So I have a confession. If you've slogged through most everything I've written before this, this may not come as a huge shock to you.
I don't like riding Piper.
OK, I know, I know! Granted it was nice when Erica was riding because she was smaller and looked less insane on the painted pony. The really nice thing about it though was that I didn't have to ride her. I don't like riding her. We always fight. About.stupid.things.
OK, so timeout again. We normally fight because Piper KNOWS her job. Sadly that job tends to revert back to her previous training which is a "barrel racing, roping, running madly across the roads with a teenager on her back" training. But she owns it! Much like she owns everything in her life. So my normal "conditioning" hacks end up a full on, "no Piper, you canNOT drop your shoulder and dive out at an imaginary barrel". "No Piper, we are not going from 0 to full tilt after a cow".
Paint horses. Western horses. Sketchy training and gutsy horses.
Also, when Erica rode Piper, she let her do things that I wouldn't. Kinda like when your mom's not around, the kids go nuts. It was less Erica and more Piper (she's a persuasive bossy thing) and who's going to tell a 14.1h pony that no, we shouldn't jump that jump again epically for fun. This meant that once every few weeks, I got on the pony (normally western saddle and rope halter for steering) and reminded her of several truths: we do not fall in on a circle, we do not move around like a wet noodle, we do not floor the gas when we do a transition, we do not bounce to the sky going from walk to trot, and we do not drag our riders forward like a racehorse leaning into the bit.
I'm not the fun person.
After I rode her she'd be fine. It would be 2 hours of me asking consistently over and over and over and over and over and over again and rewarding anything that resembled moving in the correct direction. Eventually she'd get it (aka, let go of old habits) and we'd get off for that session. It was never fun for me but I mean, at least I can do it, right?
Then Erica went her way and I was left with this talented greenie beastie. Now pregnant. Trust me, I get how fabulous she is! I thought about selling her to a shorter person that might like her more, I thought about a lot of things. I'm excited about a baby from her but honestly, I want to ride her myself long term. I want it to be fun. I want to rock a cross country course on a pony that's gutsy, balls to the wall, and everything in between. She's never refused a thing and she's got seriously limited jumping experience (like less than 20 sessions over fences) and this is what she can do:
So basically in my mind, THE HARD PART IS DONE! Unlike Arthur, she doesn't worry me when I ride her (she's about as safe as the day is long ironically and actually will take care of you within reason). I just hate that a 30 minutes hack turns into a 2 hour "remember this" session of blahness. So Step One was ride the beastie. I got that easily. Step Two, jump the beastie. Ugh. She's way rounder, bolder, full of herself than Katy. The day I did it in June I just basically set the crossrail to about 18" and trotted back and forth. Naturally she flung herself at it and jumped about 3 foot. At that point I was like fine, game on and I worked her like a normal horse until she jumped 2 foot without rushing. Again, that "fighting" thing we do until she realizes that my insistently consistent cues mean something besides balls to the wall.
So mission accomplished but not pretty.
Then Piper started to get HUGE from baby growing. I decided to work on Katy and *gulp* Arthur so I have something to work on while Piper goes all preggers. Then I took a lesson on Katy a few weeks ago that was bad. Just. Bad. Like, I may have never ridden a horse before - bad. OK, maybe not THAT bad, I did stay on, but I was all over the place and nothing was responding to how it should. Naturally this was the hunter jumper trainer so I got an equitation lesson (which is really what I like :) ). It was painful, it was awful, but I felt a lot better in short order. The jumping was disastrous to watch but I got the job done (not the terminology the hunters want to hear).
I earned no style points.
Also, she mentioned that Katy's short trot will probably not fully "exercise" my core and all that. I debated Piper. The other thing we worked on was keeping the horse basically within a 6 inch area between your legs/hands/chest. You stay the constant and they fall in. I thought this was a bit of hoodoo, but then I saw it work on Katy and was like I WANT TO TRY THIS ON PIPER!
Last night I did. Sure she's kinda rotund (already) but she was happy to be worked and I - wait for it - had fun riding her. She tossed her head a few times, got on the bit, off the bit, sideways this sideways that, bounce here bounce there but I just softly countered and rode with more leg than hand and she... got it. In 35 minutes :) We had one fight where she tried to snatch grass while we free walk (that's going to impress a judge one day >< ) so I kicked her into some lateral work that was difficult and brought her back down to relax. Message was received that hard work would ensue should she take advantage and we were good.
I kinda want to ride her again tonight :) Grumpy soreness and all! Maybe she's not so bad :)