Sunday, January 25, 2009

(Bridle) Pathways

Do you ever feel like you're not on the right path? Or wonder where the hell the path you're on is taking you? I feel like that all the time.

Last week, on the 21st, was the two year anniversary of the day I took ownership of Missy. I had a lesson, which have been rare these days, and we cantered in a big circle off the lunge line. I'm learning to be more gentle when I ask and to open my shoulder so it is easier for her to turn, I tend to tense up on the right side when we start going fast. I felt really good and stable in my seat and in control, even though she'd been grumpy the whole lesson.

Two days later we were riding on our own in the big (jumping) arena. I was determined to ride even though I was in a melancholy mood. I rode myself mostly of my funk and wanted to continue our new routine of having her canter for a few steps in each direction at the end of our ride. To the right, perfect: she picked up the right lead, didn't bend to the inside too much, and even slowed to the trot instead of to the walk. So now I'm feeling pretty confident.

And we all know what happens when you start feeling too big for your riding breeches, right? Your horse makes sure you know that they've got your number.

Instead of staying in a big circle at the end of the arena where there aren't any jumps, I decide I want to go all the way around the perimeter. I get onto the straightaway to the left and ask her to canter, she picks it up and for the first few steps everything is fine. Then we pass the first jump and she realizes I'm not going to make her stay in a circle. In an instant, she puts her ears back and kicks into another gear -- now we are full-on galloping. Immediately I start to try to pull her back but instead I end up turning her head to the left, which makes her veer to the inside. Now we are headed straight for an oxer jump with white gate stantions and I think, she's either going to balk or she's going to jump it, either way, I'm bracing to fall. At the last possible second she pulls up and lifts her front hooves over the right hand side stantion. I honestly have no idea how we didn't hit anything. She stops on a dime, snorting and pawing. I guess she had fun. I almost had a heart attack. The girl lunging in the round pen asked if I was OK, apparently she saw the whole thing. "She seems hyper today", she says, and I say something to the effect that she's always like that. "Oh, she always runs out from under you like that?", she says, and instantly I feel like a complete idiot. I mumble something about her being green at the canter and ask Miss to walk.

I get her untacked and curried and settled into her stall and finally sat down on the tack room step and started to cry. I could still taste the metallic flavor of the adreneline in my mouth. I felt like I'd taken a huge step backwards. Isn't that always the way?


  1. Opening lines of this post: yep, I feel like that all of the time! ;)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. Now I've found yours! I think Missy is a such pretty horse. Don't get too discouraged, my mom is a newbie rider, just over a year, and I've seen her go through the ups and downs of trying to figure it all out. It can be frustrating. I don't feel like many of us will really ever have it all figured out when it comes to horses! ;)

    I love your goldens too, they are one of my faves!

  2. I can't believe it's been 2 years! And as for Miss, well, y'know, I bet she was just all excited to be doing something new. Brsides, the whole running away thing? That happens to everybody, and if they tell you different, they're lying. You're doing absolutely fine.

  3. Oro is right - we all get caught in runaways...
    'Though for Mr B, it's more about jumping sideways & slamming on the brakes ;-) he is sure doing a number on my lumbar vertebrae!
    I have a desperate need for a couple of Tylenol & a soak in a hot bath after a long ride... Slow steady progress, that's all we can hope for.

  4. With never know what you are going to get. I had a horrible day with Maddy on Saturday...she drove me almost to tears. She was so explosive, rearing and angry, I didn't even get to ride. Today...the best horse in the world. The monster was no where to be seen. My only really hard to make the next visit with Miss positive. Today..I did all ground work..didn't even saddle her up. I kept her mind busy with new games I thought up over the weekend..I brought out tons of jumps and obstacles and really pushed her on quality of things she already knows. Good luck...we all have those days, just exhale and get rid of it. Tomorrow is a new day.

  5. Honey, I feel like a stranger in a strange land every day. It sounds like you both faced a fear today, and took one another for a ride! Don't lose heart. Every step is a step in the right direction even if the mind doesn't label it as 'forward'. Keep making those steps! That's how we learn. Do not judge the Self...or the Equine! I think mixing things up is a good way to keep Miss on her hoofy toes, and that keeps you in the driver's seat, no matter what she does with it. I think you done really good...
    :) Bird
    P.s... Thanks for checking in. I really appreciate it, and I echo your comment.

  6. Hi again, hey thanks for stopping by my blog the other day. I really appreciate your comments. And in answer to your question about losing weight for the wedding. It's definitely not about the wedding. But rather about a great incentive for me to lose weight...and a goal with a purpose I guess. I've been steadily gaining weight ever since a back injury I had 2-1/2 years ago and have gotten out of control and depressed feeling about it. So, here's my chance to set a goal and have a real reward at the end. If I can get in my swimsuit and not cry or scare the small children, I'll be happy. I want to wear a sundress and some shorts in Hawaii and feel good about myself when I'm in Hawaii and not feel like a beached whale or self-conscious and just enjoy myself and the beautiful surroundings. Now, about your ordeal with Missy and her little outburst the other day. I am proud of you for not falling off!! I think your reaction to her misbehaving was completely expected. #1, tears are a very common response to an adrenaline rush when it's all over and you're okay - it's called release. #2 - you were embarrassed that someone witnessed the event. That always sucks.
    But, it could have been a lot worse, you could have fallen off and possibly gotten hurt. You didn't. You remained seated and your horse now realizes that her little scene didn't get her anywhere. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!! You did good!! Next time, if she tries something like that again, take hold of your inside rein and slowly and calmly turn her nose around into a small circle. She will slow down and you will have taken charge of the situation and have regained complete control of her. You'll know it and Missy will know it. Remember, it's pretty hard for your horse to gain any speed when their nose is turned in towards your foot. Practice this maneuver over and over and over until you and she learn it precisely. It's called a one rein stop and it works. Don't jerk. Just smoothly and calmly pull your inside rein in towards your inside leg. Practice at the walk first and gradually increase to other gaits.

  7. Donna, I know it has seemed like such a struggle with Missy but you are not in this alone. We all struggle as we go down this road that leads to understanding horses. Just like any other road there are ups and downs, it is all part of the journey. It isn't just you....or Missy.

    The one rein stop is something all riders need to know. C-spots is right about practicing it so you understand it when you need to use it (notice I said when...because there always is a "when.") It is important that your horse and you both understand the mechanics of it before you have to use it. That will insure a good outcome when it is necessary to employ the stop.

    On the outside chance it does not work (there are horses so talented they can drop their outside shoulder and escape.....I know I own several like that.) it is also good to practice applying a little outside rein now and then during your practice sessions to get the "feel" for catching that shoulder.

    A horse cannot go through a one rein stop with its shoulder properly engaged. If the stop is not working with one rein, catching that shoulder will the outside rein will fix the problem. I know that adding this information makes things sound more difficult but if you practice it you will be able to feel the difference when the outside rein is added to the turn.