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Spoke too soon…

November 23, 2011

Ever have one of those rides that make you feel like you have no business being on the back of a horse?

So I get to the barn, feeling full of happy thoughts and butterflies, convinced that after yesterday’s post  I’d have a lovely ride on my lovely horse in the lovely weather.

Pony is eager to see me, and stands quietly while being tacked. So far, so good. For this ride, I opted to ride her in a rope halter/bridle (basically an ultra-knotted rope halter with reins). The tackroom with her usual bridle was locked, but since she’s been going so good in her sidepull, I figured she’d be ok in the rope halter. It would give her a chance to relax, right? This wasn’t my wisest choice.

As we get to the arena, she starts slowing down and her steps are balky and hesitant. Apparently we don’t want to work today. I finally coax her into the arena, she settles down, and stands perfectly still while I mount. Our walk begins ok but when I get to the far end of the arena, it becomes obvious the rope halter was a poor decision.

Pony does not feel like working today and knows that on the other side of the gate is freedom. When we get to the far side of the arena, she shoves her nose toward the gate. Unfortunately, the mechanics of a rope halter don’t exactly allow me to immediately correct this. She shoves her nose, I apply outside rein. Nothing. I apply inside leg to move her back toward the rail. We trot instead of straighten. Halt. Outside rein. Pissy face. Repeat. I ended up spending  a good portion of my ride fighting her wanting to go back to the gate. The rope halter just doesn’t provide enough motivation for her to listen to me. So we just played tug-of-war until we both got frustrated.

I finally get her listening, sortof; she’s still bracing on the rein, wanting to turn toward the gate. However, we are super stiff and coiled. I decide some walk-halt transitions might help us lengthen and loosen. After a couple of rounds of these, I decide to long trot her to see if that will encourage her to lengthen out. Nope. She’s still coiled, tight, stiff, wanting to turn toward the gate, ears pinned.

I decide to do some serpentines and circles in order to re-focus her and get her mind of that damn gate. At some point we’re circling away from the beloved gate and she slams on the brakes. Not acceptable, so I put my leg on her and get a nasty little buck in response. SO not acceptable. Leg. Buck. Leg. Buck. Leg. Lope. Buck. This is the side of her I call Zelda. Apparently, we really don’t want to work and are quite offended by leg pressure. Her repercussion for this is a multi-lap long trot around the arena. I stop when she starts blowing rollers, and give her a minute to compose herself.

I recognize we’re both frazzled and frustrated at this point, so I just ask her for a walk. She walks off beautifully; she’s soft, her back is lifted, and she’s focused entirely on me. I do a couple walk-halt-back up transitions, which she performs nicely, and decide to call it a day.

It could be worse. She could have taken advantage of being ridden in a rope halter SO much more than she did. And at least we ended on a good note.

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