I took Coco to another show this past weekend and we had a much different experience from the previous weekend. In a good way, too!
Hidden Lakes is a great little show venue near Flower Mound, Texas. They often have show series throughout the year that are great to attend if you are starting out as a rider or for young horses that need miles. Clearly, Coco fits the bill for #2. I had intended to go to more of these shows, but at our first attempt Coco was having nothing with getting on the trailer. We worked that out. Then I had a show with Sterling in Waco. Then we opted for the closer to home show we went to last weekend, so we only ended up going to the final weekend of the summer series.
We got to the show grounds at 7:30a (my ring started at 7a). I THOUGHT there were only 6 jumpers so we would go around 8:30a or 9a. I was very wrong in this regard.
When Coco gets to new places she isn’t particularly energetic or spooky, which is great. However it makes me a bit lackadaisical in getting her acclimated to the venue. On this occasion I got her tacked up and headed to the warm-up ring immediately after completing our entry at the office. She started out OK, but got more and more amped up as other horses entered the warm-up area, she started to notice horses showing in other rings and the energy of being at a show started to spark.
It was at this time that I figured out there was no way we were showing around 9a. “Then she started doing the same thing she had done the previous weekend (which she didn’t do at home all week) and offered to buck when I added leg to ask for the canter. Rather than be in a dangerous situation and scaring other horses/ponies and riders, I decided to untack and go the the lunge ring. This was the BEST idea I’ve had in a long time.
She is nothing if not beautiful!
It was a hot day and it didn’t take too long before she was showing clear signs of getting tired. Thankfully she’s a good sweater in the heat.
After lunging I led her down to our show ring to await the completion of the jumpers and get her into the ring to lead her around and show her the jumps. This was happily uneventful. At this point in her life she had never jumped anything with fill under it. No flowers or walls or really anything other than rails and standards.
There was a still a full division before mine so we headed back to the trailer to tack up (again) and get ready. I could tell when I got back on her that the sassiness was still there. The edge was gone, but not the sass. We meandered to a warm-up ring and she was clearly going to kick up at the canter again. I was about at my wits end with her shenanigans. Back to the lunge area we went , which is just a circle area of sand, but I stayed on her rather than lunge her again. We trotted, all was well. I asked for the canter, head down and hind legs go up. I sat down in the saddle, grabbed the reins in one hand, and gave her 2 strong (not hard) taps with my crop. This got her attention and she rocked back to her haunches and cantered on. YAY! A win!
We changed gait a few more times with no issues then walked a bit and changed direction. She did the exact same thing again; trot, leg on for canter, head down and hind legs up. I sat down gave her 2 strong taps with the crop and it was back to business. From here on out for the rest of the day she was awesome. Relaxed and willing to do everything I asked her to do.
Our first trip around the course was OK. She stopped at the second fence in a four stride line, but it was completely my fault. I looked down, leaned forward and forgot I had legs. The second trip was fine. No big mistakes other than a couple close spots to jumps. Same with the third trip, except I think we may have added a stride in a line, but I’d rather have a calm young horse add an easy stride than one running away with me around the course.
My goal for our hunter trips were these:
- Jump all the jumps
- No bucking
- Use my legs for the entire course
- Look ahead to help her get leads and not have to change lead
- Should the need arise, do lead changes
And guess what, we pretty much met all these goals! She did multiple flying changes exactly on purpose. I got so excited she got the changes, I forgot to look where I was going and she dang near jumped out of the ring!
Before this Saturday I really was having reservations about Coco’s future. Was I asking her to do the right job? Would we ever “get along? Am I wasting a nice horse that should be doing something else with someone else? I’d be jumping the gun (pun kind of intended) if I said that all these questions have been answered, but I feel 99% better about us getting along and at least 70% better that this might be the right job for her.
We didn’t place very well and I REALLY wish I had video of our trips so I could see what they looked like, but it FELT good. She felt relaxed over the fences. She was incredibly consistent in her canter. She didn’t look at the jumps. She didn’t get spooky in the ring. SHE DID FLYING CHANGES ON PURPOSE. We have another outing planned this coming weekend, then she will get a few weeks of a break from “showing”. Miles, miles and more miles are what she and I both need right now! I’m sure excited to see where we are at this time next year!
