Monday, January 26, 2009

A study in contrasts

Today was Dixie Dressage #2 and Poppy Solo Trail #1. I want to get these rides written down then I swear I'm gonna go catch up on yall's blogs and my comments!

I trailered her over to the main barn and rode for about an hour in the covered arena. The first part of the ride went quite well - she relaxed into it and worked well for me, mostly at a walk working on bending. About every ten minutes I'd squeeze with both legs and kiss for a rack and we'd do a lap or two around the arena, just so I could work on staying loose and keeping her attention on me. She'd always break up into a couple of strides of odd canter around the turns, but she also came back to me and settled back into a rack very quickly.

Then a Horse Eating Lion (or possibly a chipmunk) rustled in the woods on the north side. We were just walking very calmly along, in a gentle bend, with me thinking about giving the right kind of leg pressure and keeping light contact and feeling her bend when KABLAM the leaves rustled and Dixie exploded into a full spook. Jumped straight up, came back down with her legs splayed, spun 90 degrees and bolted three or four steps away. I stayed completely centered in the saddle, which was kinda cool, and she stopped on her own, which was very cool! Somehow I completely lost the reins on the left side, but I had the other set still held perfectly still. Yay us.

After that I decided to see if I could get her attention back on working with me. She was, I think, a lot more distracted. I'm not positive because I did not look at her ears once. How am I supposed to know what she's thinking if I can't focus on her ears? Yes, I could see them in my peripheral vision, but it's harder for me to tell!

Anyway, she was distracted but she still tried hard for me. She was pretty spooky about that corner of the arena, so I worked on driving her into that corner with more leg and really directing her turns out of it. Her new boyfriend came up to the other corner of the arena, and I worked on keeping her moving at the same pace past him every time.

Her new boyfriend is (IIRC?) a spotted ASB named Perry Como. He fell in love with her the first day I brought her out to the place and he's made googly eyes at her from over the fence every time since. It's kinda cute :3

Anyway, it was a good ride. I finished out with a few minutes of loose rein walk with just the snaffle rein, then fed her a couple scoops of grain, then managed to get her loaded and take her home. She's loaded like a dream every time til the last time, when she decided she'd rather stay and live with Perry than get on the damn trailer and go back to her field. Of course I completely blanked out on any horse loading theories, so I thought about it for a minute and decided to make the right thing waaay easier than the wrong thing. I'd walk her up to the trailer (me standing to one side inside) and she'd balk. I'd back her up for about 20 feet, praise, and walk her back to the trailer. If she balked again, we'd back some more. Took about 4 tries before she decided she'd rather make that big step up into the trailer than back up again.

I am so wordy.

So I got Dixie back home and decided that Poppy was ready to go trail riding solo and I should put up or shut up. I tacked him up with his bridle, my saddle, and a dinky little whip, dragged a broken chair out past the gate, and we were off! My dressage whip, which actually reaches his butt easier, doesn't have a handle so I have to hold it at all times. The dinky little whip has a wrist loop, so I clipped it to the front D rings on my saddle to have it handy.

We immediately had a disagreement about whether he was out there to eat grass or listen to me. This annoyed him. Then we disagreed about whether he could take the first turn to head back home, and he got more annoyed. We went through a gate, down a narrow bit of trail, up a hill, and he decided he was going to trot. I said fine, trot then, and he trotted a bit then stopped and did something odd. At first I couldn't figure out what he was doing - it felt a little like a canter. But we weren't actually moving and his head was down and OH HELL HE'S BUCKING! I was completely shocked and amused that he was bucking, so it took me another buck or two to figure out what to do. In an attempt to do something I growled "Knock that off!" and booted him in the ribs and he headed out again in a Real Big Working Draft Trot.

Wow. I was seriously impressed. I've seen him do the Big Trot from the ground, of course, but I've never ridden it. I loved it! It was awesome!

I am also very very annoyed with myself and with Poppy. He might not be ripped like Brego or Klein, but he's got plenty of muscle under that fluff. How could I have been fooled by his stumbling WP jog-trots previously? He has outsmarted himself and raised the bar for future work.

We trotted a little further on, past the Skeet Lake, and I came to my senses. He might in fact run us into a tree or off a cliff just to prove that he doesn't have to listen. I decided I could pick my battles and we headed for home - with a twist.

We'd walk, CALMLY YOU BASTARD!, towards home. Then we'd turn and I'd have him trot away again. Then we'd walk, turn, repeat. It was pretty nerve-racking. Apparently I'm not over my irrational fear of Poppy. I have to respond to the very early stages of his unwanted behavior as quickly as possible or he just goes ahead and does what he wants.

We had one more big blow up in the paddock nearest his field. I asked for a nice trot away from the gate, and he trotted then wanted to veer left onto a different trail pointing back to the gate. I pulled his head back around right, booted him in the right places, and he wrenched his head left, did a promising cowhorse spin, and cantered for home. I got really fucking pissed and wrapped the reins around my hands - TWICE, I was not going to lose him if I fell off - and did a YANK-release til he slowed down again. Not pretty. As soon as I got him back to a walk, I spun him around and asked for a trot away from home again and pretended like nothing had happened. We walked one more lap of the paddock, with exceptionally nice behavior, and we were done!

Quite a day. I'm glad I worked both of them today; tomorrow it's going to rain all day and we might have an ICE STORM tomorrow night and we could all die.


  1. We are about to have an ice storm too, but in New England they're a teeny bit more serious ;D

    Hah, love the story about Poppy bucking. Yay Big Trot! Boooo bucking.

  2. How are you faring with the storm? I haven't heard from you and I know it was bad down there.

  3. The ice storm fizzled. :( We were all prepared for it too.

    Hey, Daun, weren't you going to go skijoring last weekend? How'd that go?


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