Today's Lesson

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Before I bought Lilly I took lessons at a local stable called Biscuit Hill. There I learned how to walk, trot and canter. The place was beautiful, and the animals obviously got very good care. The place was clean and the horses were kind. However, what I didn't learn or perhaps simply never acknowledged at Biscuit Hill, was the psychology of the horse. So important. After all, the horse is a prey animal. And though we all have stories of riding old hack horses who were supremely unperterbable, down underneath a whole lot of training (or a whole lot of inertia), are all those fight or flight instincts. This means a big old rock, a tiny fluttering leaf, the sound of a car horn (to cite a few everyday examples) can all spur a horse into thinking danger is near and that running for her life is probably the best thing to do. Well. This is the very thing that happened to me today while I was on Lilly. I got to Bill's, tacked Lilly up, and took her down to the riding arena. I walked her around the arena as I usually do, just to let her see the place again for the millionth time, let her get a feel for it, and settle into the idea that it's time to do a little work. Before I got on her I realized I had left the reins in the barn so I found some rope and improvised some rope reins. They looked a little funny--I'm no expert on knot tying--but they seemed good enough. In fact, I actually liked my homemade reins better because they were quite long and I was able to sit straight up in the saddle, just like Sally Swift tells everyone to do. I got on my brumby, flexed her head to the right and to the left, collected her up, and went around the arena. First at a walk, then at a trot. Christine showed up and started riding Qtee. Walk. Trot. Walk. Trot. Stop. Turn. Change directions. To this corner. Then to that. Back up. Trot. A little sidepassing at the walk. Very nice. Good brumby. And then out of nowhere, out of nowhere I tell you, Lilly flipped out, made an abrupt change of direction and circled around to the gate at a gallop. Or at least a very fast canter. Oooh dear. We bashed into poor Christine and Qtee, but at the gate--a thin little piece of electrical wire, mind you--Lilly stopped. To be fair to her, she could have busted on through. She did not. She stopped. I'm the first to tell you that an experienced rider would have had that horse under control much faster than me. And that is the idea, of course, to prevent the freak out, to get a handle on it sooner rather than later. To not freak out while your animal is freaking out because if the two of you are losing it at the same time, it's curtains. I actually hate this story. I almost cried a little after this small incident. After all, I want to be competent. A competent rider worries her husband much less that an inept one. What I can say is that this is how one learns to get better: by realizing what went wrong and what to do the next time the same thing happens. And to be fair to myself I was trying to one-rein-stop her, but my improv reins (the ones I was loving a mere two minutes ago) were too long and I couldn't get any leverage. My one success: I stayed on. And horse psychology is now that much more relevant to me.
That's all for today! Happy Trails, my friends.

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