leg while galloping is NOT a good thing! Don't get me wrong, I don't think a new saddle is going to magically make everything better but I do think it will help.
#3 Loki and I need to revisit some basics. Last summer we definitely did not do nearly as much ground work as we should have. This was partly due to the fact that he has always been so easy to deal with on the ground. He is respectful of my space and it was easy to take it for granted. It was also partly due to my feeling of time running out on me. So we are going to go back to some basics. Work on our ground work and on our relationship. Loki needs to trust me and I need to trust him. We started today with just working on walking and trotting and backing up on the lead. I think we made some progress but we will continue to work on it.
My trainer and I both agree that the answer is NOT a stronger bit, although we might try some different types of bits to find something that will be more comfortable for him. The answer is more training and for me it means slowing down and really solidifying our relationship. We may continue to do some schooling shows here and there but we will not be doing any events until the Fall at the earliest. And the best thing is I am perfectly happy with this. For the first time I don't have some deadline looming up over me. We are here for two years which for us is practically forever!
So we may be down a little (I'd be lying if I said I'm super happy right now) but we are definitely not out. I'll keep you updated on how things progress.