Monday, March 1, 2010

A glimpse of being a horseman

It took a bit of a disastrous ride to give me a glimpse of what it is to be a horseman.

On Sunday, it was beautiful, but windy. We loaded up Lily and Cibolo and took them back over to our old stables.

(Here's a photo from the days gone by and a scary barrel that freaked out Canyon way back)

Our old stables are open again, and it really is heaven for horses. I'd consider moving back, but we've gotten really emotionally attached to our present barn.

But when we pulled up and I saw that big pasture, the lighted arena and round pen, I felt a longing.

DH and I saddled up our horses and I warmed up Cibolo. He was doing well, really well given the wind which I thought would have him in fits.

We waited for Trail Rider to arrive with his friend, and rode around the arena. It was great to be in a big arena, cantering around, going through our paces.

It was the trail where I'd finally figure out Cibolo's hole, once and for all.

We headed down the trail, across the stream, then up an embankment. Cibolo got about halfway up, then came apart, crow hopping and jumping up the hill sideways. He was jiggy and freaky for a bit so I got off and worked him a bit.

This is where I glimpsed it. Horsemanship. I realized where his fear was, the slippery footing on the hill, something pings off in his head and it's a long road back.

It's not mud, it's not things brushing against his right hind. It's this incline. Because it happened again. I'd remounted and we headed for the next ditch. He got to the bottom and went to freak out level 3.5 (on a scale of 1-5) - nearly bucking, whirling, scared, scared. I got him to stop. Got off. Walked him up, then lunged for a minute. Then back down the ditch.

You need to know this is okay, Cibolo, I told him.

I backed him up the incline. I made him walk all around it, including the sketchy parts. I did it over and over. Then, at the base of the incline I got on him and we rode up.

That was it. That was my glimpse of being a horseman. I realized my job, finally, is not to just ride well, but to support my horse. To help him cope, learn, move on.

We had one more sketchy moment, and I was off again and it was more backing up inclines. But after that, he stayed rational. The wind didn't bother him. He managed the way back just fine. He wasn't quite all the way with me, but he had calmed down much faster than he had the day I ended up riding alone. I rode him all the way back, and we rode in the arena for a bit. He wasn't happy cantering, but we got through that too.

DH was not thrilled with Cibolo, but I reminded him that I'm attracted to challenging men (a point he had to concede).

He was more shocked that I got back on Cibolo and rode him up the incline after his big episode. "I don't think I could have done that," he said.

You know, six months ago, even a year ago, I couldn't have either.

But now, I can.

Maybe he can be a trail horse. Maybe he can't. I hope I can figure out how better to solve these problems from the saddle and not have to get down to regain his attention. Only time and training (of myself) will tell.

I was going to ride today and work on hills, but it rained. Maybe by Thursday...

(sorry no pictures! It was so beautiful too... )


Denali said...

I think you're my new hero. I would have crawled up in a bawl and cried myself to sleep right there on the trail. Have any extra confidence you want to share with me? :)

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Wonderful job helping your horse. It is work being a leader and sometimes being a leader is just that, getting off and "leading" your horse through an issue. Good for you

Leah Fry said...

I got some inspiration from you as well. Good job!

Breathe said...

LOL Thanks! I was more excited about this than I have been about rides in a long time. Mostly because I felt like I "got it."

It's been a long road for this chicken, trust me. My tail feathers are spread all over Texas. :D

It's going to be a muddy spring, so I should have plenty of opportunity to keep trying to get him over it. and maybe learn something too.

Anonymous said...

Good job using your head and helping out your horse. Very exciting for you and I'll bet he is more confident because of it.

Wolfie said...

Wow! Good for you! What a breakthrough to realize that you needed to help him get through the ordeal and move on. Congratulations!

Shirley said...

If getting off to help Cibolo get through the situation that scared him worked then it was the right thing to do. As you progress, you'll figure out how to do it from the saddle. Check out John Lyons ground work for the calm down cue; and anything you can do to get your horse focused on you. John's book, Communicating With Cues, Part 1 has some wonderful stuff in it.

lytha said...

great how you're figuring him out!

speaking texas (your tail feathers--ROTFL!!!)....

yesterday i saw a TV commercial from 1950. it was a black and white cartoon for a floor wax called Waxa. i was annoyed because the song in the advertisement used the tune of Deep in the Heart of Texas (1941). i bet practically no one here knew where that tune comes from.


Once Upon an Equine said...

Thank you for this is a great example of horsemanship and a reminder that ground work is a valuable aid at any time.

You have a pretty blog.

Tammy in TX said...

It sounds like you are trying to be the leader he needs. By doing what you are doing, you are showing him to trust you. That you aren't going to let anything happen to him. He sounds like the type of horse that needs a confident rider and it sounds like that is what you are. Good job!

Trailrider said...

I'm always concerned that dismounting sends my horse the wrong message. I never want my horse to think that my getting off his back is the "release" he's supposed to look for. If I'm getting off my horse, he is going to wish I hadn't, because I am going to lunge him and move him all over the place, so that he wishes I was back on him. Once on him, I'll send a relax cue and let him associate me mounted as a good thing.

I won't stay on an unsafe horse, but my horse is not getting ANY break if I'm not mounted.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Good for you working him through his concerns. That's the best way to help a horse trust in you and to move forward even when they don't think it's the best idea.


Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds like you handled it just right. Good for you!