Saturday, July 19, 2008

Progress - another day without a buck

It's amazing what a little tough attitude and spins has done to Canyon. He's so much better, I wonder if he's even the same horse.

Today we went on a trail ride at the trails around Canyon Lake, even swimming in the lake at the end. And despite the fact there were four separate deer episodes (where deer suddenly bound by, looking remarkably like lions about to pounce on the poor defenseless horses - at least that's what they looked like to a pair of horses) and one sudden dove airlift, Canyon did not buck.

He didn't even try to buck. Sure, he spooked. But even Lily, the calm sorrel quarter horse, spooked on those. When he spooked, he jerked in place, one time he spun, just like Lily did. But in the end he didn't try to run, didn't buck, didn't freak out.

It was like I was on a different horse.

I had to spin him to keep his attention, had to do the special exercise to get him to lower his head and bend at the poll. I had to keep engaged the entire ride, but it was a much easier ride this time out.

Is he cured? Not likely. I suspect it's pretty much what Rudy said after he worked with Canyon for a day while I was out of town:

I don't think I found out anything about Canyon that you didn't already know. He's a skittish horse that one can't really relax fully on, and he needs a firm hand on him to keep him focused on the job at hand rather than the distractions of the stables or the trail.

But I think that what Canyon needs is what a lot of horses need. I'm thinking that I have done more to train MYSELF than I have any other horses. I have had to learn to be dominant with ALL the horses I ride, be it Spirit, Scout, Canyon, Beautiful, you name it. With ALL of those horses, I like to lead on a halter well, without crowding, have a good round pen session where I assess their personality for that day (because it can change daily), assert my dominance in the round pen to my satisfaction, and ride with authority...

I'm starting to think that having a good relationship with a horse is about the rider most of the time.
Damn. Means it was about me. Diplomatically, but accurately put. I never had to learn to boss around a horse. In all the dozen times I watched the Black Stallion or International Velvet or Flicka, I didn't remember a single scene involving bossing around the horse.

We'd have all been better off if they had a little round penning in those movies. Instead we hop on these horses, ride them around, then find out that they need a lot more than saddles and bridles. They need a tough mare. Or stallion, I guess.

While I don't quite believe that everything that goes wrong with a horse is completely the rider's fault, I do believe it is the riders responsibility. It's my responsibility to know I have a skittish horse that needs confidence building - but I didn't make him skittish. I do have to make sure all my behavior and training doesn't inadvertently make him more skittish - which I think the soft hand approach was definitely doing.

It was a great ride and I'm going to bask in it for a day. Tomorrow, training continues, I'm only in Day Three of the Stop the Bucking Course...

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