Today I rode Sovereign bareback. Here we are sneaking under the forebay and heading out on our ride. Sadly, the morning sun gave way to icky wind and grey skies. Sovey did not seem to mind. He walked on a long relaxed rein all around the barn and inside the pastures and in the front yard. Out back, he did circle quickly and try to return whenever I went too far from Pie.
I don't like the quick circling and return attempts. It tells me I took him farther than his comfort zone. That makes me mad at myself. He is very calm and enjoys our rides, but after being away for 30 days it is apparent to me that I rate low compared to his best buddy, Pie. This buddy sour behaviour is slight, but still it is there. This happened last year too, and is only natural since the horses spent every second of every single day together. Sovey needs me to ride him where he is comfortable for a week and then slowly push the boundaries. I listen to him, but the immature kid inside of me tries to take it too far, too soon. He wheeled around behind my grandmother's house. He wasn't insistent or rough, but with enough zeal to let me know that he would rather go back. Unfortunately, that opens a can of worms because I can't just let him think that quickly turning for home is a good behaviour, so then I have to work some small circles and figure eights and nonchalantly return to his safe area like I meant to do that all along. It could have all been avoided if I would have just taken it slowly, but I am stupid sometimes.
My eagerness was caused by seeing this gorgeous trail earlier. Mom and I went cross-country skiing all over the farm and I fantasized about riding Sovereign back through the trails.
Nice hat, Mom! She will be ticked that I put this photo of her skiing today on the blog but I think she looks adorable.
Even at my age, I find it difficult to do the right thing and be patient with my horses when there are new and exciting riding conditions. It snows and the trails are gorgeous and I suddenly forget that I was away for a month and need to go slow with my two young horses. That is what happened today and the same thing happened yesterday without the snow as an excuse.
Yesterday, I rode Pie, and he wasn't "bad" or anything like that, but I could tell as we grazed after our ride that he wasn't completely relaxed either. He ripped nervously at the grass. I rushed him into a ride, when he really wasn't ready. Pie doesn't exhibit buddy sour behaviours, but he gnaws nervously when I ask for too much. It was the first ride on Pie since I have been home, and I let the thrill of riding him again get the best of me. He was nervous when I groomed him so after tacking up I walked him (me on the ground) around the ring. He did his normal anxious head twists and head butts until he calmed and sighed/snorted and walked nicely in his own space. This is my sign that he is ready. But, he became fidgety again when I tried to get on. I should have just kept walking and then untacked and grazed again and not ridden at all. But I am a dumbhead. So when I got on he turned his hind quarters away from the mounting block and I mounted in a jumbled mess. Then, I realized my error and dismounted and asked him again to stand quietly beside the mounting block. He nervously grabbed a rein and started chewing on it. I took it out of his mouth and inadvertently got my thumb in his mouth while he was still chewing the rein. He bit my thumb (accidentally). I am not a masochist, but I was grateful for the pain because it brought everything to a halting stop. I stood there with him beside me. I was silently wincing but it forced me to stop moving and stand beside him. He stood still for a long time. I remounted and he was perfect and I gave him many "Good Boy" praises. Pie adores "Good Boy" almost more than food. We walked around and he was super good. I can't say too much bad about the ride. He hates the ring and tries to duck out (I leave the gate open on purpose) but when I asked him to walk by the gate he did. A low flying helicopter went over and I leaned forward, stayed with him (grabbed mane!) and patted him reassuringly and he was perfect. We circled in patterns and he was good, but not having fun. We then went out and I wanted to just go around the barn. He wanted to go to my mother's house and I let him talk me into that. Another error. He was perfectly good, but he just isn't really ready for that yet. He got the carrots that he was after, but he was more twitchy and antsy than if we would ride closer to the barn for a few days and then venture over.
This all sounds ridiculous, I guess, but with these two horses, it isn't as much about dangerous behaviours as it is about their confidence in the future. I can feel when they are confidently moving forward, venturing farther over our land, wanting to leave the property and that is what I want. I can feel their confidence when I stay in their comfort zone and slowly make it wider.
Yesterday and today I pushed too far, too fast and lost their confidence in me. I have to remember to quit early. That is SO difficult when I am riding because I never want to dismount. Never.
Oh please don't be so hard on yourself. You inspire me as a horse "Mommy" and at least you know them well enough to know their needs! I aspire to that.ReplyDelete
It's hard when they've been off for a while - finding the edges of their comfortable space is hard. Don't be hard on yourself - there's nothing that they haven't already forgiven and sometimes you have to push the boundaries a little bit to test things out.ReplyDelete
Why do you never want to dismount? - I do it from time to time.
I also think you're too hard on yourself. You pushed them a little bit, read the signs, took remedial action that didn't reward them for wanting to stay in their comfort zone but got them back into it. Yeah Juliette! Anyway, who could resist those snowy trails?ReplyDelete
You're doing amazing with two young and energetic horses!
