Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shades of Scared

Bucking Beauty:
The weird weather over the last month meant that most times we were riding in the arena.  I don't mind riding in the arena.  However, when the weather doesn't cooperate, it can get busy.  The last two times in the arena, a young lady and her friend joined in.  The young lady has a new horse....a 4-year old ex-race horse that she wants to train for games and barrel racing.  This mare is not used to being ridden.  She carries her head very high and doesn't actually walk, she prances.  She only knows to go straight and fast...really fast.  She bucks when she's asked to trot or lope in a controlled manner.  She is spooky and will take off.  Not a great scenario when it's crowded, but the young lady wants to expose her new mare to everything so that she's ready for the show scene.  I get that, but I really hate hearing "look out!!" from behind me as she is trying to get her horse under control.   Perhaps part of the problem is that it's sensory overload for the mare and she's frightened???   It was so bad one afternoon, that all of us exited the arena because the mare was totally out of control.  It was thought that lunging might get her "head" back.  I didn't stick around.....I had had enough of her horse taking off and bucking.  Sigh.

Full Speed Ahead!:
Flooding has affected the trails around the barn, but the nicer weather and crowded arena encouraged people to get out.  Obviously, the grass and trails are slippery because of the wet, muddy conditions.  The other day, DH's Mom, TS and SS were out on the trails.  TS and DH's Mom started to walk into the forest, when suddenly they heard the thumping of hooves and SS yelling "WHOA!!!!  WHOA!!!".  For some reason, SS's horse spooked and bolted at a full gallop across the muddy field.   It took a while, but eventually SS was able to convince his horse to stop galloping.  It was very, very scary for both rider and the observers.  The other horses went into high alert, wondering why SS's horse took off in the first place.  Every little thing set them off.  The ride was a short one.  My first thought was why didn't SS execute an emergency half-halt?  Perhaps the slippery conditions would have caused his horse to fall???  He has been using a bit-less bridle lately, and I wondered if he had been using a bit would it have made a difference in slowing his horse down quicker??? 

Too Big!!!
I had a friend from downtown Toronto visit over the Easter weekend.  He had never been near a horse and was excited and afraid at the same time about meeting Gem.  He was totally freaked out when he saw how big Gem is and he tried very hard to mask his nervousness because he knew that Gem might feed off of it.  Initially, he wouldn't touch Gem.  Eventually, he started helping me groom and tack up.  :-)   There were a couple of other riders in the arena when we arrived.  My friend put on a helmet and made himself comfortable on a stool.  Initially, he was nervous as horses passed in front of him, but after a while he relaxed; he was my cheering section when I loped around the arena.  :-)  At the end of my ride, I asked if he wanted to sit on Gem.  He hesitated and I could tell by his colour that he was very nervous, but he said "yes"!  Up he got.  Gem was a gem as usual and I led my friend around a few small circles.  He was mortified at how high up he was and how powerful Gem felt, but when he dismounted and was on the ground, he was so excited that he had faced his fear.  I was impressed!  He could now tell all of his Toronto friends that he "rode" a horse.  :-)

LA took Gem for a spin the other day and texted me this:  " Gem's mouth is lovely and soft.  Good work!"  I was very pleased.  :-)  She also mentioned that she had him in the water and that I should take him out to the pond because he enjoyed getting wet.  OK.  So the next time I went out, DH's Mom and I went to the pond.....and I froze.  I could not believe how flooded the area was and how large the pond was!  Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.  DH's Mom went right in.  Gem and I walked in about 10 feet.....and he splashed and splashed, soaking DH's Mom.  :-)   I was uncomfortable, and when I felt it was too much, I asked him to walk back to the shore....and he did.  In fact, we went in and out 3 times!  This was huge for me in the "trusting your horse" department.   So the next time we went out on the trails with DH's Mom and TS, we went into the pond and continued walking right across!!!  The water was up to his belly.  I think I held my breath the whole way.  lol!  I was elated when we reached the other side.  We stood for a moment on shore and then walked back through the pond without hesitation!  He absolutely loved it.  :-)

DH's Mom purchased a truck a couple of weeks ago and is in the process of purchasing a trailer.  Initially, she was going to purchase a two-horse trailer but she explained to me over after-ride burgers and beer that if she had a three-horse trailer, her, TS and SS could trailer to other equestrian trails in the region and spend the day.  

