Thursday, October 1, 2009


First, before I vent about my very own Tennessee Walker, yall should go read this about padded horses:

Padding and its Effect on Walking Horses

Hoof nerds - look at those feet and angles and tell me that's not mechanical founder. Those poor horses. They are amazingly resilient though - I should take pictures of Dixie's feet so you can see how awesome hers look now.

Ok. MARES. Why on earth did I get another mare? Why didn't I get a gelding, or a stallion, or even a mule? Maybe owning a mare is good practice for owning a mule...

I had a couple of great rides with S this week. Dixie has decided that Summer, S's stallion, is an acceptable creature, and she's a-ok with following Summer now, or even riding in front but not going too fast for him. We even got a bit of running walk on a flat sandy bit of trail! She was so sticky last time we set off alone, though, that I knew I needed to ride her solo some more. My husband is bringing home pizza for dinner (YAY PIZZA!) so I rode this afternoon by myself.

Dixie was glad to see me and even let me brush her mane for a while before she got antsy. She lined up beautifully at the mounting block, but that was the last of her good behavior. It took us thirty minutes to get near the entrance of the driveway - today was garbage day, and there were demonic trash cans by the road. I tried everything - when she backed I made her back twice as far. When she refused to go forward I'd spin her in circles then ask for forward again. When I thought she was just being stubborn, I whacked her with the end of the reins, and when I thought she was scared I sat calmly, breathed regularly, and let her stare at the cans. Eventually we were saved, somewhat, by the arrival of the hay truck.

After the hay truck came in past us, I got off and led her up to the garbage cans and let her smell them and nose them. Then I dragged two of the cans (but not the recycling bins) back down by the house, got on, and rode out. Dixie was still not so sure about this nonsense, but she went. Kind of.

We slowly made it down the dirt roads to the start of a trail. When she realized I meant for us to ride down the trail, she started rushing. I got off and led her down the narrow bit of the trail, intending to get back on where the trail widened out. Near the point where the trail widens out, we saw two chipmunks hanging out on a boulder. Well, I saw chipmunks on a boulder; she apparently saw the tentacles of the Boulder Demon. Her head went straight up, her ears locked on to that rock, and her eyes bugged out. She snorted and tossed her head bravely as we walked over to the boulder to investigate.

After we thoroughly checked the rock out, we walked to the wide trail and I went to get on. She started walking in circles as soon as I got a toe in the stirrup - something she hasn't done for months - and I lost it. I whacked her with the end of the reins and yelled "If you don't stand still, I am going to kill and eat you before the wolves ever get here!" She looked at me like "oh shit, my bad" and stood like a statue while I climbed up and got my off foot in the stirrup, and even waited for me to cue her to walk off.

Every juniper potentially contained a monster, so we ricocheted down the trail trying to keep as far away from the trees as possible. She racked a bit but mainly held a nice fast walk. I kept breathing calmly, kept my legs calm, and kept my hands just active enough for her to remember me up there. We made it home safe and sound, and she wasn't even sweaty.

Tomorrow we're supposed to ride again with S, but I think I will go out a few hours early and we'll do that exact same trail again, then go out again with S. I don't want a horse that's only good when she has buddies! I'm very very pleased that she's so good with a companion, but we'll keep working at riding alone.


  1. Wow! As far as I can tell, you are doing *all the right stuff* to teach a stubborn mare the skills for trail work without a buddy. I can't tell you how comforting your posts are to me, as I am coping with my own stubborn mare on a lot of the same issues! Argh.

    As for TWH "stacked" shoes, I shudder. There is plenty of evidence to show that high heels for humans (which, as you say, can be removed at the end of the day) cause plenty of permanent damage--if I were trying to defend the practice, that's NOT the right tactic! Give me a good, sound, flat-shod gaited horse any day.

  2. Tonka was circling on me for the last re-mount down on the dike the other day (his mind was just blown, I think). Dikes are tricky because they're about 15 feet wide with steep embankments on either side so I had to resort to having someone hold him for me. Maybe I'll try your approach next time! Riding out a alone is a hard skill, and one that only comes with lots of practice I find. Good luck!

    imaters: folks who get it on over the toobs

  3. Oddly enough, Maisie does better on the trail when we're by ourselves. Maybe it's all the ground driving we did by ourselves when I first took her on the trail. In company, she reverts to "I'm a racehorse" mode - she was never a racehorse and is only half TB - and worries a lot, about her position in line, how fast we're going, trying to go faster than the others, etc. I also prefer to ride her alone because I can pay better attention to her - that might have some relationship to the fact that she does better alone.

    Your horse was brave to trust you through all that when she was nervous!

  4. I admit - I adore mares. Farley is pretty good, but she does have her "mare" days. It's hard to tell since I've never ridden a gelding extensively (except for the civil war teams).

    Mares are like girls - with curls on their forehead (almost wrote "horns" LOL). When they are good, they are very very good. But when they are bad they are very naughty indeed.

  5. Thanks, AareneX - I hope I'm doing the right things with her. It's such a balancing act, being supportive of her fears while not letting her outstubborn me!

    dp - I cannot say I recommend the whack-and-scream method of mounting! Use at your own risk ;)

    Kate - Champ was only good when he was alone. He was awful to ride with other horses - dragged along 50 yards behind them or jigged ahead pretending to be a racehorse. But alone with me, he was alert but not spooky, responsive, and tons of fun. Isn't that weird, how some horses are better alone?

    Mel - Honestly, I really love Dixie's marish ways. It's an extra challenge, but it's so much fun to get it right. You're right, when she's good she's very very good!

  6. I also find your post inspirational. I have a mare that has been shown since she was a weanling. She's 10 and I'd like her to be able to go out on trails on occassion. You'd think after 10 years of showing, she'd be bombproof. Well, only if the bomb goes off at a show. Out and about is apparently way too scary for her and we're still working on getting down the drive and out the front gate!! LOL! Great post!! Thanx!
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