Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Internet versus Reality

It's funny how what you read - in books or on the Internet - can be so different from reality.

Last night I rode Quinn in her new snaffle bit. It's a French link, supposed to be very comfy for the horse. Now, I've always heard that you've got no brakes in a snaffle, but hell, I had no breaks in a double twisted wire curb last time I rode her, so I figured it couldn't be much worse. And I've always read (and it makes sense to me) that a snaffle is a better tool to teach a horse to bend correctly in turns. That's why I wanted to put her in a snaffle - poor girl doesn't turn well at all. Honestly, she gaits naturally and she doesn't buck, but other than that, she doesn't know anything.

I'm no trainer, but I'm taking good care of her and I'm trying to teach her kindly, which is better than most people around here do. So she's stuck with me.

First, we went through the mounting block dance again. This time I moved up to a slightly higher level of correction to get her to stand still. Last time was strictly positive - I let her move away from me and the block as much as she wanted. I just kept moving with her, and when she stopped moving I'd reward her by scritching her neck. This time I got frustrated with her and stepped it up one notch. Instead of letting her dance all over the place, I made her move where I wanted. I'd ask her to stand, and if she moved off I'd back her up, walk her forward, back her up, etc, and finally ask her to stand again. My idea is to make standing still more appealing than endlessly backing up in circles.

Eventually, I got a good stand out of Quinn and mounted up. Wow. They're serious when they say you have no brakes in a snaffle. I steered her into the arena, barely, at a fast RW, then we galloped top speed in circles for 10 minutes. I had a serious "what the fuck have I done" moment, then I decided that either I'd fall off in the mud or she'd get tired. And I didn't fall off, and she eventually got tired. I tried to get her used to the snaffle and work on turns a bit, but I don't know if she learned anything.

She's very spooky. I suspect she got whacked upside the head a great deal when her first owners broke her. If I move my hands at all from their default position, she LEAPS and tries to run away. I think more riding time will cure that - she's spent a great deal more time with me on the ground than in the saddle, and she's already calmed down a lot on the ground.

Anyway, I rode and didn't fall off. Cooled her down and brushed her off again, and picked all four feet. I'd read about some calming acupressure point located just above the chestnut on a horse's leg, and I tried that. Definitely something there - as soon as I started massaging above her chestnuts, she started licking and relaxed a bit. Neat.

I'm hoping to brush her tail this week. She actually likes me just fine when I'm up by her head, but she gets more nervous the further back I go. I've gotten to where I can touch up and down her back legs and not spook her - hopefully she'll let me start untangling that awful tail soon!

And I need to ride somebody else! Poppy, maybe, or Silky for a turn around the arena anyway. Sunday I'm planning on a big trail ride on Champ, then a second ride probably on Quinn. But I've got a little time in the evenings to ride around the property, and I should quit focusing exclusively on Quinn.

The lady who sold me Quinn wants me to ride her foxtrotter again this weekend. That'll be fun.

I'm going to the barn while it's still light so I can actually take some pictures of the herd.

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