Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy daughter and horse update

So nice to see Katie back up on a horse these days. She is also socializing a lot more, which--since it's her senior year--is a good thing. She and Lena both looked relaxed and happy, I am almost sorry I rode Bar instead of taking pictures of them. Almost, but not quite.

We tried to beat the heat today, but I have to say that 11:00 a.m. wasn't particularly any cooler than 3 p.m. Maybe if we'd gotten there at 8 a.m. we would have done okay, but that was a little too much for a Sunday morning.

I completely changed Bar's routine today, and he handled it pretty well. He doesn't like lunging outdoors in the arena on the short (14 foot) lead--versus inside the round pen on his own recognizance--and he started to argue, but he did finally settle down and pay attention. While I was saddling him, he got very concerned about the sounds of Peter giving a lesson in the indoor arena. I promised him that was not what was in store for him, but he wasn't sure he believed me until we got all the way into the outdoor arena with Lena, Katie, Daisy, and Cindy. With the gate shut. And latched. Then checked with a nose, no less.

The first thing I did was make him stand still as I got on. Not just stop as I flung my right leg over into the stirrup, no. I made him stand still while I rested myself in the left stirrup, before I even got my right leg over. He thought I was a little picky, but he eventually gave in.

We just did a lot of walking and reacquainting ourselves with the outdoor arena. He and I have not been in the big arena, with him under saddle, in quite some time, so I had some nerves to overcome. Okay. A lot of nerves. Big hairy, oh-my-gosh-I'm-a-little-terrified nerves.

BUT. We did it. And he was good. He kept it together even when Lena left and he was still stuck with me in the hot arena while she wandered away up the hill then back down for her bath. I concentrated on sending him "it's no big deal" vibes, and I think that helped, too.

We worked on my body position and him responding to my body position, going over obstacles, around a pole (he's better to the right than to the left) and just listening and sticking with me and not going ballistic, even though he was a little bored.

I'm sure it helped that it was hot and he was feeling lazy, but even when he'd start to think about blowing (and I've gotten better at telling when that's about to happen), I'd just settle into my seat, talk to him, and redirect him into something else and he'd move past it.

At the end of it all, I got to tell him he was a good boy and had listened well. He even opened the gate, though closing it is still a work in progress. "What? Why do we need to close it?"

My seat felt stronger, more secure, and more in tune with him. I think a lot of that has to do with my new habit of riding him bareback after we do our ground work. (Though I have to admit, his withers/spine and my pelvic bone/tailbone could use a little less contact.) I have a bareback pad, but am afraid to lose the close contact I get without it. On the other hand, I can't progress past a walk without a little more cushion between us--for his sake and mine--so I'm going to have to give in and pad us.

I know. It makes no sense that I'm scared to ride him with a bit, bridle, and saddle when I hop on him most nights with just a halter, looping the lead rope around his neck as reins.

I can't really tell you why I feel safer with him in that situation, except he and I are reworking our trust and he seems calmer and more responsive with the closer contact we get without a saddle, and the different contact we get without a bit.

I guess it comes down to this:

Bar and I are figuring things out. It may be slower than if I got really tough with him, but I'm in it for the long haul anyway, so I might as well work towards the relationship I want with my horse rather than worry about time lines or deadlines. My commitment is to him, and to myself. I like this horse--love the challenge, love his mind, the way he moves, and how hard he does try to learn things. I am willing to invest the time and energy to figure out how to get us (yes, me, too) where we need to be so we end up there together.

Besides, he's just so darn awesome on the trail!

1 comment:

Kate said...

A wonderful horseman I have had the great fortune to ride with, Mark Rashid, often says that horses don't wear watches - impatience has ruined many horse/rider relationships. "Getting tough" just means that someone has decided that the horse must be made to do something, in many cases, without an attempt to listen to what the horse is saying. You are right to take it slowly and trust your own judgment.