Sunday, May 11, 2014

Today’s Change


I just came home from the most blissful, idyllic ride on my horse.  I rode a pleasure horse today. Oh, I doubt we’d have won any ribbons for the event called that, had there been a judge squirreled away in the woods with a notepad.

What I had was a horse that was a pleasure to ride at all gaits. We even galloped a little for the first time since “all the mess started.”

A couple small spooks and startles at the beginning coupled with some anxious hurry feet told me I needed to get things right. I led Royal in a half circle forward with my inside rein, utilizing outside rein and leg to keep him from sweeping out of the arc.  Lightly backed a couple of steps. Paused, settled, backed a half circle so we were facing the way we were headed.

Royal was straight and true between my hands and legs. I had little fear those front legs would suddenly prop into the ground then wheel into a lawn dart creating spin. My faith in him and in myself was completely justified.

Come to where I want to be done, I sit up and he is slowing before I ever have to touch the reins. We drop back to the loose reined, level headed walk we’ve been enjoying and continue along our way. More about that later.

Happy trails

Third day, second class, Peter Campbell clinic. The big doors at the end of the arena are open, allowing welcome sunlight to spill across the floor. Normally this alone would be worth high suspicion to the Arabian. Add to the equation, the mule penned just beyond, a horse and a variety of humans walking suddenly into and out of sight.

We do this class mounted and to warm up I pointed my horse straight at the scary spot. If he would have had difficulty, we would have found a place to work until he could have gone there. 

Bravely he goes where I point him, gets a little high as I am asking him to circle, watching his ears. I do the half circle, back up, and his feet square up under me. He stands until I ask him to resume the circle. We get a little ways into it, something bothers him, and it’s the half circle, back up again. He softens and that part of the barn, like the once terrifying corners are now no issue. And now we get the ears. I feel how his body changes as his feet get right, mind solidly with me.

Until the bomb goes off. I kid you not. We have had motorcycles and shooting in the background all weekend, and suddenly a huge WHOOMP. My horse skitters a few steps into the arena, pulls up easily and we go back to whatever we were doing.

“Hey Peter!” I call out. “This one’s not bomb-proof!”

It was worth a pretty good laugh at the time and Royal’s response, so low key, compared to what it would have been say on Tuesday, back in Nebraska was no joke at all.

Thursday, this week back home, I haul Royal to an event. A pre event really.  He gets loaded into my friend’s three horse slant, first time we have tried this since . . .

I step up on the ramp to feed the line through the open window and keep it out of our way. Clop, clop, Royal is right there with me, eyeing me brightly. “We go in now?”

No, buddy, just you, and let me get out of the way. He calmly steps in, I ask him to move over so I can put up the butt bar. No trauma, no drama. Unloads the same way, a little hurry coming down the ramp, allows me to stop him, wait, one slow foot after another, done.

We are camping at a friend’s house, along with several others before our annual Friday Before Mother’s Day Ride.  The plan is a short road ride Thursday evening then all the fun of horse camping with girl friends, including a couple from Texas that we do not get to see nearly often enough.

At Vasa's

So thrilled I actually am able to take him places, finally!

It’s a smaller group, maybe 8 or 9? I figure excellent size to test my horse’s readiness for what will be a much larger pack in the morning.

Royal flunked his trial run with flying colors. For whatever reason, going out the drive, someone dumped kerosene, someone else threw a match and our level headed horses all got high and goofy at one time. Most of the seasoned ones came down pretty quick, but not my boy.

We jigged, nose flinging to the sky, tight Arabian ears nearly touching at the tips. I took him out front rather than fight with him in the mix.

Did everything I knew to help him find a comfortable place to be. He got worse and worse, I feel the horse gather to get some air under us.

Time to stop,  get control of the feet and work things out. I didn’t want to inconvenience the others by asking them to wait while we found our brain.

When the dread loping in place showed up, I called it quits, excused us from the group and peeled off. We would head back, ride our own ride, and I would find my horse.

