Saturday, March 6, 2010

Back In the Saddle Again

As best I can figure, the last time I rode was on December 21 - that's more than two months ago. To be fair, it's been a cold winter with lots of bad weather, and we have no indoor. It was 40F and sunny yesterday, but the footing wasn't really good enough to lunge - about 5 or 6 inches of half-melted, packed snow mixed with ice. So I said to myself, what the heck, I'll just ride - the worst that'll happen is that I'll end up in a snow bank or I'll have to get off. So I got Maisie out of the turnout, groomed and saddled and bridled her up, and off we went. She was outstanding! (Helped, I believe, by the not so good footing - she was having to pay close attention to her feet.) We didn't go far - up and around the hill behind the organic farm, and then back to the barn, up the hill behind and around to the pond and back around by the trailer - only about 10 minutes or so, but Maisie got a good workout walking through the snow.

I was thinking today that I used to be much more bold in my riding, from the time I was small - by the time I was 7 or 8 I was riding pretty much anything available bareback - right through college when I did some eventing on some pretty unsuitable school horses, and then when I came back to riding as an adult I was doing competitive showing in the hunters. I would get on anything and ride it - it didn't matter if it bucked, spooked or bolted, I rode it and pretty much stayed on, minus the occasional lost stirrup. I don't attribute much of this to skill - I did have a pretty good seat from spending years riding bareback on all sorts of horse that did all sorts of things, but I also rode in those days with a lot of hardware - big bits, martingales, etc., so if you had the arm strength and some determination, loss of control wasn't really an issue. My personality then, partly due to the work environment I was in, was also much more competitive and even combative, which meant I was always up for a challenge.

Once I retired and also started rethinking how I worked with horses, things changed a lot for me. I've consciously worked on dialing down my competitive and aggressive instincts, and I also now try to work with my horses using finesse and skill and not just control. This feels much more like working without a net than the way I used to ride, particularly with the hotter horses that we have. I'm also older now, and had some inner ear trouble about 7 years ago that compromised my balance, often in subtle ways, for a while. As a result, I've developed a somewhat cautious attitude towards my work with horses - and having Dawn accidentally kick me in the jaw last fall didn't help my confidence any. To be frank, I do a lot of pussy-footing around, which doesn't hurt the horses much - we don't just repeat the same old exercises but invent new ones, which they like. But I don't just get on and ride like I used to - this is partly good and partly bad - good in that I pay more attention to what the horse is saying to me than I used to, and bad because the horses could probably progress more effectively if I just rode.

This year, I plan on just getting on and riding more. Sometimes this may work well, and sometimes it may not, we'll just have to see. Do you ever have these issues in your horse work?

18 comments:

  1. Sounds like you and Maisie had a fantastic ride!!! I am sure you both were in a terrific mood the rest of the day.
    I think I lived the opposite horse experience from you. I was so scared as a young rider. I had had so many scary experiences back then when the bits and tack were "big" (pelhams, martingales, saddles, double reins, etc.). The last years with my mare were spent riding only in a halter and I discovered I was in jeopardy much less. In the 7 years I was not riding because I was raising my Maizie I spent a lot of time visualizing how it would be when I returned to riding. I figured out, for me, less was more in terms of my safety. In other words, the less harware I used the safer I would be. It has worked so far. I don't wrestle fear too much now. I feel like I do all the barn chores and I deserve a good ride every day. If Pie is hot, I walk him around to try to calm him and then I hop on and continue trying to soothe him. It seems to work. I also stopped picturing in my mind what bad thing could happen. That has helped. I used to think too much. Now, I get on and "make myself dumb". In fact, I want to do a post about that. The joy of not thinking too much while riding!
    Great post, Kate! I love that you got to ride. This winter has been horrid.

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  2. I have been a bum about riding this winter... As I would be doing it by myself 99% of the time it's not nearly as much fun. As for the horses, there are only 2 I ride now (Pony and PC who will be 30 and 31 this year are retired).Berlin, who will be 25, is great I can get on her anytime regardless of how long she has been off, and expect her to behave herself. I rarely put a bit in their mouths anymore. Usually a hackmore (English) and now a bitless bridle. Abbe, who will be 12 (the one I was trying to get to drive and feel safe with) will probably need some ground work before I start riding her. Today and for the next week the temperature should be at least 40. That motivates me...especially with all the sunshine.

