Friday, November 27, 2009

The first five minutes

The article in Horse and Rider said that your horse decides in the first 5 minutes of a ride whether or not you're going to be able to keep him safe. If, during those five minutes, your horse tests you and you miss it, then you've signaled you are not the leader of this ride.

The article is on riding solo a barn sour/herd bound horse. And, as all these articles recommend, the advice is ground work.

It's been a long time since I took Cibolo to the round pen. I decided I needed to see where we were.

The answer was ugly. Several times he refused to turn until I really raised the pressure. His gaits were of his choosing initially.

This was a mess. But it was where we were.

I swallowed both my anger and pride and started with firm pressure. Every time he changed gaits without my signal, I turned him. At first he was snorting and getting aggravated. I remained calm and firm.

Turn. Walk. No, not trot. Turn. Walk. Walk. Now trot. No, not canter. Turn. Trot. Good.

After about 15 minutes he was responding as he should. We did some at liberty walking around the round pen.

Then I got on. Same thing again.

The article noted that in those first five minutes, your corrections should be strong and so should your relax signals. So as he went into a trot instead of staying in a walk, I pulled him back seven steps. Turn. Try again.

After a few minutes he settled into listening. So we went for a trail ride. Alone. It was getting darker, so I just went up the hill trails to see where we were.

Several times I caught my own anxiety rising and his, an answering echo. So I firmed up myself and we went on.

At one point he was getting anxious on his own and I was getting irritated. He was getting worse. I was flashing back to what I tried to do in Conception. One rein stop. Easy! Cut it out! Then I realized something.

You need me to relax, don't you?

So I did, but maintained firm aids. Leaders do not freak out, Winter. I took a relaxing breath and gave him clear signals to drop his head. And, slowly, he responded.

I got off at one point, not because it was needed, but just to do so.

And yes, we cantered, once. Just to check the box, to be honest.

There's a trail ride on tap for today. It'll be interesting.


Life at Star's Rest said...

What a journey you are going on with Cibolo! I truly believe that you get the horse you need and each of your horses has taught you so much. Then when you need to relax and find the joy again, you have your Lilly to ride. It's a good place. Carmon

Kate said...

Very good work - he's a horse who seems to really need you to step up - even if that means relaxing, and you're certainly rising to the challenge!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

That article is right on! When I used to take me barn sour mare out by myself, I always had to prove my leadership before we even left the paddock. She would pull her drunken sailor routine and weave towards the barn, and she woudl give me a few crowhops. But if I stayed firm and worked her through it BEFORE we even left, my ride would be uneventful. If I was in hurry or impatient to get out there and didn't prove myself to her EVERY time, my mare would give me heck at some point on the trail.

Good for you always learning and trying to work through the issues that he asks you to. I admire your toughness and perserverance.

You go, cowgirl!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh hey! I saw your comment asking about the ACTHA trail ride in April on HAAH and wanted to be sure you saw my reply, so here it is:

Yes, it's April 10th, 2010. That would be great if you could make it out here. Would you ride Cibolo or Lily?
I wouldn't exactly say we are just a block away from Carmon, though. Not sure where your Dad lives. Did you mention Santa Fe sometime before?
Carmon lives about 3 hours away from us, up north of Santa Fe. We are just 20 minutes east of Albuquerque.

Check out the American Competetive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) for more info on becoming a member and the rules, info and where and when the rides are. There are a slew of rides in Texas, too.

Here's the link:

(Click on Rides and Locations and then scroll down and click on "Wild Bunch Meets Hole in the Wall Gang" in Estancia. All the info for the ride is located on that page that comes up.

Hope you can come out to New Mexico, too. We can all support and encourage one another and have fun. :)


Nancy said...

I am new to horseback riding and am having trouble getting any horse to do what i want. I have suspected i was most likly the problem, but this blog has helped.

Trailrider said...

I could not agree more with the first 5 minutes thing...I'd much rather be VERY firm in the first 5 minutes and establish my dominance, to avoid having to do it later. It just doesn't work as well later.

Reminds me of when I used to substitute teach...if I didn't establish the ground rules right away, the rest of the period was a disaster.