There were some pyrotechnics over that decision. He was overexcited with the group but he damn sure did not want to leave them either.

No matter. He was going to. I was careful not to let him get his feet set to launch us. When he rebelled against backing and sat down to rear, I sent him forward. When he decided to bolt, I spun his ass around and set his feet.

I met his resistance with equal pressure and added a percent of my own, as Peter told us to do. I won’t tell you I might not have overkilled it a couple of times, but I got through.

You will move your feet when and where I say. You get naughty, you find trouble. You get nice, I am oh so nice right along with you.

Sooner rather than later, the turbulence changed to sulky acquiescence, then he forgot about being mad and we had a nice ride all by our onesies.

It wasn’t what I wanted but it gave me a road map for what we needed to do to succeed the next day.

It’s a big ride but my friends, Corie and Annette (Texas) agreed to hang back with me til everyone else rode out. They understood it might be fits, starts, training exercises and I was not even at all sure we would make the entire loop.

The ride 061

Zip and Royal, patiently waiting

They gave me an enormous gift, supported me and my horse through a sometimes difficult first seven miles out. We would do okay in front until Royal saw other horses up ahead, then it was a hooves on riot. Corie’s good Zip was feeding off of Royal’s energy and he got high as a kite when we took the lead. There was no win to this.

I started to become angry at one point and then I hear Peter say, “It’s a 51/49 per cent partnership, but sometimes the horse is going to come up with the ideas.”

I went with Royal, knowing I could not stop his jigging feet.  Rather than go to full war with him like I did for 21 miles on the WORST ride of our lives, I made it be my idea. We trotted lightly, we worked on soft feel. It was not the most successful ever but we made progress. And we sometimes walked calmly. We found golden moments upon which to build.

Leaving the lunch area we rode out with a larger group, some dear friends from Sioux City had come down and I very much wanted to see and spend some trail time with them. It was not to take place.

Threats of winged flight, I feel him shift back to surge forward in a mighty rebellious leap. I pull him off to the side, no way I am letting that happen.

Then I will rear up!! NO, the hell you won’t!!

We do go to war then. I set his hip over, bring the front around, he does it in a mad clattering whirl, stepping on himself, and getting more upset all the while. (GET THE FEET RIGHT, TERRI).

I slow myself down, stop allowing the dervish. I decide to ride him alone and we will find ourselves. Corie joins me (I am not sure if she thought I was going to kill Royal or vice versa).

Our hyped up spotted horses jig together, and again, I make it my idea. I feel the feet, set down in my saddle, gather my reins in one hand. My left slides down the rein and I bring up my hand. This sends his hindquarter rolling behind and I straighten him with the outside rein, setting his feet.

Royal stands briefly, pauses really, and off he goes. I allow him to make the mistake and with no malice, reach down, roll him over behind again, straighten. We do this a few times and now he is standing. I ask him to move forward and he walks.  He settles.

We lose it a little on the way home but only a little and it’s not hard to bring him back. Royal and Zip walk right out, and we catch other riders on their way back. Royal thinks about being concerned but realizes he isn’t really and we go on our way. Huge corner turned there.

Almost home, Corie is sick of Zip’s jigging as well and begins to practice the maneuvers I show her. Works on him, too Smile

Today’s change shows up tomorrow.

Peter has told us that many times. That tomorrow would be today.

I was tired, a little sore from that 15 mile jaunt and was not sure I would ride today. Started a new baby Thoroughbred to lead at the ranch. I left Royal tied to the side of the trailer, following the advice of my CTR friends and hung his hay bag to give him something to do. He was a little whiny, he wants that fancy shiny thing back. I told him to get a job or like what he has.

After the baby, a darling friendly forward thing, we ride. It’s the best. I mean the best ever,  maybe in a life that’s seen some good rides.

Best ride ever

Thank you, Peter. We would not be here, without you. See ya in September.

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