If you never push them how do you find where boundaries are? If you have no boundaries then you have nothing to work on. Someitmes boundaries come in the form of herd bound horses, other times it comes as spooking, rearing, bucking etc. Just gotta know how far you can push those boundaries before they rebound upon you..ReplyDelete
ps- If you haven't already seen it we have a "why you ride bitless" post at my blog. Zoe needs some input for a 1 hour talk shes giving about bitless bridles (not brand specific) and needs some photos and or testimonials etc. I know you have some very good experience and insight if you would be willing to give some :)
Thanks for the encouraging comments! I am hard on myself because I love these horses so much and I don't want to mess them up!ReplyDelete
Kate - I don't mind dismounting a million times a ride if necessary, but I meant that at the end of the ride I "never want to dismount" as in I want to ride forever! I never want a ride to end so therefore I ride longer (and farther) than the horse wants to. I need to find a horse that wants to just keeping walking for hours and likes it too. Does he exist? Sometimes I just want to ride right off my property and keep going.
Sydney - I'll head over now to see - thanks!ReplyDelete
Juliette, Oh, I can sympathize with you! I, too, have done some things that my horse wasn't ready for yet, and thought, darn, I know better! But the good part is that you realized what they needed and you made adjustments. You are so thoughtful and kind to your horses - they will be fine, probably in your next ride. Please don't feel too badly.ReplyDelete
Rachel - I have been trying to get on your blog for a week and I can't. My computer says "operation aborted". Any suggestions!ReplyDelete
ps- I got your link to work in comments. Because of the nature of the browser when it opens comments you need to use an HTML code.ReplyDelete
This doesn't sound crazy to me at all, it's really easy to take horses out of their comfort zone too quickly. It took me two months to get my mare comfortable being 200 yards away from her herd with me (initially 10 feet used to be too far). Now that we haven't been going for walks due to winter darkness we'll probably have to start out closer to 100 yards, but that's okay. Confidence doesn't grown in a day.ReplyDelete
Had the same sort of experience with trailer loading this week. I think sometimes we have to make mistakes (yours were tiny) for lessons to really sink in. Lucky for us, horses live in the moment and don't hold grudges. They are such good teachers :)ReplyDelete
This rings so true to me. Our sensitive boys really can shut down if we push too far. A little nudge along the edge and retreat, and back again I think is healthy for their learning and bravery and trust in us. I'm sure with Pie and Sovey, it's the adjustment to their old schedule from their vacation, the OTTBS get 'hopped up' a bit with any change dont you think? I know you will have a better ride next time out, and again after that, etc etc.ReplyDelete
PLUS remember, you are venturing out quite a lot..Laz can hardly walk around the property some days he shakes from fear and other days, he plods along on the buckle. He keeps me on my toes but your babies on their ventures out seem really brave to me! (u too of course)
Also..was it smashing pumpkins or the original that inspired today? :) I love the Pumpkins version!ReplyDelete
Sometimes it's hard to tell the limit of their comfort zone. Other times easier. It's a two way street. You can't know if he's not telling.ReplyDelete
I took Storm on his first trail ride this week and his comfort zone was very easy to read but that doesn't mean it will be next time.
Give yourself a break. The fact you are aware there is a comfort zone and you know how to expand it is what matters to your horse.
All the comments are so appreciated - thanks! I don't feel SO bad!ReplyDelete
Kristen - it is sooo weird you asked about the song - I like both versions but was actually listening to the Fleetwood Mac version after my ride yesterday. Just a few minutes ago, though, we all were playing Cranium (Maizie, mom, Brian, me) and Maizie was acting out "Rolling Stones" and she rolled on the hardwood floor and my mom guessed "Smashing Pumpkins" and we all kept laughing!
I think that your horses are very lucky that you are so sensitive to their reactions. And I agree with Mikael that just because your horse reacts one way on your ride, that's no guarantee that it won't be just fine the next time. They certainly do teach us to stay in the moment, don't they? One thing that I know is that if I am confident and calm when Silk starts to be concerned, she feels it and settles down because she has learned to trust me. It took us five years to reach that trust, but here we are, together for 12 years, and I can ask her to go just about anywhere and do almost anything.ReplyDelete
I just discovered your blog and love it. You are brave, girl! Not that you are doing anything unsafe, but that you are willing to do the retraining for these horses. Wow. I empathize with you about not wanting to "mess them up." But that does not sound likely from what I am reading here.ReplyDelete
sometimes on Saturday when I get on Lilly and she lets me know that she would rather be grazing, It makes me a little mad! I always keep her going and just say Oh now, Lilly, you've had the entire week to do as you please and now I am asking for a few mere hours of your time, is that so bad? If she is still naughty, I gently push her on, but I continue my dialogue (monologue really) and usually bring up all these things that as a horse she has no clue about. It's my way of making fun of my own impatience I guess: After all the dollars I spend on you so you can be in a herd and eat beautiful hay, and have Bill look after you, and all you want to do is lounge with Ruby and QTee? If anyone heard me they would laugh because horses do not care about my job or the cost of maintenance! Still, I just want her to see me as her best herd mate ever! I guess I will never compare to another equine! Anyway, I don't think you are a dumbhead! I think you are a thoughtful and caring horse owner!ReplyDelete
I forgot to say how I LOVE that you mum is busy cross-country skiing and looking so cute in that picture! She has so much joi de vivre!ReplyDelete
baystatebrumby - I want to be the best herdmate ever too and I never am! I am just all human-y and not nearly as fun as a horse to a horse! Lilly loves you - she takes good care of you out on the trail!ReplyDelete