Well my last two rides have been interesting, and not in a particularly great way, but also not in an awful way either. I’ve had to work through a lot of my nerves with riding horses who aren’t on their best behavior. Misbehaving horses are wayyyy out of my comfort zone, so imagine my joy when both of my horses decided to be goobers this week. Sarcasm.
I rode Paige on Tuesday night and she wasn’t herself in that she was more herd bound than usual. So Paige was “bad.” Paige hasn’t been “bad” before. When Paige is “bad” she is still completely and totally controllable. Basically how it went down was when I mounted up she started walking off when my butt hit the saddle. My brain said “really?” So after making her back then stand for a few moments, I asked her to walk off. She trotted. Head in the air. Frantic eyes. Now my mind says, “oh, this is interesting.” Not alarm or concern. Amusement. In the past I would’ve clamped up when a horse I was riding started acting like this. Instead we trotted some circles until they got so tight that trotting them turned into walking them. I tried to gradually bring her down to her regular frame of mind, but she was still distracted, so I had to be more firm with her than I’m used to. Of course, being Paige, she realized that working hard is worse than being away from her friends. Once she got back to paying attention to me, she was really paying attention to me in a way that was much more responsive than usual.
Since she was more enthusiastic about going forward, I decided it would be a good day to lope some circles. We don’t lope a lot of circles in the field since so much of the field is hilly and I don’t work Paige frequently enough to expect her to be strong enough to carry both of us on slopes. Lets just say that girlfriend is plenty strong enough. She was huffing and puffing when we were done and she even worked up a sweat despite the cooler temperatures. She and I both need exercise programs for sure.
So today, still on my confidence high from conquering “bad” Paige, I decided to take advantage of L and R coming over. I decided to ride Copper outside. I beat them to the barn, so I went out and caught him, tacked him up, and did some walk/trot work in the barn. I’ve been slacking on working with him the last couple of months since it had been a little hot to ride in the barn. Now that it has cooled down some, I’ve decided I need to get with it with him again. He was basically perfect prince charming in the barn, as usual, which impressed me thoroughly since he’s been out of work a bit. I expected him to at least be distracted/looky since Paige had been herd sour the day before. Nope, he was all business. Good Copper. Once L and R got there, L went out to catch Paige. I kind of screwed her over by already pulling Copper from the herd. The mares were all the way in the far corner of the field. Copper makes things easy because he comes when you whistle for him and the mares follow. Whistle for the mares without Copper and the likelihood that they’ll come is significantly lower. So L did the natural thing and configured a lead rope around Paige’s neck and monkeyed on her bareback to ride back to the barn.
When she was riding Paige into the barn L said, “Sarah, you need to go straight home and write thank you cards to everyone who has touched this mare.” Hilarious. Once L got Paige in the barn she asked her for a few different things to see how responsive she was bridleless. She steers at the walk/trot/canter and can be convinced to stop, back, sidepass and do little turn arounds without a bit. So Paige can be ridden with a neck rope apparently. Sometimes her inner mare cames out and she wass like, eh, I don’t know how to back up. I’ll just stand here. Oh mares. Overall a good ride for her though.
Oh yeah, Copper. Great in the barn. Great walk/trot outside. Guess who thought cantering was a good idea. Not Copper. Me. Yes, laugh at me, I am obviously delusional. My gelding, who has been cantered once since November (and has a pre-existing reluctance to behaving while cantering) was not interested in cantering. Imagine that. So he was a little springy. I may be exaggerating to reduce the impact on my psyche. R caught some of it on camera. Unfortunately he didn’t get the actual bucks, more of the poor riding that happens during archy-weird-canter-strides.
I fought with him a lot going the first way, which would’ve been the left lead. He doesn’t have a particularly bad lead, just a bad attitude. He’d stub up and refuse to move forward, so I’d tap him with my spur when he ignored my leg. Cue the springy pony. I was not thrilled, but I also knew that I couldn’t wimp out and let him get out of it. So after fighting with him for a while I put him into a trot and verified with L that I wasn’t the cause of the shenanigans and that I was handling the situation appropriately. Her only advice was that I lean back more, which I 100% agreed with. My butt is the biggest part of me, keeping it planted in the saddle is in my obvious best interest. Telling my butt to stay planted is obviously not a skill of mine. In my defense, L says that the above picture is a representation of the worse of my leaning forward and that most of the time I was planted much better in the saddle.
Believe it or not, I recovered from this and righted myself. I didn’t feel as crooked as I look. I was more mad at this point than afraid. I told L that there are two sides of my brain, the logical-don’t-do-stupid-stuff-and-die side and the yo-horse-you’re-gonna-canter-damn-it side. The two sides competed a lot tonight. In this moment I was pretty irate with my horse. I recovered, then after some more weird archy backed canter strides, he evened out and we cantered a couple of circles reasonably. Of course once he settled down my logical brain said “yo, horse is cantering. Probably ought to take this for what it is, ask him to stop and reward the idiot. Also, you are totally out of breath, just fyi.” When I brought him down to the trot I was satisfied with that direction, but already in a mental battle. Do I feel up to pushing him to canter the other way? The answer was no. I was out of breath, dry mouthed and my finger was bleeding because of course I tore a cuticle on my reins. The only thing this situation needed was blood.
I talked to L and R while I was catching my breath and making Copper do trot half passes (or some variation of a maneuver like that…). Copper was paying good attention to me at this point-comparable to Paige the day before- though without the security that is the marvelous Paige.
After collecting my thoughts, I asked him to canter off on the right lead. He didn’t want to go forward again. Surprise surprise. Luckily he only made me fight him for it a quarter of the time that he did going the other direction. So I only made him canter a quarter of the distance that we did going the other way, and I asked him to stop after loping 6-7 strides. I can only handle so much of the crazy. He threw on his reining brakes when I pushed my legs forward and L and R both thought it was his idea to stop instead of mine since it was so abrupt. In a perfect world, I should’ve cantered him longer once he got into it. I was so paranoid that he’d pick a fight again, and my confidence and energy was waning, so I decided to take what he gave me and to thank him for it and wait for another day to continue this battle. Maybe I’ll don some gloves so I don’t rip my finger open. I defintely want to continue to use my reins with the poppers. I totally whacked him with the popper once when he wasn’t listening and heard L go “yes!” Or at least I think that’s what I heard.
Overall it was a good experience since I actually made him work through things. If you know me, you know that was a struggle for me. L kept telling me that I was handling it good in spite of my nervousness. If this had happened last year I would’ve stopped functioning and avoided the conflict by doing anything else. So…progress? For me at least. A lot of that credit goes to that dun mare with the lump on her forehead. I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle Copper’s drama/I would’ve lost my balance if it weren’t for the time I’ve spent with Paige this summer. Riding her bareback has been great for my balance, which has improved despite the fact that those pictures indicate otherwise.
I have a lesson at G’s tonight, which should be interesting because I get to ride a reiner, and I’m interested to see if he thinks I’ve improved (maybe?) or failed miserably (always possible…). Fingers crossed for progress. 🙂