    There's nothing wrong with being careful. Sorry to read that you got kicked in the jaw! And thanks for your comments.

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  3. I'm making this up as I go. Since this is my first experience with horses, what I don't know is stunning. There have been times that I've done things, only to find out that it usually isn't supposed to work like that. I just try to relax and be brave. God guides and protects the unconscious, I suppose.

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  4. All the time! I am young too! I had a few horrible falls combined with a horrible experience with my first horse where I felt like it made me change my perspective and become the person I am today. Losing the big bits and the big attitude. :) I became to really study horse behavior and I truly enjoyed just working them on the ground. I was definitely pussy footing around! I got my current horse and all my riding fear went away slowly, except I am still really nervous over fences and on new horses.

    This is a long winded way of saying I know just how you feel. Sometimes you have to make yourself just a little bit uncomfortable to progress but just like our horses don't forget to take it slow and listen to yourself. I am glad to hear you guys had a good ride!

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  5. Yay for riding, I've ridden quire a bit lately as well!! Like you I used to get on anything and ride it. My summer job in high school was backing babies and also working with problem horses - you know, the ones the owners didn't want to ride anymore! These days I am much more cautious about what I ride and the conditions in which I ride. I have a family and a farm full of horses to care for. If I got hurt the farm would go along without me just fine for awhile, but that doesn't mean I want it to!

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  6. I find the balance to be eluding me. I want to be myself when I ride, but Cibolo is challenging that for me. Too soft is a wreck, too hard and it's not me any more.

    When I was a kid I think I rode completely unconsciously. I just got on. But I wanted the relationship I'm much closer to having now, ironically.

    I hope to find balance. I'm sure it's there somewhere.

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  7. I know just what you mean. I just realized the other day that due to a variety of circumstances too long to write here, I haven't ridden consistently in about 2 years now! Combined with the fact that last year I had a couple of scary falls, one of which was a freak accident, I'm a lot less brave than I used to be. I'm almost dreading getting Mosco started up again this year, because I know he needs a lot of work, and I need more guts! But we'll take it slowly. I think it will help that I've done a lot of groundwork with him; I'm hoping it translates to undersaddle. Our biggest issue is that it really seems like he completely forgets about me when I'm riding. He goes into "rider" mode (he didn't have the greatest start) and starts in on his old defense mechanisms (lots of balkiness & spooking), but when I'm on the ground with him he looks to me for leadership. Anyway, I'm hoping that all the work we've done with allowing him to approach & touch scary objects has made him braver; it certainly seems to have. I guess we'll see!

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  8. Well you've seen my blog so you know that fear is a constant struggle for me now. It takes baby steps to make progress. I think it is awesome that you just went out and rode yesterday, I can't tell you how envious I am of you. I had that spring fever yesterday and really wanted to just hop on one of my horses and go, but right now I know that is not a wise choice for me.

    As Golden Pony said in a recent blog of hers, I have a plan. I never used to plan my ride or work with the horses but I do now. Not only does it save me from sitting around thinking, what should I do now, but it also allows me before hand to think about potential problems. Maybe take a step back and reteach something else first, or just prepare myself for what my horses reaction may be.

    Hope you have many happy rides this year!!

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  9. Great that you got out for a ride. My way of working with horses has changes as I age as well .I can't do some of the things I used to and have had to modify others . As we learn and have successes and failures it does change things ,I hope for the better

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  10. I think the last time I rode was about a month ago. It was a nice day but the arena was still covered with a little snow. Dusty and I just walked around and then she took off trotting a little until she fishtailed in the corner because there was hidden ice under the snow. So to be on the safe side I haven't ridden again.I'm waiting for the snow to melt.

