I've been slowly bringing Cupid back to work. We had a few days of just walking around the property. Then we did a few days with walk and trot work in the ring - lots of stretching trot and light lateral work. Cupid felt great! Then we added a little canter, which went well and we didn't have any problem getting the left lead. But then something unexplainable happened. Best I can come up with is Cupid is seeing ghosts!
It started during our lesson on Sunday. Starting out Cupid was good, just a touch lazy. So we were trying to get him moving more forward. We decided adding some trot poles would help, and it did perk him right up. So I had a happy horse, the lesson was going well, when out of nowhere he spooked in the far end of the arena. It was a small spook, I didn't think too much of it. But he did it again in the same area. Then he got very distracted coming out of that corner. The arena has a wall on that side, I assumed someone must be working or doing something on the other side. After a few minutes I asked my trainer to look out and see what was going on, she said there's nothing there. We kept working, it was okay except Cupid was clearly a little distracted. We thought maybe it was the sound of the sprinklers from the other arena.
The next day I thought I would walk around outside for a warm up before going into the arena. We were walking along calmly, when all of the sudden Cupid stopped dead. We were in front of his turn out paddock, where there is a little incline up to a path that runs between the outdoor arena and a house. Cupid did not want to go up the incline. I thought maybe there was someone riding in the arena and he was watching them, but no. I asked Cupid to go forward and he backed up. I tried again, same result. I tapped him with the crop and he kicked out, still refusing to move forward. After a few minutes I decided to get off; I wasn't scared but I felt like we weren't getting anywhere and I didn't want to have to hit him harder. He still didn't want to go at first, but eventually walked up with his head in the air, ears pricked, looking around. He jigged a little.
We got in the arena, and had an okay ride except he was still distracted and didn't want to stay along the rail towards the house. We did some leg yielding, circles, serpentines, and cantered each direction. Cupid did pretty much everything I asked but he was not relaxed and clearly something was bothering him. After about half an hour in the arena we walked back out, and he didn't really want to walk back down that path. He did back up a bit, and kicked out again, but finally walked. I could feel his heart pounding, he really did seem scared not just like he was trying to get out of work!
I didn't hear anything, or see anything new that would surprise him. I have no idea what he is reacting too.
This morning we had a lesson in the covered ring, and he was more relaxed except a few times when deer came bounding up along the ring he shied a little. But at least that is explainable! Otherwise, we just still need to work on getting him in front of the leg, he was quite lazy again.
We had some good trot work, on a large circle doing a little shoulder fore to the inside then straightening and coming more forward out of it. Then my trainer had me practice cantering on a large circle, holding my whip under my thumbs to keep my hands together. It felt easier then the last time I did this exercise (when I had trouble keeping any sort of contact, and didn't canter).
I walked Cupid down the scary path after our ride to turn him out. He was a little alert, head up and snorting a little, but less of a reaction today. Hopefully whatever it is will pass soon and I have my old Cupid back! But regardless of how we progress, the dressage show I was planning on going to in a few weeks was unfortunately cancelled.