Sunday, May 27, 2012

Not Just For The Horse

My recent foray into the canter world has made me realize something - us as riders are as guilty as doing as our horses.

Imagine - you're riding a long and horse startles - you do what? Oh we know what we are SUPPOSED to do - but our first instinct is to do what?

For me - it's to clench down, grab mane, look around for whatever scared my horse.  It's probably all total of 3 to 5 seconds before I recover and ask my horse to recover.

So in horse language - what did I do?  Well I sucked back - I stopped my own forward movement.

If I'm hyper reactive how can I ask my mount to not be?  I mean I'm fairly certain that piece of paper that just fluttered is not going to suddenly turn into a horse/human eating machine - but I still reacted to it.

Oh and who of us have avoided the scary corner of an arena, field, whatever.  Just because our horse eyeballed it odd, snorted and left the scene the first time?

*raises hand* GUILTY as charged!

We all know what we should do, we all know how to do what we should do.  So why, often times, do we avoid the hard stuff?  Fear or procrastination? Little bit of both?  Or "I just want to enjoy my ride today" mentality.

But did you enjoy your ride that you avoided all things scary that you know nag you to work on?

How can our horses look to us to be leaders, head mare, herd boss if we are sucking back and avoiding the scary stuff?  They can't.

I had this epiphany while trail riding last weekend.  It's always fun riding a greenish horse on trails with another greenish horse.  They both have good minds though which is a bonus for us riders that's for sure.  Rosie handled everything I pointed her at, and there was a lot of hard things for her on this ride.  Wet, soupy trails, trail blazing when trails were too wet to navigate, huge hills, slippery down hills, tires, creeks with chest deep holes...  but her nemesis came back.  Step down into creek bed, one stride  then straight up hill on the other side.  This stopped her cold, she was not going across even with our riding buddy on the other side.  She was not trusting me, and I was expecting her to explode - not sure why - she never ever has.  I dismounted and lead her across - I walked with purpose, never looked back at her.  She followed obediently - never balked - never charged over or past me in fear.

Clearly I wasn't being the leader in the saddle that I am on the ground.

It was at this point that I realized, my big mare trusts me! I need to trust her to carry me safely.  I need to believe that every trip doesn't mean we are going down.  That scary things are no big deal so long as she knows I have her back.


  1. Good reminder. It is so important to remember that trust goes both ways. And then there's trusting yourself while you're at it... :)

  2. I know just what you mean! Mark Rashid has a saying I love: "Your horse spooked, you spooked and you ran off together. . ." It's often what the human does that determines how the horse feel{ if they're worried or spook.

  3. Great post! I liked how you and Rosie crossed the creek together...both on even terms...on the ground. Yes, from the saddle would have been even better (and drier, too), but she needed to know she could trust you to lead her through it. Next time, she will cross much easier with you in the saddle...because you showed her that she can.

    As for me, I sometimes do avoid the scary stuff with the "I just want to enjoy my ride today" mentality. But I have learned that sometimes that is absolutely ok to do. Not every ride needs to be tough and challenging...sometimes both you and your horse want and deserve a calm, quiet ride. And in some cases, scary objects are better left alone and avoided.
    I don't care to purposefully approach a rattlesnake, just to help me get past my fear. That fear is real and has a purpose: to keep me safe.


  4. Lots of good food for thought and lessons in this post. You're right - we're all guilty of these things to some extent. Sounds like you're mastering it though. Bonnie's trust is a testament to that.

  5. You really tune in to what you are doing and it is so good to think of it from the horse's perspective.

    Thanks for checking in on me.

  6. In my clinic this past week, Larry Whitesell, kept telling us how important it was to keep forward motion, even in a spook. When our horse spooks, our thought is to 'control' the horse by stopping their movement. This just makes the horse even more scared. We need to train our horses to understand that when they're scared, they can trust us to direct their movement, their feet, to a place of security.

    Good post.



Happy Trails!