Friday, September 12, 2008

Really hard to win, part 2

After the debacle with Poppy I was still feeling perky so I decided to ride Dixie. She was easy to catch and totally fine with the saddle and bridle, but she refused. to. stand. still. Pretty frustrating to have that horrible habit back again.

I tricked her into standing, actually. She was standing near the truck, wondering about the bits of alfalfa pellets that Poppy had left. I eased her over near the tailgate, climbed on my bumper, and slipped on her back from the off side. She bolted. Oh great, we're back to bolting too.

I rode it out for a while. She wasn't steering at all, so we were playing chicken with large trees. (She does have a lot more sense than Poppy, and I made sure we weren't near any clotheslining-height trees.) If we were pointing in a direction she didn't want to go, she would grudglingly halt for a few seconds before she'd try to spin. If we were pointing in a direction she did want to go, i.e. towards the other horses, she just walked / running walked / racked / galloped towards them. All I could do was gallop her in a circle til she was facing away from the others, then ask for a halt and I'd get at least a slow down or maybe even a momentary halt. Through all of this, her ears never swiveled back to "see" me.

I wasn't worried, for whatever that's worth. My seat was awesome. I never felt off-balance or nervous (except for one time when I really thought she'd run into the house rather than stop, but I refused to back down and she did, in fact, stop.)

Once I realized she wasn't just blowing off steam - that she was, in fact, not going to turn or stop or do much of anything for me - I got off. I lunged her, exactly the same as Poppy. Afterwards, she was completely calm - until I moved from in front of her head to near the stirrup. Argh.

I tricked her the exact same way, with the alfalfa in the truck bed, and climbed on again. We bolted some more. I thought dark thoughts about how horrible I am with horses. Why do I bust my ass to feed these guys when obviously I can't teach them anything at all? I have nightmares about their health. I take lessons. I buy books. I read everything I can find. But despite it all, I am a horrible horse rider.

We screeched to a halt by the truck again. I got off and sulked for a while. Obviously none of my trying mattered. Best to give up now.

Dixie stared at me. She obviously was trying to use her horse telepathy to tell me to please sell her. I sulked some more. She kept staring.

But she wasn't actually trying to freak out and run off. Maybe she didn't hate me?

She started pawing. Not trying to yank the reins out of my hands and run away, just standing stock still and pawing. Like she was pissed that we were still here, by the truck, being boring.

I'm pretty dense but eventually I can figure things out. I fished Champ's bridle, with the nice mild curb bit, out of the back seat. Took the other bridle off of Dixie, scratched her sweaty itchy face for a minute, and slipped Champ's bridle on. She dropped her head and opened her mouth for the bit. I got the straps adjusted (three holes smaller for her than for him) and flipped the reins over her head.

Stepped back near the stirrup. She shifted her weight. I picked up the reins and said "Ho." She stood still. I swung up. She stood still. I got my right foot in the stirrups. She flicked an ear back at me. Touched her sides and we were off. Picked up the reins and pulled back, gently, and we stopped.

She wasn't perfect, by any means - she still really thought we should go ride in circles around her friends - but she was about 700% better than before. We rode til the sun had gone completely down and the last light was fading. She was FINE. Giving me ears occasionally, to let me know she knew I was up there. Steering mainly off of legs, with just a bit of rein pressure to remind her that I meant something. Stopping when I picked up the reins and made contact.

I finally took us back to the truck and got all the tack off of her. She hung out while I rubbed her itchy face. Stayed while I loaded the truck. Followed me to the round pen where I picked up my lead rope. I kept telling her to shoo, to go find Champ and Poppy, but she just followed me around like a friendly stray dog. Finally, when it was clear that I was getting in the truck to leave, she wandered off and started grazing.

It was a pretty awesome end to a pretty horrible horse day.

I'm left wondering why the hell I want to ride her in a snaffle? I mean, I know the big deal about snaffles - I totally understand now how little lateral control you have with a curb - but why do I care so much about riding her in a snaffle? I don't understand why she so obviously prefers a curb, but she sure as hell doesn't even know I'm on her back with the snaffle. Horses! Argh!

1 comment:

  1. Whoa (or lack thereof, haha) what a day.

    Use whatever bit the horse responds to -- don't get married to the particular bit that you feel is best. If she's more comfortable in a curb, then that's that. They can be fair and communicative in light hands. Maybe it's what she was broke out with, so it just feels familiar.

    I tried several bits on Raven, but after a while it became clear that she resents any bit so we went bitless. Whatever works best for the horse.


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