    Nowadays instead of just getting on and riding I try to have my daughter (who is a trainer) around and we usually do a lesson or go for a ride in the fields or trails.I used to be a lot braver before I had my knee done. Now I figure if I fall off and mangle myself up badly someone should be there to call for help. I can't say that I won't just get on some very nice day even if no one is around and ride but I'm trying to be a responsible adult.

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  11. Yay! Your first ride of the season. It seems to me that you ride A LOT.

    I'm like you, I've become more cautious in my older age, largely because I understand more about horses. I made a lot of mistakes in my earlier years that could have hurt my horse, luckily they didn't.

    I have a horse I ride regularly that I'm really confident with in most situations and that I know well enough to predict what will set him off--but this has been developed over many years together.

    This year, though, I'm going to be riding my green filly--so I expect to be set-back a bit in confidence until we get to know and understand each other.

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  12. Lovely Post Kate! And love the new header too of Maisie mare~
    It has been a cold winter and messy for so many. That was us last year...snowing into April practically.

    We grew up alike...and after 20 years off the horse, I have a healthy fear of getting back on this one I have been given. She dislikes so much "focused arena work"- I have to do it less and just ride more...cause if I try to to the opposite...I am gonna get hurt. She is damaged..and I HAVE to listen to her. It is definitely, a different riding journey I am on with this one...I do love her too.

    So glad your first ride was a goodie...spring is coming...really!
    KK

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  13. Kate, Congrats on the pleasant first ride of the year. Starting back slowly, especially when the footing leaves a little to be desired, is smart.
    I'm going on my fourth ride of the season tomorrow (we've had a VERY early spring) and I'm thinking about taking Maddie instead of Kate. Kate's been great so far, and I've not been on Maddie since autumn. So I'll try her out here at home today, before I decide whether to go on a trail ride with friends tomorrow with her. It'll be a couple of hours, but mostly level moseying, and I know Kate would do fine, I'm not quite as sure of Maddie, after the time she dumped me last summer. I don't quite trust her again yet, though we had several very pleasant rides since.
    And those falls have made me really hesitant to climb on my youngest filly, Beth. She's had all her groundwork done, and seems to want to please, but she also has more ATTITUDE than any other foal I've raised. And as I get closer and closer to 60, I realize how vulnerable this old arthritic body is getting. Beth may be the first baby I pay someone else to get started...

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  14. I think being cautious probably is common among women who have come back to riding as adults. How cautious you are probably depends on how good you were as a kid. I didn't ride much when I was younger, so I'm learning a lot of it the first time as an adult, and that makes me pretty cautious. And although I ride a spooky baby, which is probably hazardous enough, I find that I have little or no interest in getting on other horses. Panama may be a bit unpredictable at times, but we have a connection that I think makes up for it -- and anymore, I'm not sure how to ride a horse that I don't have that with.

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  15. Glad you had a nice ride! It's so good to be on a horse, isn't it?

    I am constantly battling down irrational fears. I try very hard to never give in to them, unless it will help the horse - like if Dixie gets really upset, I will get off if it'll help calm her. But if she's picking her way calmly and steadily down a steep slope, I will not freeze in terror and think about how much it's going to hurt when we fall off the cliff. It's often a struggle, but I just fight through it. :)

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  16. So glad you had such a nice ride! Way to go! I find myself constantly reminded of my own mortality these days, and am always so thankful when I get a chance to ride. I find myself not willing to take the chances I used to. And then I remind myself that life without risks would be awfully boring, and get up there anyways. Keep it up!

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  17. I too used to be fearless, but now in my mid twenties after two years without horses I am a LOT more cautious. It's good to be cautious though because we have chosen what can be a dangerous hobby (ahem or way of life ahem). Just listen to your gut instincts, but don't let fear control you. It's easier said than done, but you seem to be on the right track. :) I'm glad you had such a good ride on Maisie.

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  18. I wasn't one of the lucky ones to grow up with horses. The much wished for Christmas and Birthday Pony never materialized.
    I wished I had grown up with horses, though.
    Kids are blessed not having to carry any baggage that we adults carry. They don't over think things or worry about what might happen. They just get on and ride and deal with whatever happens if it does.

    Good for you getting back up and just riding. :)

    ~Lisa

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