"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Should be a Professional Bronc Rider...

On Monday, it was wet and slushy-we'd had freezing rain in the early morning that had quickly turned to just rain. The power went out in our apartment, so I decided to go to the barn a little earlier than planned, since I had nothing to do at home. Charles came with me.

It was only sprinkling a bit by the time we got to the barn. All of the horses were in, warm in their stalls. BQ had e-mailed all of us boarders because one of the senior horses had been euthanized Saturday night due to a really bad colic (they think he had an intestinal lipoma that flipped and created a torsion) and had been placed in the indoor for easy accessibility-John usually buries the horses that pass away on property, but he needs to rent a backhoe to do so. He couldn't rent the machine on Sunday, and it doesn't have a covered cabin, so on Monday morning he still hadn't been able to do it due to the freezing rain. Thankfully it was cold... It's a gruesome thing if you don't deal with this kind of situation day in and day out, but working in veterinary medicine, you get desensitized to this kind of thing. So the old boy was still in the indoor when we arrived late Monday morning, covered with a horse blanket.

Thus, I took Lily to the outdoor arena with her waterproof sheet on, and walked her around, then set her loose and let her walk around on her own. I then put the lunge line on her and worked on getting her to disengage front and hind ends in turn, which we had not practiced in a long time. She has become re-sensitized to whips so it took us awhile to get it right...*sigh* Once I had her reasonably disengaging, I walked her around again, then set her free again for a little bit. My plan was to bring her indoors in a few minutes.

Uncertain about the whip

Disengaging the hindquarters

Taking a break

Pretty girl

Following me without a lead

Trotting next to me without the lunge line

Well, that didn't happen. My silly mare decided she didn't want to come in just yet (we'd been out for 40 minutes by that time), so she was going to trot and gallop around the arena as much as possible. She would stop and stare at me occassionally, but would not come, and every time I walked towards her, she'd start to walk away. So I would chase her off and MAKE her run some more.

And she's off...

So AN HOUR LATER she finally decided she had had enough and kinda sorta came to me, and by then the wind had picked up and both Charles and I were freezing, so I accepted her half-hearted approach and called it a day.

Walking her around the arena afterwards to cool off
I NEED to do more groundwork with her, as the following day she was VERY NAUGHTY, and I think it is related to what happened in the arena on Monday.
I was covering for my supervisor at work, so I worked Tuesday, but it was so slow that I left an hour early and headed for the barn. The weather was much better and it was warmer, so I had packed a change of clothes that morning. The horse in the indoor had been buried late Monday afternoon, and the arena sprinkled and dragged. However, everyone was riding outside-the weather was too nice not to! Lily had just been fed her grain when I went to get her in her stall, and she wasn't exactly happy about being taken away from her dinner. She was COVERED in mud, from head to toe. Every inch of her. There was a pile of dry clay powder on the floor underneath her by the time I was done currying her! I tacked up and took her to the outdoor, where Bunny's owner was riding. Bunny's mom had just started cooling down when we walked into the arena, so Lily and I did a short walk warm-up around the arena, then started trotting. Bunny and her mom left as we were finishing our trot warm-up. Lily was very "up" - she felt wired, but wasn't being skittish, so shortly after Bunny had left and I saw them go into the barn, I asked Lily to canter. She gave me a perfect canter depart and we did one full turn around the arena. The funny thing is that it actually crossed my mind, "She hasn't done anything at the canter in a long time. What a relief!" Famous last words. On perfect cue, just when I had completed that thought, Lily brought her shoulders up, cracked her back, and bucked. And bucked and bucked. And since I was staying on, she bucked some more.  My stirrups came off and I was still sticking to her back, but she was getting so much air with each leap that I was having a hard time yanking her head up from its place between her knees AND keeping my seat. You don't understand-this mare gets AIR when she bucks. I've seen her shadow, and her bucks are as high off the ground as they feel. She gets at least 4' between the ground and her front legs. All I have in front of me when she does this are her withers and empty space-when her nose is jammed between her front legs like that, it's very hard for little 125 lb me to yank her face back up, when my own center of gravity has been thrown back towards her loins!

THIS is how Lily BUCKS!!! Photo from this website.