Me:   "I would be interested in that!!!" 
DH's Mom (very dismissively):   "You don't like water. We are looking for variety and we really want to ride these trails.  There's all sorts of terrain. You couldn't do it."
Me:  "Oh, I see."
DH's Mom:  "You only ride a few hours a week and we ride almost every day."

I was, well....crushed.  After her comments, I immediately felt inadequate.   Since that time, I have listened to DH's Mom, TS and SS talk amongst themselves about how they will have to drive a couple of hours to this trail and how they would have to stay over night at that trail and how much this one costs compared to this one....and on and on. 

Enter Lady's ex-caregiver.  We actually got together this past weekend for lunch.  A conversation we were having about horse trailers (she used to trailer her Percheron to dressage competitions), transitioned into a discussion about her new Clydesdale, a beauty that she got for trail riding on her property.....yes, she owns 100 acres with trails....oh, and her property has access to a couple of service roads that are connected to neighbour fields who have given her permission to ride through....a trail riders paradise it sounds like to me.  And, she has invited me and Gem to come to her place and ride with her!  She has offered to pick Gem up in her trailer and if I wanted I could leave Gem over night so we could trail ride over a weekend (she's only 30 minutes away from my house, so I would go home and then come back in the morning).  Nice, eh?  

The next time I rode with DH's Mom, I told her about my lunch with Lady's ex-caregiver.  I have to say that I felt great satisfaction in telling her about my invitation to ride with Lady's ex-caregiver on her property.  I also felt great satisfaction when I realized that DH's Mom was envious.  This adventure, which she and the others crave, was handed to me.  
DH's Mom and the others may think my capabilities are lacking, but my horse rocks and makes up for my shortcomings.  He's not the one that spooks regularly (SS) or takes off (SS) or rears and sits down when a bird flies out of the brushes (TS) or buck-a-lopes when she's pissed or in heat, which seems to be all the time (DH's Mom).  My Gem is sane.  Hmm, now that I think about it, do I really want to go off site with these guys???

Knowing that I have a friend who would like to ride with me on her trails (how awesome is that!!!??) has rejuvenated my confidence.   So, my goal over the next few weeks is to ride on my own and go in the pond, play in the mud and when the ground dries out, lope in the field to get used to the feel of the ground under foot.   All of these really push me outside of my comfort zone, but when the stars align and I do get to ride at Lady's ex-caregiver's place, I will be prepared! 


  1. Hey Wolfie! So excited to see you've posted, I've missed you :) So much news. If I wore a hat, I'd take it off to your friend from Toronto, how amazing he must have felt having faced his fear like that!

    And I'll go put on a hat just so I can take it off to you! Riding Gem in and out of water THREE TIMES??! Way to go, you!! And don't let the turkeys get you down; you and Gem are most definitely a team-supreme. You've achieved so much despite the fact that you don't ride regularly, and Gem responds so well to you ... what a shame people have to be so attitude-y when there's no call for it at all. The gods were definitely smiling when they got you and Lady's ex-caregiver together :)
    How is Lady, by the way?

    So, will that be you playing in the mud with or without Gem? Just asking ;) xx

    1. I have missed you, too! I plan to get caught up with my blog reading over the next couple of weeks.

      Her comments hurt, but I know that I have the best horse out of the bunch....and I am not just saying that because he's mine. He really is.

      Lady is doing fine at the refuge. She has a couple of old ladies that she hangs out with. :-)

      I am starting to like the water thing....Gem gets such a kick out of that it is now bringing a smile to my face when we go in. I hope that I am playing WITH Gem in the mud! :-)

  2. You have to be picky about who you ride with on the trail away from home, the last thing you need is to have someone's horse dump them and run off, prompting your horse to follow suit. I think you dodged a bullet there. Also, that lady stinks. Gem is the bomb!

    1. As I was having my pity party and was thinking about the whole thing, yes, I think you are right....I have dodged a bullet here.

  3. I like the parts about your friend's first ride, and You and Gem in the water the best.

    smazourek is right - you have to be very careful who you trail ride with - especially off property, and yep - DH's mom stinks / Gem rocks!

    1. My friend's experience brought back so many memories of when I first started lessons and when I first partnered up with Gem! It was delightful to share his experience.

      Yes, I agree with both smazourek and you that DH Mom could have been a little more considerate in the way she delivered her comments, but the outcome was good....I will not be participating in any crazy off site riding with them!

      Gem sort of reminds me of a big Labrador Retriever when he's in the water.... :-)

  4. I don't see shortcomings. I see someone who's done a really good job with their horse. You've given Gem confidence by not putting him into situations he's not ready for, and it's really paid off. Well done. The others could learn from you.

