Friday, September 12, 2008

Some days it's really hard to win, part 1

I was going to say "some days I just can't win," but you know, I did snatch a minor victory from the jaws of defeat at the last moment.

First, Poppy.

Poppy treed me. Like a total fucking noob I let him sidestep close to a tree and then he just charged right the fuck under it and I had to grab branches and slide off. ARRRRGH!

But let's start at the beginning. I found my horses, slipped a halter on Poppy, and walked him over to my truck. He was not enthused at the get-go and kept trying to lock up on me and refuse to move. I was undeterred and insisted he come with me. Got him to the truck, tied him loosely to a cleat on the side of the truck, gave him some alfalfa pellets, and got the tack out. Went to toss the blanket on his back and he EXPLODED like I was attacking him with a wolverine. Somehow he charged around me, STEPPED ON MY SADDLE, and ended up on the other side of me rolling his eyes and snorting. I cussed him, moved the saddle way the hell out of the way where it should've been to begin with, let him smell the blanket, and eased it toward his back again. Another exploding snorting dancing crazy act. I'm kind of stupid so I tried AGAIN and you know what? He did it again.

It was obviously an act and he just didn't want to work. He was oozing resistance out of every pore of his body. Just as fake as when he pretends to switch his brains off and acts like he doesn't know what leg pressure means anymore.

I thought about it for a minute. Untied my horse (at least he didn't break the truck, thank god) and walked him over to the round pen. Picked up all my tack and took it over there. Lunged the big bastard.

I don't think that you have to lunge a horse til it's tired or even til you "took the edge off." I think lunging is really about showing the horse that you are in fact the lead mare and you can and will make him move his feet. My lunge whip (or lead rope, or big stick, whatever I have) is just an extension of my "teeth," and my arms and body language are my "ears." I'm showing the horse that I control his feet, so I don't do a lot of lunging or even a lot of full circles. I do more half-circles than anything else, mostly trotting but sometimes I'll try to tone down my energy and get a walk. If the horse kicks at me while turning he gets to canter for a while. Poppy didn't have to canter much. He kept one ear on me the whole time, and as soon as his turns got really snappy and he started licking and chewing a bit I let him come in to me. I snapped the lead rope on, picked up the saddle pad right there in the middle of the arena, and pitched it right on his back. He didn't even TWITCH. The saddle went on just as easy. Then I picked up the bridle and he tossed his head straight (about 8') up in the air, so he got to go trot around a little more. Called him back in, offered the bridle again, and he left his head at the right height and opened his teeth for me. He's not actually stupid, just lazy.

Then we walked very calmly out of the round pen, over to the chair, I climbed on board, and off we went.

Unsurprisingly, Poppy was pretty responsive. We'd already gotten most of the fightin' out of the way. I had to whop him once with the whip, but it was more like a dance than an actual conflict. We were walking in a direction he didn't particularly want to go, and he stopped. I squeezed, he flopped an ear at me. I thumped, he ignored me. I reached back and gently whacked him with the whip - didn't even use my wrist and flip it so it stung, just kinda whacked him like I was holding a stick. He swiveled his ears at me and took off at a fast walk.

Then we wandered down by the pond so Cersei could jump in and get a drink of water. The other horse were on the far shore. Cersei had just jumped in, and I wanted Poppy to stand still facing the lake for maybe 15 seconds. He hollered for his friends (which should've been my first warning) then spun around and I squeezed the reins and reminded him to woah. He stood still for a second, sidestepped two steps to the left (that was my HUGE RED FLAG) and then started walking. Straight towards the tree. I tried to haul him off to the right but he sensed victory and ignored me for the two crucial steps he needed. I grabbed a handful of branches and swung (gracefully, believe it or not) down to the ground. Even landed on my feet. But Poppy was 10 feet away, hollering for his herd and trotting into the trees.

When the red flag went up, I should've immediately distracted him by asking him to move off, either straight ahead, to the right, or spinning to the left. Anything to take his mind off of "oh god my herd" and get him thinking about me again. At least that's my postgame analysis. Anybody disagree?

Anyway, as soon as my feet hit the ground I thought "god dammit he's gonna step on the reins and hurt his mouth." Then, "aaaaand he's gonna break my reins!" Oh well, that's why I have leather reins, I'd rather the reins break than the horse. So I sighed and followed Poppy back over to the other horses. I took the long (i.e. not forested) way, and when I got there he was back near Dixie. With a loop of reins running between his legs and back up to the saddle. Poor guy.

I called him over and untangled him. (At least they didn't break!) Then I looked at his mouth, but it wasn't cut, but I wasn't sure if it was hurt. I was torn - do I get back on, so he doesn't think rides are supposed to end that way? Or do I call it quits, rather than getting back on and yanking on his (possibly? probably?) bruised mouth? In the end I erred on the side of caution - he almost certainly stepped on the reins for them to end up between his legs like that, and I really don't want to HURT him.

Any thoughts on today?

I feel like this post is a giant wall of text already, so I'm gonna make it a two-parter. Stay tuned for part two, which details how my spotted mare makes me want to give up horses entirely... until I switch bits again.


  1. Can you do a one rein halt on Poppy? I would certainly try to establish this so you have a quick fix at hand next time he's being a jerk. Raven and I would probably be somewhere in Texas right now if not for a solid one rein halt.

    Otherwise I think you did right. There is plenty of time ahead, and no real danger in taking the cautious road. He won a little battle and you will, over time, win the war.

    Sorry you got treed, though. Good on ya for being graceful, at least.

  2. "like a total f*cking noob . . . " made me laugh SO hard! :-)


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