I finally managed to pull hard on the reins with my left hand (mind you, I was staying on without grabbing onto anything AND stirrup-less-this was a pure balancing act) in an attempt to stop her, but my pulling her head caused her to TWIST in midair and make the bucks all the angrier, which was my undoing. 

I came off, she tore away across the arena to the gate while I hopped back up to my feet, and I ran over to her, pulled her away from the gate and immediately got back on and sent her into a fierce trot. BRAT!!!!

We trotted and trotted and trotted. I had the reins tight- there was no way in hell she was getting her head back during this workout- she had her neck arched and nose vertical, but so I had all of her up and in front of me. It was as if for the first time I had full access to and control of her hind legs. We did some spectacular work, simply because we were so mad at each other. She was furious that I had gotten back on and she had to work more (for the first time, she wasn't fearful of me after being naughty), and I was furious at her for succeeding in viciously getting me off. I had her doing full circles in shoulder in and leg yield, first one way and then the other, zig-zag leg-yields, tiny concentric circles, spiraling in and spiraling out. All at sitting trot. She was changing direction at a split seconds' notice-as soon as I cued, she was there. My seat was where it was supposed to be, and I was sitting up straight as a pole in the saddle, weight centered. I could see her legs crossing correctly in our shadow, no matter what we did or which direction we went, as we rode in the pool of light from the arena lamps. We cantered half circles (to prove a point), then trotted more. Extend the trot, collect, extend, collect, then circle some more.

I had to laugh at the end, because Lily's true moments of absolute brilliance always seem to be after she has been bad. You know how when you get mad at your partner and fight, the sex is always the best right after? Yup, that's exactly how it is riding my silly mare after she's been bad-she gives me the BEST rides. Jeez, really? Lily, can't you just be that awesome WITHOUT the naughtiness?

I asked her to back up, and she backed up all the way across the arena, just off of a shift in my seat, and kept on going until I sat up straight. At this point, I got off, but we did some groundwork to cool down. I picked up the lunge whip that sits by the arena gate, and we did some more work on disengaging front and hind end. Lily initially really thought I was going to beat her and rolled her eyes at me and tried to back up away from me. *sigh* So I rubbed the whip all over her neck and shoulders, stepped back, and she stepped forwards, then disengaged her hind end both directions, and each time she did it correctly, I had her rest, whip pointed down. She would respond by sighing, dropping her head, and licking and chewing. Textbook response. The front end is always a challenge with her, but after 10 minutes more, she really understood to the point where I could point the whip at her neck and she would step away. At this point, I could also get her to turn in a circle around me, facing me head-on while crossing her back legs as she moved. This was fantastic progress, so we stopped, and she asked to come to me. I let her, and we called it quits for the day.

She had cooled down, but was still drenched in sweat. She got scrubbed with a wet brush, then rubbed down, then I placed her cooler on her while I picked up and cleaned all of our stuff. By then she was about 75% dry, and her stall was warm, so I let her go in with her dinner.

Why did she buck? I think it had to do with Bunny's leaving the arena and it being dinner time. She probably would not have bucked if I had waited longer to ask her to canter. Lily has gotten used to her routine, so I have to start breaking it for her. I hate horses that get so stuck in a routine that they won't work. I also probably should have lunged her a bit prior to working her to let her get the bucks out then-I knew she was "up" from the moment I got on her. I had actually been expecting her to have a bucking fit when mounting up-that's how "up" she was. So yes-maybe I should have waited longer to canter, maybe I should have lunged her. But it is still unacceptable behavior, especially given the maliciousness of it-she WANTED me to come off- so we're going to be doing a lot more groundwork from now on.

I ordered a bucking strap on eBay.


  1. Dude, her neck is lookin' kickass. That blanket really shows it off.

    And please, please, please start videoing all rides. I wanna witness this epic bucking! Haha. And then the resulting kickass ride. Must see!

    1. Thank you! She just keeps looking better and better. Lol on the videos-I tried leaving my camera up on a fence post set to film mode to get video, but the brand-new batteries died within 10 minutes...that's just our warm-up! I need to get Charles out again to film us. I'm hoping next week! I want to see what we look like, too! :D