    1. Thank you, Terry!!! Very kind of you to say.

  5. Wow. Um..it's a good thing to expose your horse to..."stimulus" but it's important to do it safely. I think the 4 year old ex race horse isn't focused on her work and needs a trainer.

    Our horses get a little flighty this time of year. Some more than others. Actually mares can get a little flighty any time. There's a lot to be said for a level headed horse! Love those Canadians :)

    The one and only time a horse ran away with me the thought of using the one rein stop just didn't occur to me. We had a lot of room in an open field, no roads, no trees, and all my attention was on staying with him. Once I was confident I could stay with him I got his attention and just rode him down off of it. Of course, it might not have been as bad as it felt either. He certainly didn't bolt by any means.

    Your confidence in Gem is a wonderful thing. The first time I took L to the beach we went swimming. I've had her since she was 2 and I know all she's ever seen are big puddles. She walked into the water without a whisper of hesitation and it felt like she knew what she was doing. I was a little frightened and feeling her push off the bottom and start to paddle was seriously the thrill of a lifetime. This was in the ocean and we were from sand bar to sand bar. In straight lines. I'd think again about going anywhere we might have to steer!

    You're building your relationship with Gem as you go along. That's a good thing.

    1. I know, right? Safety comes first. As I watched the young lady being bounced around by bucking and bolting, I made the comment to another rider, who is quite experienced, that the 4-year old mare was out of control. The response was that the horse wasn't out of control because the rider was still on her......

      Yes, I can see how your focus would be on staying on your horse if there is a galloping situation. It's hard to practice a half-halt when (thankfully/hopefully) these bolting situations don't occur very often. I am not sure what I would do. I have fallen off Gem at a lope and it hurts, so perhaps I would try to ride it out instead of bailing. :-)

      Your swim sounds wonderful!!! Gem never hesitates about going in water....just walks right in. Gem is such a sane and solid horse (love those Canadians!). I am very appreciative that he has had patience with me as I get more and more confident...not only with him but with my own abilities.

  6. Riding in an arena with an out of control horse is no fun, I would have exited too. I think it sounds like the young lady is pushing her horse too fast and perhaps frying her brain. With horses it takes as long as it takes and personally I think she should work on the ground with her first. It would be a good way to form a relationship with the mare. I had a mare from the track once and she was very sweet and willing once all the ground work was done. She actually went to an older woman who rode her in the parks on trails for many years. And I don't know if they thought lunging the crap out of her would calm her down but that kind of lunging never helps. It's got to be controlled with a goal in mind. That said it's none of my business how other people train their horses.

    Hurray for you and Gem going into the pond! He's a wonderful horse who seems to enjoy the water. If he's saying let's go this looks like fun I'm sure he will take care of you and you'll both have fun and build confidence. Every little thing you do to push past your fears just makes you a more confident rider.

    I think it was very un-tactful and just plain mean for the Mom to say you couldn't go with them because they are better riders than you are. A lot of people are under the misconception that because they ride every day they are better than others who only ride on weekends. It might be so, it might not be so. I've seen a lot of riders and trainers over the years that rode more than once a day and from where I was sitting they weren't all that good. They kept making the same mistakes over and over again without the knowledge or didn't care to get better. So I wouldn't let her comments bother me much.

    How awesome that you are invited for weekend trail rides with a friend and have access to lots of great trails and riding opportunities. Good for you. I hope you and Gem have a blast. Oh...and don't forget to come back and tell everyone at the barn how great it was and how much fun you and Gem had!

    1. I always appreciate your observations, GHM. There seems to be a philosophy at my barn that lunging is the cure-all for everything. I agree that I think she is rushing her horse.

      Yes, DH's Mom was perhaps not as tactful as she could have been. :-) It's funny that you mention that regular riding does not make a great rider. I agree with your statement about making the same mistakes over and over. I have seen this.

      Visiting Lady's ex-caregiver gives me something to look forward to. And, yes, there will be some satisfaction in going to her place as an invited guest. :-)

  7. Sounds awesome for you and for Gem, Wolfie. Go for it!

    1. Thanks, DD! Hope all is well with you.

  8. I am trying to figure out how it is that I am not already following your blog. However it is on my reading list now. I love this post and the different types of fear and how each one was handled.

    I think I am going to enjoy your blog very much!

    1. Thanks, Cindy! And welcome. :-)

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