Nilla the Anti-Dressage Mule

Two weeks ago I had a dressage lesson with Nilla where she basically went unhinged. She's been getting progressively worse about going on the contact. Or rather, she's always been bad about it, but her reactions are getting worse.

At our May 3rd lesson, her reaction was to Giraffe and swish her tail. She was also doing a lot of barging through the reins and ignoring me.

It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't that bad. Typical Nilla behavior really. And we had our good moments:

Well two weeks ago she was past that. She started off the lesson pissed off. She was either trying to bolt and completely smashing through the reins or throwing her head up like a brat. When that didn't get her out of work, she tried rearing. 

Which is utterly unacceptable. I was pissed. The trainer was pissed. Nilla was pissed. It was no fun. We tried bending to get her on the bit. No go.

We tried circling and transitions and just asking at the halt. We tried everything and her objections remained. As a rider, I can handle the antics, but my back can't. Every rear and buck was like a stab through my spine. At one point we were just standing and you can see how drenched in sweat she is and just how much I'm hurting, hunched over, resting on my hands. 

This was the conversation I had with my trainer at this point:

Trainer: next week I'm going to bring something to help you with this.
Me: What, draw reins?
Trainer: Yes, how'd you guess?
Me: I have them.

So I had my husband go down and get the draw reins. I know, I know, they're a hack and a gadget and don't belong in dressage and blah, blah, blah. You wanna ride her? You can do it without the draw reins. 

The draw reins definitely got some respect.

But she was still pulling shit:

When she finally went around like a non asshole, she got pet and was done. It was a long lesson. And it wasn't any fun. For any of us. I called the chiropractor the next morning. He came out the next week so we didn't have a lesson that week. This Tuesday was our first lesson since the chiropractor. She's been really good since, but we haven't done any hard dressage. And she did pull out the rearing trick at the xc clinic, so she's certainly not reformed. Though, to be fair, that's not a new trick.

This week, we had another lesson: our first since the chiropractor. She also had dental the day before so no excuses. This time we started off with the draw reins.

And she felt really good. Like amazingly good. And I don't think it was because of the draw reins. She was lit from the moment I got on her. She marched up the driveway to the arena like she was on a mission. And she felt really smooth and not like her usual stiff self. I don't know what did it, but I have to imagine the chiro helped.

Our trainer was ecstatic. She kept saying how if we could take the draw reins off, we could go to a show tomorrow and win. And she was a little giddy at the thought of beating fancy warmbloods with a mule. She really wants me to show. But I think the whole, "if we can remove the draw reins" thing is a major if. 

She was really stepping up under herself and looking and feeling great though. 

She was being so good, we even did some leg yield work.

But we were not done with the temper tantrums. Once we went to the canter, the attitude returned.

Like major attitude.

Despite how dramatic this looks, that was the end of it. She decided to canter like a nice mule after that and we even managed some nice transitions.

She was so good she even got ear scratches from our trainer.

I'm hoping we can remove the draw reins and have the same success next time.

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