Saturday, January 21, 2012

Today My Horse Reared, and I'm OK with That

Before we talk about the R.I. (rearing incident) I thought I'd talk about two new horses at the barn. The Percheron and the Clydesdale.

These two horse were purchased over the internet by total newbies.

Yes, they know nothing about horses and said "I know, let's get two of the largest kind, over the internet and start riding!"

Unsurprisingly when their two horses arrived (at 2400 pounds a piece), they became a little intimidated.

Duh. I've been riding horses and have had my own for a little over five years now, and I'm intimidated by these mini elephants.

And for no good reason. These have got to be the sweetest, brokest, well trained horses ever (next to Lily). We watched the trainer work them in the round pen and got a chance to ride them. No pictures of me riding, but here's my DH - my friend KC rode and wrote about it here.

Personally I prefer a horse with a shoe smaller than a Frisbee, that doesn't go through a giant bale of hay in two minutes. Still the temperament of these two is remarkable. I rode this mare, she was sensitive to cues and stopped with my seat. Reminded me of Lily.

Their newbie owners are on a horse vacation in Costa Rica (riding Paso Finos, which will be quite a different experience from these super sized horses) and hopefully will come home with some more horse savvy. The horses, for their part, will be warmed up for riding and ready to go.


Now then, the R. I.

As I mentioned there's not much riding going on these days. But today I had time. I was concerned that Smokey was going to have a hard time, having been off work for so long. Sure enough we walked in the round pen and he saw something and spooked.

Fortunately I hadn't untied him yet so I was able to keep him close while I looked for the issue.

The trailer. The draft horse trailer was a big stock trailer with a canvas top.

A flapping canvas top. We all know how Smokey feels about flapping canvas (see parade blog entry by Smokey). So instead of staying in the round pen I decided to walk around the trailer with my snorty boy.

I like finding moments like this. Finding things that worry him, then working him through it. I wasn't always like this, I dreaded these moments. But now its like when your kid gets through something difficult the first time. It's a blessing to be the one that gets them through. Soon I was climbing on the trailer and flapping the canvas by hand since the wind had died down.

Stephanie was saddling up Lily and we decided that Cibolo was blue about being left behind so we decided to give him a pony lesson. (Cibolo is awaiting a new saddle, he's been back sore with his old one). We didn't know if he knew how to pony so starting in the round pen seemed like a good first step. After a few minutes he had it down and we hit the trails.

It was a lovely ride on our local trails, we kept it simple. Cibolo got a little honery and Lily reminded him (without unseating Stephanie in the least - good horse!) to cut it out. We decided to put him up and let the horses run the pasture.

Cibolo didn't like being left behind. He led the two remaining members of his herd on a run along the fence line. Smokey found this EXTREMELY concerning. I was able to get him under control, but I knew this was a lot for him to handle. The herd raced around the fence line, in an out of trees just on the other side. Smokey grew beneath me.

Note to self - don't let the horses out when riding along that pasture. At least not when the alpha is jealous and irritated at being left behind. I could feel the struggle within Smokey. I know how much to ask of him, especially when we haven't been riding steadily.

He was trying, bless him. I stroked him on his neck, corrected him, worked on getting and keeping his focus as horses raced past us. On the fourth run near us, when we were the closest to the herd he began snaking his head. I corrected him mildly (we were riding in a bosal) and he finally went up in a little rear. I got him back down and back under control. I almost got off but waited until we were quiet. We ended our ride calm and safe. No bolt. No jigging back to the barn. No calling and circling.

In the end, he listened. In the end he was with me.

I'm OK with that.

(Of course Lily did NOTHING. Someday Smokey will be at that point too. Someday.)


Carol said...

Interesting re the drafts. You'll have to keep us posted.
Smokey and Lily were very well behaved given the circumstances. Good work. Keeping Smokey busy was smart.

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

I rode a Belgian once in Wyoming and that was so much fun. Their trot is big and long and very easy to ride. Good work on Smokey. He's still on the young side and these experiences will help him mature.

Well done.


Allenspark Lodge said...

That was a win/win with Smokey. Great for his confidence, and not so bad for yours...


Shirley said...

I'm a little floored that people would buy drafters for their first horses, especially with the price of hay down there. But I agree that they usually have wonderful calm temperaments.
Good work with Smokey- and great that it didn't upset you- you are both improving.

aurora said...

Gorgeous drafts! Glad they have you folks to help their new people learn some horse sense...I agree, what were they thinking?

The energy created by pastured horses running up full speed, is something else...kudos to you, and Smokey!

Funder said...

I think I'll have to disagree and say that two well-broke drafts are a pretty good first horse choice! Yes, they got very lucky that the horses are as calm/broke as advertised - but I'd much rather see newbies on drafts than adopting OTTBs, you know?

I'm sorry that Smokey reared, but it sounds like you handled it very well. You've come such a long way, and so has he! Yall rock :)

Grey Horse Matters said...

Ignorance is bliss they say. I'm glad they got these two gentle giants who will most likely take care of them. I love draft horses but even I wouldn't buy one to ride. My Dutch Warmblood was 17-2 hands and a handful, he just spooked a lot. But as sweet and kind as could be on the ground. Now that he's gone I'm sticking to the smaller QH's. Anyway, they look very sweet and I think they'll be fine for their new owners.

I think it's great that you and Smokey worked it all out. And it's a good feeling to know that you and he ended on a calm note. You're right he will get there with your guidance. It all takes time.

Leah Fry said...

Well, I can't say anything, because I bought Poco sight unseen as my first horse. Would I do it again, HELL NO, but I did it. Given the temperament of the drafts I have come to know, they inadvertently made a good choice.

When we ride the pasture at the farm, we have to put the herd in a big pen because the boos mare has been known to "dive bomb." Better safe!

Mikey said...

Love that big grey. I'd take one in a heartbeat!

Once Upon an Equine said...

I'm amazed that the newbies purchased over the Internet, and gentle healthy horses arrived at the barn. I hope they work out well for them. Both are beautiful, but I'm a sucker for gray Percherons. And they may not break the grocery budget after all. Many are relatively easy keepers. I feed my wee foster filly (grade Quarter horse type) more than I feed my Percheron. And if you've seen pictures of Misty, you can see my challenge is keeping weight off of her.

You did a good job with Smokey and the R.I. Glad it was just a little rear.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

I am in awe of draft horses. THey are just too big for me but I think they are beautiful. They are sooo lucky they didn't get "took" buying over the internet and that the horses are healthy and trained.

You have come such a long way with Smokey. I'm proud of you!

Jan said...

Breathe, You handled the RI with Smokey wonderfully! Great that you were aware of his anxiety and kept him busy, and like you said, he stayed, eventually, focused on you! And those draft horses are HUGE! Wow!