Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Balancing Act

Gem was eventually introduced to the herd; a couple of hours a day working up to being with the others all day. The change in him was immediate. He was not as mouthy, he was calmer, happier. He no longer had an anxious look around his eyes. Our lunging sessions were not has hyper and eventually I did not have to burn off his excess energy prior to riding him. He would actually nod off when I groomed him!

Seeing the horses out walking around freely was wonderful; they looked so peaceful. For the first time, I had to walk through groups of horses looking for Gem. Some would follow me, others would crowd me (scary!). When I found him, I was able to halter and lead him away from his new friends without issue. I was quite pleased with myself.

Everything seemed to be going fine. Then one day I saw him alone in the enclosed field at the back of the barn. This small field/paddock is surrounded by brush and an electrified tape fence. He could see the other horses if they walked through the bush, but he couldn't go up to them. LA explained that Gem got a little too frisky with the mares. A great number of the mares were in season and it was just a bit too much for my handsome boy. He went through the same behaviour when he was with his previous owner. They actually had him tested to make sure he was a true gelding (he is). I had disclosed all of this information to LA and the vet, but we thought that he would be fine out with the herd because he, and the other horses, had much more space to roam (and get away!) than he had at his previous home. No such luck. Gem was a ladies man.

LA and I both wanted him to be part of something. He was definitely a social horse. I didn't want him to be let out for a few hours a day in a paddock by himself and neither did she. What to do.

In the meantime, I was struggling with my lessons. It appeared that walking was going to be as fast as I could go on Gem. Every time he would trot, I would fall forward and loose my balance. In addition, Gem would do this "skip" and would throw me off balance even more. I ended up on his shoulders a lot. I blamed the size of my breasts; they were making me tip over! LA didn't buy it. :-) Trying to get him to complete a circle around the arena or paddock was a chore. Because I couldn't keep my balance, I couldn't keep him motivated forward. He would slow down to a walk and I would have to queue him again. I was getting frustrated.

Gem is versed in both English and Western, including neck reining. He is a talented boy and, yes, a lot smarter than me. After a particularly frustrating lesson, LA suggested that I try using her Western saddle for our next lesson. The stirrups would be longer and I could stand a little taller in the saddle and the horn would be a visual (and physical!) reminder not to lean forward and the seat of a Western saddle is a little wider.

The next time I was at the stables, Gem was out in the back field with a friend! A mare, Maddie, was with him....yes, a mare. Maddie was in the process of being purchased and was being kept close at hand so the new owner could have easy access to her when he wanted to ride her in lessons. My heart swelled. Gem was happy again! He and Maddie made quite a pair. She was definitely the boss, but she was a very kind horse.

At my next lesson, LA showed me how to tack up using Western equipment. Cripes! The saddle must have weighed 75 lbs! OK, maybe not that much, but at least 35 lbs. I could not lift it over my head to place it on Gem's back. LA fixed me up. When I got on, it felt soooo big and bulky. However, LA was correct. The horn was a constant reminder to adjust my balance. The length of the stirrups also helped me.

Maddie's new owner eventually took her to his property. Gem now has three other "roommates" in his pasture, all geldings that for one reason or another can't be out with the rest of the horses. Gem was top of the heap until a 14.2hh paint came on the scene. Gem is now 2nd in command. :-) LA reconfigured the electric tape fencing so that the herd has access to half of the field that the "boys" are in. The herd horses come and hang out (there is a water tub near by) and it really is like Gem and his roommates are part of the herd. It was a great compromise and brought balance back to Gem's life. He is very happy. LA is happy that she doesn't have to worry about her little mares and I am happy that everyone else is happy!

I am still riding Western in my lessons! My lessons are going much better and that saddle is getting more and more comfortable. My posture has improved immensely, my legs are much more quiet. LA allows me to use her saddle if I go trail riding. I recently bought a Western saddle blanket, Western bridle and riding jeans...... ;-)

What was I thinking.....?


  1. How wonderful that Gem is out making new friends. Horses really do better when they're outside most -if not all- of the time. I hate having to keep my horses in because of this awful weather. Someday I'll have my own pasture with a big, beautiful run-in...

    Good luck with the western saddle. Just think of how well rounded you'll be, riding these different disciplines!

  2. Hi Wolfie!
    Thanks for commenting on my blog, I had to pop over...
    You have a fun blog! I am linking you up.
    Your Gem is one handsome boy, you must be proud of him!

  3. Morning smazourek - Wow, you are right! I am going to be fluent in English and Western! Well, maybe not fluent.... :-)

    HorseOfCourse - Hello and thank you! I try not to take myself too seriously. I do think Gem is handsome and I am proud to be his accessory! ;-)

  4. I can ride western and would love to learn english - I'd really like a lighter saddle!

    Glad Gem's got some buddies now...

  5. Hello Breathe! The English saddle is a lot lighter, but I sort of like having the horn on the Western. :-)

  6. I'm glad to hear the pasture situation was sorted out and Gem can play with his friends. It's the best thing for their heads.

    It's nice to be able to ride both western and english. For as many years as I've ridden in an english saddle I felt like I was out of control and could easily fall off when trail riding on vacation in a western saddle. I don't know why but it just felt too bulky and like I had no control over the horse. I'd like to try it again sometime though on one of my own horses, it looks like fun.

    If you go back to the English saddle in your lessons eventually, you might try walking around the arena as much as your legs can stand it in a two-point. That might help your balance and strengthen your legs. Just a thought.

  7. Hello GHM! I haven't gone out on the trails in an English saddle, but I do like using the Western saddle. The plan is that I use the Western saddle for my lessons for the next few months and then to try my English saddle again. I tried the two-point when I used to ride Grumpy Mare, and I just didn't have the strength at the time. Perhaps it's time to try again and see how much I have improved! Thanks for the suggestion.

  8. I'm so glad Gem has pasture buddies to hang with. Our horses spent most of their lives in show barns...now we have them at a facility where they get to go out all day with other horses. They are so much happier. I have always ridden in an english saddle but I think western looks like fun too. I, too, have a problem with feeling like the western saddle is to bulky when I try to ride in it. I think I will give it a try this year though. Just for fun.

  9. Good afternoon wilsonc! You should try Western. I am getting used to it and feel quite secure on it during trail rides. I was riding in the arena a few weeks back using my English saddle and I actually felt "naked"! It was a breeze to tack up though.