So. I understand that I ride a horse that has a personality that is larger than life, in most circumstances. He is funny and engaging, playful and affectionate, able to understand quite a bit of what is said around him and genuinely loves people. I think a large part is his breed, since the Arabian was treated as part of the family by the Bedouins, brought inside the tent to live, sleeping with small children curled up against their belly. A part of him remembers that he is a Prince of the Desert and a Drinker of the Wind and interacts with those around him appropriately.
The flip side of that is that he sometimes forgets himself and acts like a willful toddler.
Last night, trying to honor his request to walk in hand around the scary end of the arena to look at all the stuff, I did so. We walked one direction and then turned and walked the other direction.
I think I would be much more understanding, if he acted at all scared when we are working in hand.
Mostly he looks bored
He tried to eat the plastic flowers. Obs very stressful object.
The baby gate did elicit a snort when we first walked up to it.
But then he tried to eat it
We ended our walk-about calm and relaxed, and honestly, he never felt or acted stressed. I got on and we proceeded to ride through all of the things I work on in my lessons. We loosened up at the walk and he didn’t even turn an ear at that end of the arena. Then we worked on shoulder in, haunches in and leg yields in both directions. We turned and worked leg yields toward the mirrors so I could see if he was crossing front and back, working on getting a feel for that with visual conformation. Then we did a few steps in each direction of Half-Pass. He is so good moving right to left, but we still struggle with the bend going left to right (right side bend is always an issue). Then I asked for trot-walk-trot serpentines and that is when the rails started to come off and willful toddler showed up.
It started with a cocked ear and trying to bend away from that end of the arena. I ignored his ear and told him to focus. We moved to canter-walk-canter serpentines, with me really trying to be subtle with my leg and seat. To refine the ask. When we got to that end of the arena, he threw his head up and tried to bolt.
I refused to allow him to get away with the behavior. It broiled into a fight with escalating tension on his part, which was so frustrating after I had spent so much time riding soft and calm. In the midst of the battle, which consisted of him telling me he just could.not.walk.forward, I remembered two things that Mark Rashid says: one is that when you move your focus from what you are doing, you are allowing the horse to change the topic from work that he finds difficult, in this case riding with contact through walk-canter-walk transitions; the second is that sometimes what we want the conversation to look like (soft, tension free, willing) is not what the horse needs at that point. I stopped fighting. I went back to the first place he began to act out and asked him to stop and drop his head. Then I played softly with the reins until he started rolling the bit with his tongue. Then I gathered the reins and asked him to move forward. He took three steps and started to get tense again, so we stopped, dropped and relaxed.
We did that process until he was able to walk a relaxed circle in the area he acts up in. Then I took him back to the same spot he first threw his little fit and made him pick up a canter again. We finished the ride with serpentines through the walk, and on the last circle down by the south end of the arena (I’m going to stop thinking of it as the scary end), I held him out on the circle and overbent him to keep him focused on me. Thought of it as riding a shoulder in at the canter on a circle.
I recognized last night that he’s not really afraid, but he thinks he can derail our conversation by acting out in that corner. He does have a point. It has worked pretty non-stop for two years now. I don’t want to fight with him, but I’m pretty tired of this conversation. Just like there are things your toddler can do at four or five that is no longer acceptable at fifteen (wander the house nekkid for one) Ashke needs to grow up. And just like I am the one responsible for the tone and conversation between myself and my child, I am also responsible for the conversation with Ashke. Enough of giving up or avoiding that end of the arena because it becomes difficult. He can grow up and behave.
And I refuse to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with any place in the arena any more. It is not scary. It is not haunted. It is no longer an issue.
So, not only did I pay for a communicator to talk to Ashke with me, but I also told people about our conversations.
And then I promptly forgot about what Ashke had asked of me . . . and my rides went downhill fast.
The boy can hold onto resentment. And he gives as good as he gets when we fight. It's not fun. Kind of like fighting over dirty socks or leaving the toilet seat up in the middle of the night. It's all fun and games until you're ass deep in cold water.
Cute winter photo from awhile ago
Ashke asked me to walk him in hand around the arena to allow us to look at all of the stuff. It gives me an opportunity to explain to him using words what is in each of the areas. I did it once and our ride after was great, then I forgot and our next three rides sucked eggs. Stinking, rotten eggs.
Now, in my defense, one of those rides I was incredibly late to my lesson. The other times were just me being a person with swiss cheese for brains. I figure it really is exactly like being asked to put your dishes in the dishwasher a gazillion times and still forgetting too. Divorces have happened from less.
My last ride, which ended with us tooling around the arena bareback, was amazing. I remembered his request and walked him around the arena, stopping to look at all of the things. We looked at the cavaletti, the poles on the wall, the jump standards and all of the bird tracks in the sand around the jump standards. I explained what each thing was. And we talked about the tiny bird-dinosaurs nesting there. Then we looked at the jump boxes with the flower holders residing between the garage doors. He sampled the fake flowers. Then we went to the other corner where his stuff is stored (his!!!) and the drag for the arena caged behind the baby gate. I explained that the gate is there to keep a horse from accidentally stepping into the drag, not to contain the wild, wicked iron monster hiding in the sand.
