Riding a “testy” horse


What are YOU lookin’ at?:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday morning, despite not feeling great, I got up at 5:15 and went over to my friend Patty’s house to ride horses with her. I usually get there at 6:30, and then we get the horses out, groom them, and get them ready to ride.

I was to ride Snickers again, but when I brought the saddle out to put it on him, he pulled back, his eyes rolling. He was already getting upset, and I wondered why. Maybe I was still unfamiliar to him, so Patty put the saddle on for me.

Snickers was already “eyeing” me before I did anything with him:

He was acting nervous and keyed up when I led him out of the get-ready area, and then when I tried to mount, he started to back up and dance around. He was trying to test me. So, Patty suggested a little walk along the edge of the sorghum field to calm him down. During our walk, I had a little chat with Mr. Snickers. As we walked back to the gate at Patty’s backyard, he seemed calmer. But then when I wanted to mount, he started to back up again. I asked him to “whoa,” and he was listening, but he did this a few times, with less backing up each time. Finally, he stood still, and I quickly mounted. He moved forward one step, but then I think he got the message that I wasn’t going to put up with it and stood reasonably quietly while Patty got on Bella. He was not calm, though.

Patty said something to me then that made sense: she mentioned that he had been a roping horse, and whenever the rider sits forward on a roper, the horse starts to anticipate an action. I am mainly an English rider, either saddle seat or dressage, and I think I sit too far forward at times on a Western saddle. The minute I moved my weight back and relaxed into the saddle, Snickers dropped his head and relaxed too.

I know you are thinking why would she get on a horse that was nervous to begin with? There are times when I would not, but I felt that Snickers was going to be fine once I got on him, and he was. I still can “sense” how a horse is feeling, and I thought he was trying to see how much he could get away with. I also think I made him nervous last week when we rode the “urban obstacle course” because I was sitting forward, a little nervous myself, and squeezed him too hard with my leg cues. I am still learning how to ride him, and it helps to know his background in roping.

After we got started on the ride, we immediately had to cross a busy street. Snickers was still a little “nervy,” but he was alright. He always has to look at the curb; maybe it feels too far down for him, but after he looks, he is okay with it. Patty was behind me on Bella, and we were talking to each other for most of the ride.

Sweet-faced Bella:

I think the horses like the sound of our voices. But I also talk to whichever horse I am riding because I like to interact with whoever it is. Snickers definitely needs interaction. And, whoever rides him needs to be somewhat on alert all the time. He definitely has his own strong personality. He kind of reminds me of Victor, the half-Arabian gelding that our family owned when I was 12 years old. He taught me all I needed to know about horse shows. I’m sure Snickers could teach me all I needed to know about roping if I was into that.

One thing that I would do if I owned Snickers is have him do “arena work.” That is the current term for what I used to do in the ring, in other words, training on an oval and using that area for working. For example, I would walk, jog, and lope with him both directions, and work with him on figure eights, and just practice “bending” his body with leg pressure on serpentines or tight circles. That arena time is for working in a controlled area with the horse so he knows what to do when he is cued, and what to expect from his rider. The trail riding should be the icing on the cake. The time I spent with my horses in the ring at my house was training time, and I did it every day to build their stamina, and their muscles. It is a controlled place that doesn’t have a lot of distractions. But I do not own horses anymore, and I am grateful for any chance I get to ride.

Snickers, after the ride. He is a big, athletic horse, which I love:

We got back to the barn after a good ride, the horses were cooled down and un-tacked, and then they got a cool hosing because it is still hot. Another thing I noticed was that there was actual “coolness” in the air when we started riding, a promise of decent weather to come sometime in the future!

I still can’t get the idea of owning a horse again out of my mind. I would just love to work with one horse consistently and have him be mine to train. I can’t help it. We’ll see what the future brings.

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3 thoughts on “Riding a “testy” horse

  1. When I used to ride (I dated a girl in high school who was a rider) – I dreaded getting on an America Quarter Horse gelding named Chico…Chico HATED me – he would always try to brush me off against a tree and stop to eat grass as we were heading down a steep incline – plus he would dash into the barn with me still on his back…funny creatures horses 🙂

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