Friday, October 16, 2009

Life on the Merry-Go-Round

Life on the Merry-Go-Round

 I checked back to see when I actually started riding Dusty and the date was June 10. (This blog is great for giving access to my horse-diary of events).  When I realized we have been riding for only four months, and intermittently at that, I’ve got to say I was secretly impressed by how well she is doing and how much she’s changed over the years.

Even though Dusty was thirteen in July, she’s still as green as grass.  How is it possible that a horse of that age be so green?  Circumstances;  I bought her when she was five, returned her 6 months later because of dangerous behavior, took her back at the request of the seller two years later, decided to have my daughter train her in the basics and resell her. Her dangerous mounting block behavior was eliminated and there were no more incidents of flipping herself over. Oh, and did I mention that she had a fracture of her leg that required stall rest for a time.  Dusty told anyone who would listen, “I broke my leg you know!”  Of course, she didn’t tell anyone that she injured herself by kicking the daylights out of her stall wall because she is a witchy little mare and the occupant of the adjoining stall was simply annoying her to distraction. During this time we had a small business operation and she became our advanced riders’ project, under the supervision of my daughter, who is a wonderful trainer.

Running a demanding boarding/lesson business left her training sporadic at times. I didn’t have the time to ride her, as I had my horse Erik to ride and, in the back of my mind, thought that she would someday be sold.  Subsequently, I didn’t want to get attached to her as it would be harder for me to let her go when the time came.  This is how she comes to the dance: still green with a slightly confused attitude about why she is my star pupil all of a sudden.. I should mention that I rode in fits and starts for the year prior to my knee replacement surgery, partly because of the pain in my knee and also due to the fact that my horse Erik had died unexpectedly from colic.  Most of that time, I really didn’t feel like riding. Thankfully, all that has changed now due to the surgery and healing that time brings with it.

Dusty and I have been living life on the circle.  Since starting to train her, we have done so many circle exercises I’m sure she thinks she’s a carousel horse.  In Dusty’s case, circle work is so important to teach her how to bend and balance herself.  Our work on the circle, usually 20 meters, subject to change depending on her behavior, has made her more flexible and relaxed.  She still has a slight problem with stopping when asked, but we’re working on that too.  Being eager to go at the drop of a carrot, she’s always ever-ready and jumps into the canter with the slightest touch of pressure from my leg.  Of course, I rarely ask for the canter because she is so unbalanced and crooked. Dusty is not ready for canter work. As a treat I recently let her canter and she couldn’t hold it together. It’s hard to explain just how uncomfortable her canter is, but it seems like I’m riding a bicycle with a square tire!

Although it may seem boring, living life on the circle is so important for her right now. She’s learning to bend, balance and listen more than if I simply let her gain "downhill" momentum on a straight line or zig-zag and trot all over the arena. Even though most of our work is at the walk and sometimes the trot, there are so many different exercises we do together. She is learning to leg yield a few steps across the arena, turn on the  haunches and forehand, halt and back etc.  These exercises are also good for any horse that needs a refresher course, may be coming back to work after an injury, or if you want to save the wear and tear of constant schooling and drilling.  We try to mix it up a little so she doesn’t get too bored or anticipate what’s coming.

I’m proud to say she is very enthusiastic and it’s very encouraging to watch her “get it.” Even though she is the consummate alpha mare, she loves praise and support when she tries to do the right thing.  Dusty is a complicated mare and not easy to ride but we’re both trying to understand each other; she, by figuring out my signals and complying, and me, by figuring out what is the best way to work with her to make her understand the signals. We have a long slow road ahead of us, but working together in a partnership with respect for each other can only mean good things are on the horizon. 

In the meantime, we are living on the merry-go-round. Circling, Circling, Circling….

Until next time

Quote for Today
In training horses, one trains himself.
    - Antoine De Pluvinet

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