Still scary after two years
We walked away unimpressed. Only had one ear flick toward that corner during our rides, but when I said "focus" he kept his attention on me. And one slight spook from something sliding outside (snow on the roof maybe?) while I was riding bareback, otherwise, he was really good.
Funny how actually paying attention to what he tells me results in wonderful things happening.
It's a start on Ashke's request to add more bling to our outfit. He was so funny when I wore this to the barn. He was hitched to the tie rail and I pulled up my jacket to show him. He carefully inspected it with his nose, sniffing deeply, then gave me a nudge. I think he was proud of his accomplishment.
I started riding as early as two years old. In fact, my mom has a picture of her, pregnant at eight months with me, on the back of a horse. I remember my first real ride for my sixth birthday, and I got my first shithead pony at eight. However, I was sixteen before I got my first saddle. That meant that for most of my early riding career, I rode bareback.
Not only did I ride bareback, but I trained horses for my neighbors starting when I was thirteen, bareback. I prided myself on being able to sit any horse at any time without a saddle. It gave me a great seat and incredible balance on the back of a horse. Alas, that seat and balance (and my confidence) have been lost in the years between. I think it is still there, but buried beneath age and pain and stiffening muscles and aching joints. This getting older really sucks.
Last night, I rode with R and her mom, G. R rode her mare Ardee and G rode her very large gelding Noosh. R was bareback (she's saving money to buy a jump saddle, plus taking it easy in the off season and just playing a bit with her mare). After I was done with destroying my canter work, (flying changes will make you cry. Just saying.) I decided to pull my saddle and do a little light walking to cool out the boy bareback.
R was willing to walk on the inside next to Ashke, since Ardee lurvs him, and remain prepared to intervene if it looked like Ashke was going to get jumpy or out of control. We just walked until Ashke was cool.
Ashke was a little tense at first, not really understanding what was going on.
And I held onto his mane, not necessarily to hold me on his back, but to make me feel more secure.
We even got a little trot work in.
The breeches were slick. Next time a more appropriate pant choice.
We had one little spook, but he didn't try to get out from under me and he only flinched and took a couple of steps, then slowed back to his walk. It was a little difficult to get off, since he's rarely had a leg and boot slide across the top of his rump when I am dismounting, but we managed without him bolting or me falling.
Soon, we will try it again. I have to say I could feel the difference in my upper thighs and lower back. R kept telling me this counted for no-stirrup November, so there's that.
Sunday was another work day at the barn. I went out about 9 am to help unload hay and stack it in the storage sheds. Luckily for all involved, the BO decided to use a picker to bring the hay out so we didn't really have to stack it twice, although we did have to load it onto the trailer and unload in the storage sheds. It went quick but left me feeling somewhat nostalgic for my childhood, when bucking hay was an autumn ritual. We unloaded and stacked about 220 bales of grass hay that ranged in the 75# to 85# range.
While we were waiting for the picker to bring the hay, I was standing around chatting with the BO while she was picking stalls and caught this on video:
This is why we can't have nice things
BO and I will breathe a huge sigh of relief when the mare that Ashke does turnout with is back in the barn. He just follows her around and eats when she is there, rather than instigating gelding games over the fence. Watching him lift his leg so the other gelding can bite at it, or turning to allow the other gelding to bite his butt explains so much.
We have two dogs - half Malinois - half Boxer - who will be five years old in one week. They are a joy to have and although they take some effort to manage, not having been socialized in their first twelve weeks of life (and don’t get me started on people breeding dogs if they aren’t going to raise them properly). They are strongly bonded to me and our family, being both loving and very protective. I prefer to have two, since they provide constant company for each other. But just like with twins or kids that are close in age, two dogs that are litter mates develop their own ways of communicating.
And there is always jealousy.
Mostly, it is Skittle who is jealous. I don’t know if this stems from dominance struggle or if she just is very green eyed. I think the latter, since they share toys and food and beds without issue. Mostly, they get jealous of me and my attention.
A couple of nights ago, Lily was on the bed with me, head on my thigh, her eyes closed as I gently stroked her face and neck. I was holding my phone in my other hand while simulateously watching football. Skittle was jealous of the attention, so she barked down the hall at an imaginary creature, which sent Lily into a frenzy of ball squeezing wariness.
Lily on the bed with her ball in her mouth.
This is a stress relief process for her or she will wind herself up into a tizzy.
Think Tasmanian devil want to be.
Skittle immediately jumped on the bed, snarled at Lily and tried to take the ball away, all the while positioning herself between Lily and me.
Skittle very pleased with herself, since she is now closer to me and Lily is banished from the bed.
Play fighting on the bed. One of the joys of life.
They are not mean with each other and it is mostly posturing and a lot of noise.
When they really get going, with flashing teeth and loud snarls, I call them land sharks.