Y’all. Mares. Are. Hard. We had lots of mares when I was growing up, but only one that was ever “mine” and she wasn’t “mine” for very long because she turned out to not be very good at her job (reining) so she went to the broodmare band (makes sense, right? Notsomuch). I’ve never had a long term relationship with a mare, until now.
Coco has been at the farm for 5 1/2 years as of this September. The first year was pretty easy, but every subsequent year has had challenges of one form or another. When she was a yearling and I switched farriers I learned that she had a club foot which required surgery to fix. She probably should have had the surgery 6-10 months sooner, but that is a post for another day. Few things are as fun (insert sarcasm here) as a yearling on stall rest, but I must admit that she actually behaved quite well considering the circumstances.
Her two-year old year was actually fairly drama free, but her three and four year old years more than made up for it. I opted to breed her as a three-year-old as I’d learned from other breeders that this can be good for the brain of a young mare and it also may help their fertility when they are older if they have already carried a foal to term. Breeding went fine, but she got injured a few months after getting in foal, so we were back to stall rest and hand walking. She was a bit more of a handful this time when being hand walked.
Coco about one week before she foaled.
When she was four was when actually had the foal You can read here about the actual foaling. It was heart wrenching and awful and I don’t ever want to re-live a similar experience.
So here we are today. Coco is six and has been under saddle for exactly two years. And she is a Pain In The Ass. Backing her was uneventful, and I’m grateful for that, but the past year has been challenging. I’ve backed lots and lots of horses. At least 10 before I graduated from high school and a handful since then. Every young horse has it’s challenges, but Coco’s have stumped me more than any other horse.
She sure is pretty, though!
Last fall she started a thing with pinning her ears and kicking up when I asked her to move forward with my leg. She had been going really really well and it kind of came out of the blue, so I thought perhaps she was in pain. I had a chiropractor/acupuncturist out and she was diagnosed with ulcers. I treated the ulcers, but the behavior didn’t change. This spring I had her back and hocks x-rayed. Nothing there either (thank GOODNESS!).
I’ve learned that she needs to walk around for about 5-10 minutes before you ask her to work. If you get on and immediately ask for a trot she will pin her ears and kick out. It’s like she needs a few minutes to get her head into the game, nothing wrong with that. I’ve found that letting her stretch out and walk nearly eliminates the crankiness at leg pressure. She’s been doing lots of lead changes over a log and even gotten a few that I’ve just asked for on the flat. We have been doing some cavalletti work as well as small jump gymnastics. I can’t help but get really excited about her scope and athleticism over even tiny jumps.
Her behavior has improved in general (the kicking at leg pressure had gone away almost entirely) so this past weekend I took her to a little horse show not far from home. She needs more time off property and they offered flat classes as well as some small jumping classes. I let the show organizers talk me into doing a showmanship class, which I think contributed to her developing crankiness during the day, and she was OK but definitely irritated. By the second flat class she would NOT canter. She would only buck. Not hard and she never got me out of the tack, but she was MAD!
I didn’t want to continue to fight with her in front of a crowd (they were extremely accommodating and the show was really delightful) so I scratched the over fences classes and took her home to see what was the deal. We got home, I tacked her back up (added a sheepskin Thinline pad in case it was a pain issue) and headed out to my arena to see if she would do the same thing. She didn’t. She was a perfect angel. Cantered off my leg from a walk, even did a couple flying changes over a log.
I think a few things contributed to her badittude on Saturday:
- She hasn’t been off property very much
- The other horses in the ring really jazzed her up and got her more “up” than usual
- I forgot to put in ear plugs before I got on and I think the loud music and announcer contributed to her irritation
- She is going to try to do what SHE wants to do until I make it clear that the final answer is NO
- She is very smart, very athletic and young
Coco is challenging me more than any horse has before and I really think it is going to be a good thing for both of us. She’s not bad and she’s not mean, and I’m also not convinced that she doesn’t have some pain from her heat cycle that I’m hoping to get treated this week with some hormones. I plan to get her out a bunch this summer and fall to lots of local shows and venues. Time on the trailer and around new places will (hopefully) convince her that as long as we are together she will be just fine. We don’t have the trust established between us yet that we need to be successful. I feel like right now we coexist and my goal for the rest of the year is to develop an actual partnership.
Have you had a mare? Have you had similar issues? I’d love to hear from other mare owners, especially warmblood mare owners.