Friday, December 20, 2013

Lesson learned: longe first!

Work has continued to be busy and I haven't been getting in many Real Rides.  Actually, I've been missing a weekday entirely most weeks.  The good news is that things should settle down now.

I know that Confetti is in good shape.  I know the dynamics between her and her sister.  I know she hadn't been out in four days, and even then she wasn't tired at the end.  Thinking about it now, our trail ride total for the past two weeks probably totals 3 or 4 counting yesterday's ride.

It was, for the most part, really lovely.  I tacked up, hopped on, met up with Fetti's sister and rider, headed out for a brisk ride of a mile/mile and a half.  We were short on daylight and decidedly not short on pony energy.  Brisk trot on the way out, one spot where she cantered up the hill.. I should have taken that as a sign.  I should have longed her first, honestly, but it's always so much easier to see that in hindsight.

When we turned around, I had a bit of a firecracker on my hands.  She was mad at me that I wasn't letting her run home.  I schooled downward transitions as a way to keep things under control - trot politely a bit, back down to a walk if she started pulling.  It's that balance between letting her move out a bit and controlling the dragon inside.  Also in hindsight: I know she walks home perfectly well 99% of the time.  I knew what I was dealing with and I probably should have made her walk.

She threw a buck or two shortly after we turned around.  Pony was irritated and making a point.  Yelled at her, trotted off, fine.  I don't like it, but I know she's doing it because she wants to move out.  Quarter mile later and over halfway home, I think I asked for another trot-walk transition and she did it again.  Except this time had more energy and frustration to it - two 'polite' bucks, the third that (I'm told) made her look like a rodeo bronc.  I stuck the first two.  I did not stick the third and I'm not actually sure that I could have.

Side note: I know the theory that they can't buck when they're going forwards.  In this case, she's bucking because I'm not letting her go forwards.  It feels like it would be rewarding the bad behavior to send her forwards at a brisk trot or canter.  That's what she wants!  I also know that she was previously trained out of bucking.. by getting her to bolt instead.
Two things become clear from this incident.  One: she does not rate well enough headed home, and that gets substantially worse when leading other horses.  Two: I absolutely cannot give her four days off in a row and expect to just hop on for a pleasant trail ride.  If I give her four days off, we need to be going out for several hours, not 30 minutes, and it probably needs to be solo so we can keep up a pace that works for us.

Unfortunately, going over her head meant my usual falling skills were a bit challenged.  My shoulder took the worst of the impact and for the first time in years I hit my head with enough force to immediately know that a new helmet was going to be needed.  No concussion, no broken bones, no blood.  Everything was moving, mostly, although my shoulder is still screaming at me the next morning.  (Getting it looked at to confirm that it's all muscle/soft tissue damage is on the agenda for the day.  I may or may not go for a few hour trail ride first.)

The thing with becoming a better rider and sticking more antics is that the little stuff doesn't get you off, so it's the Really Big Stuff and that usually Really Hurts.  Argh!

Next goal: re-acquire a polite slow-to-medium trot home on a reasonably loose rein, regardless of circumstances.  I have a funny feeling that will get easier when I ride her as much as I was the rest of the year.  Eight miles a week rather than 25 is a pretty substantial difference.


  1. Ugh, sorry to hear you had a rough go.

    When she's being naughty going home, do you have steering and a reasonable amount of space? I know the make-'em-listen-and-go-slow-or-stop approach is popular, but I have never liked it; I find circling and doing figures ad nauseum (and then continuing in the original direction of travel when and for as many steps as they're pleasant about it) to be much more effective and horse-friendly.

  2. Space, yes, usually. Steering, sometimes! If I can get her nose pointed the opposite direction of where she wants to go, it's a pretty effective halt. I did try that a few times yesterday and may try incorporating that more often. I like the concept!
    I'm mostly asking for a walk because I know she has sense enough to walk politely 99% of the time (at least if in front, which is where our issues lie with this). As long as I have brakes and semi-steering, I can settle for just about any speed in the right context, but our brakes have been broken a few times lately and that scares me a bit.