Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sarcastic mister know it all

Sovereign and I had a tough ride yesterday morning, but it all worked out very well in the end. I learned an awful lot as a rider. I chose my post title today because Red Hot Chili Peppers were singing this when I got in the car to go home from my ride and it suited Sovey perfectly, BUT, in his defense, he only becomes a Sarcastic-Mr.-Know-It-All when I don't give him any direction. In other words, when I as a rider stop paying attention and leading, Sovereign (and probably every other horse in the world) has no alternative but to lead himself.
Everything started out fine. We rode all around the pastures and over to my mom's house for carrots. Sovey was listening perfectly. We headed out through the fields and he was wonderful - calm and quiet. After about 20 minutes, I pulled out my camera. I had cut new grass paths in the hayfield and I was eager to ride on them with Sovey. I also was eager to take photos of the paths, but I should have taken pictures on foot or in the golf cart. Instead, I tried to ride and take pictures and I ended up with a horse under me who was acting badly because he was looking for direction and his rider was fiddling around with a camera. He needed me to be with him and I wasn't really there. So he left. He didn't dump me, but he was gone. He wasn't present anymore. He was back at the barn with Pie.

This is my last photo, blurry because he was rushing and circling with worry, and I put the camera on the ground and attempted to start again. Ha. Very funny. Just because I knew I had made a mistake, didn't mean that Sovey was back with me. He was gone - done listening - done riding - let's get this over and get back to the barn. I circled him in figure eights. He did them rushed and nervous. I dismounted and walked around with him. Still nervous. I remounted and walked in the woods and around. Nothing - Sovey was jigging and chomping his teeth and hurrying. No amount of anything was going to get him back. What should I do? I didn't want to quit like this, but I couldn't get him to realize that I was still riding and we were together and we were a team. Pie was screaming at us from the paddock. When Sovereign is with me, he ignores Pie. When Sovey is not present mentally, he hears Pie and reacts like a volt of electricity is going through him. That is what he was doing at this point in our ride. I rode him back to the pastures and dismounted and opened the gate and remounted inside the pasture. I started thinking about connecting with him by giving him small little cues that he would be able to hear now that we were back in his pasture safety zone. Quiet circles, slight leg yields, and alternating between a collected walk and an extended walk. It took a few minutes (18 to be exact because I timed it) but he suddenly heard me again! I knew he was with me and it felt amazing! I walked him back out the gate and around the paths. What a quiet good boy! No amount of Pie's yelling would alter Sovereign's attention. He was with me and I was with him! Oh happy day! We then had a fabulous ride around the farm.
What an idiot I was in the beginning of this ride. I feel terrible for not paying attention to him. Of course there are horses who are fine with camera fiddling, and of course, some day Pie and Sovey will be too, but they are too young now to "be left alone" on our rides. They need my attention. The whole episode reminded me so much of my motto for life: quality. I believe that you can do anything in life two ways - with quality or without. It is possible to run, drive, clean the house, read, talk, write, cook, teach, do homework, ride horses all on auto-pilot and not really be there. The activity is "completed" but it was done without quality, without focus, and without true meaning and true success. Or, you can be present. It is tough to hold focus for a long time and it takes practice keeping your attention in our hurried, cellphone interrupted society, but if you can do it, the payback is great. I know that my rides are so much better when I am present because my horse is present too. Poor Sovey. I hope he forgives me!


  1. I love your posts - what insight! This is very ZEN and takes a lifetime to learn! You are my inspiration to try to trail ride my Morgan mare all year this year. I'm a little timid about it due to falling off her last summer so I get arena happy and scared about venturing out but I will soon and your posts teach me so much! Thanks!

  2. Great stuff! Sometimes those bad rides are needed to show us what we need to be doing. Some horses will just blop along without any direction, but yours and mine aren't like that!

