Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ride the horse you're on...or not.

I have heard that saying many times, "to ride the horse you are on".  I completely agree with it.  Sometimes we get on with our 'agenda' and sometimes it goes how we want it to but many times we realize that the lovely little dressage pony we were expecting to ride has turned more into an exhuberant fire breathing dragon.  So our 'agenda' must go out the window or we will at best end up frustrated, mad and riding a mad frustrated fire breathing dragon.  But I have to say there should be an optional ending to that saying, "ride the horse you're on, and if all else fails, get the hell off!'  Because sometimes you can take that fire breathing dragon and channel that energy into, galloping work, poles, trotting their butts off or even jumping and other times every avenue you attempt just takes that fire breathing dragon and makes him flip his head repeatedly in the air, or give you his best impression of a giraffe, or he is looking in every direction but where he is going, your best attempts to balance 'his craziness' just makes for more head flipping and falling out through which ever shoulder is not being blocked.  So you try trotting his butt off and there is incredible resistance to every request.  As a last ditch effort you resort to jumping because EVERY fire breathing dragon LOVES to jump.  Which results in run outs.  And that my friends is when I decided that maybe riding was not in the cards, hopped off and called it quits.  So most of the time you should 'ride the horse you are on'  but there are those times that you should, 'get the hell off'.

But of course just getting off and letting it go is beyond my minds ability.  I cannot just forget that every single ride we have had in the last month has blown my mind.  We have had more progress in the last month than I over the past 6, or at least it seems that way.  And now all of the sudden I find myself atop this hot mess of a horse that seems to lost even the ability to trot in a straight line.  So I started thinking and thinking and thinking and a light bulb went on.  I thought this has happened before.  Where?  At event camp.  If you watched the videos of our first lesson at camp with Peter Atkins you can clearly see a happy content horse.  Happy to do his job and working to do as I ask.  Standing patiently as Peter talks and is even is unphased when Peter smacks him on the butt or grabs his head and swings it back and forth.  Then 3 short days later I am riding what feels like one of those flatbed carts at the big hardware stores or they even have them at the feed stores.  You know the ones that have four wheels all on a swivel?  The ones that every attempt to make it go in one direction it inevitably heads in another and then when correcting the problem you end up running into the nearest shelving knocking down the display(not that that has ever happened to me ;).  Yup PITA.  Except this isn't a little cart I am talking about.  I am speaking of an 1100 lb 17 hh horse out in an open field and plenty of energy to take us to timbucktoo.  Who seems like he has no controls installed,  Steering:fail, brakes:fail, giraffe impression:flawless, head flipping:success, rushing off:perfected and a rider clearing not equiped to handle such situations.  See the difference between the first lesson and this one?  Be kind because I am posting a video of work that is NOT pretty but it is reality of training an OTTB in combination with a green rider.(BTW when he is yelling at Amy it is not always me.  there is also another Amy in our lesson)  You wouldn't believe how hard it was to simply hold him back let alone have any control.  I have progressed leaps and bounds from this video and am WAY more equipped to handle this situation than I was then but it took all of that for me to finally 'get it'.  For one I know now when things are that out of control to 'get the hell off'.  See progress :)! 
So if this has happened more than once what is the common denominator?

Also the rest of the XC lesson videos are to come!  Spoiler alert!  There is video of Peter skipping...hehe.


  1. You know... I see someone doing the best they can with a fire breathing Dragon who was ready to roast everything in sight. I would have be so frustrated too.

    My horses and all the other horses at the barn were crazy today too. I mean INSANE crazy. Something in the weather/wind is my guess.

  2. Yup, I see a tactful rider and a tense horse (for whatever reason). Boy we have all been there. Sometimes they just have their days and you were doing everything right (staying quiet, going with it, etc.) :)

  3. Henny's Peter? Cool.

    I found the trainer's comments very amusing. You handled the situation very well. I do not have much video of Harley's early days, but, man, did we have some tough rides in the canter. Cheers for taking your time, knowing when to quit, and progress.

    Thanks for joining my blog!

  4. Ohhh, I hate those days BUT you did so great sticking with him and what he was doing. Did I hear Peter say towards the end "He's Panicking so he can't think?" lol...maybe not but it seemed to make sense.

  5. Remember what Peter said though. Don't practice a bad jump. So maybe the fire breathing dragon should never jump. Maybe jumping should be the reward for the hard working dressage pony? Just an idea. :)

    I agree there are times when it's just best to get off. I bet going for a nice hand walk or working on some calming ground work would be a good way to tame the fire breathing dragon. I don't know your particular dragon though so I could be way off base.

    My guess is the common denominator is burn out. He burned out in the clinic because it was four days of very hard work. Perhaps with all of your breakthroughs recently you got overzealous and asked too much? I'm not critisizing, just making suggestions that hopefully will lead you to the answer. How long has it been since you've just been on a relaxing trail ride and not thought about dressage or jumping at all?

    In the video I think you were doing a good job at staying calm and trying to bring Steady back down to earth. Sometimes horses just lose it and need a break. It's like when we're doing something very tedious and just have to walk away and take a break. Don't be discouraged. You're doing great.


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