  3. Hello there sweet!
    Well...when I saw your heading for this post, I was relieved(misery=company thing)...but your toil was not anything like mine yesterday.
    Mine stemmed from 2 weeks off. the mare, new angles on her hooves, stiffness, dusk, know. It turned out okay too...but the mare has become very vocal in ick body language and unlike your writer above that is safe feeling in the arena....I may be moving to one and feel worse for it!
    She really is intimidating me, since that trail trial thing- acting out to get out of doing what she does not want to! I have to dismount to enforce my opionion...and then start over.

    Sovey...well, he knows when you left...understandable. Being a mounted photographer requires skill and E.S.P. (EQUINE SPECIAL PERCEPTIONS) .
    There are the times...verbal descriptions of what the "minds eye" saw, for later in telling the tale, is MUCH SAFER and more present, than the actual photo!

    I still.did like the grassy path with tips of circling Sovey ears in frame. You are wise, and know your horse well.

  4. I know what it's like to have them suddenly leave you. It's not a good feeling because they start reacting to things they normally wouldn't and being irrational about things you ask.

  5. equestrian_librarian - Thanks for the kind comments! It is funny you said ZEN because most of what I learned about QUALITY comes from a 1974 radio interview with Robert Pirsig, the author of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". My husband got an audio file of the interview (it is less than 10 minutes long) and I listen to it in my car to keep me focused before I ride! When I started back riding in 2007 I was arena happy too, but I wanted to go outside. I rode Baja for one lap around the outside of the ring until I felt secure. Each week, I would SLIGHTLY increase the distance away from the ring until I was comfortable going way out. I hope to do a post about this sometime. It is a confidence builder in tiny, little increments.

    Kate - Thanks - you are so right - our horses are NOT "blop along" (Blop Along Cassidy - lol) types! And, the bad rides do teach us so much more than the good rides.

    allhorsestuff - Oh, I am sorry to hear about Wa mare pushing your limits. She is still wigged out maybe from the trail trial stuff. She probably is testing you, but she may be really upset. Either way we have to comfort them into doing what we love - riding through the world!
    You are so camera able - but I agree - sometimes the descriptive words are even better than the photos. I am afraid they will have to do for me for now - no more cameras on my horsey backs for a time.

    Sydney_bitless - I know! They start reacting to things that are really not scary and then they cement them into their brains as scary forever after. Ugh! Getting them back is so important for the next ride, and the next ride after that!

  6. i agree, this was a great post. i used to ride a mare that whenever the cell phone rang and i answered it, she'd walk right off the trail into the bushes.

    or if i had an ipod and i messed with it, suddenly we were not on trail any longer.

    it was her way of saying "you're not with me, then i'm not with you."


  7. I'm with Kate. I think sometimes we learn more on the "bad" rides than we do on the easier ones. because you need something to go "wrong" before you can learn to fix it. I only hope I don't get injured in the process of learning! It IS very hard to ride an take pictures at the same time. Even if you are riding one handed. So many times I get in a sticky situtaion and can't get on top of it quickly because I;ve got the damn camera in my hand! Yesterday at Home Depot I saw a camera in the power tool section. It was made to be dropped and withstand anything! I loved it. Because if I had ne of those and needed to, I could just fling it out of my hands and not worry about it breaking. Sometimes I think Lilly knows I am on her back, distracted. oy vey. That is never a good thing.

  8. Well, I think Sovey was telling you that he listens to you so well, that when he felt you weren't 'talking' with him...he was on his own and defenseless and a bit scared. It does take time, to shut the noise down in their minds and get our quiet volume back in sometimes. I have found myself in similar situations too! I'm so glad that your ride ended up a being a great one! Quality :)

  9. Very nice story! I'm glad you got Sovey to reconnect with you. It is important to always stay engaged with our horse when riding them. I see young girls riding and chatting about their boyfriends/school issues and I wonder whatever is their horse thinking? The horse has to know they aren't thinking about the horse or the riding! Sad to see. But good for you! And how nice that you have those apple trees!


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