Friday, May 18, 2012

For an Encore . . .

Tonight I went to the stable by myself. J and T opted to stay home and hang out, it being Friday and all, and they were both tired after a busy week. I wanted to work Ashke and I also wanted to see if our little disagreement from last night had any effect.

I guess when I first started thinking about getting a horse I really wanted to recreate the relationship I had with Queenie. She was so easy and calm. I was fearless. She was only three and although she had been ridden a little bit, she wasn't trained. I spent a ton of time riding in the snow, that first winter, teaching her to neck rein, learning to connect with one another. I was pretty much her only rider from the time I was 13 to the time I was 24. We had the kind of connection that allowed me to think about what I wanted to do and she did it.  That was the type of relationship I envisioned when I thought about getting a horse.

Of course, when I thought about getting a horse I expected to pick and choose from amongst the cream of the crop. I wanted to make a smart decision. I wanted a young gelding, well-handled, good ground manners, and a positive attitude. Instead, the universe took that decision away from me by giving me a neglected, starved, seven year old. The only similarity was the gelding part.

I guess I should have recognized that things were going too easy and been more careful.

Tonight, I rode Ashke in the round pen for ten minutes or so. He was very calm. We moved to the big arena and he was still calm. We rode circles in both directions at a walk and a trot. There was no tossing of his head, no head shaking, no striking out. He felt relaxed and calm. I decided to move to the field and ride there for the rest of the night.

Ashke started as soon as we walked into the field. When I went to mount he turned his head and tried to eat my calf. Since I was in the act of pulling myself into the saddle, there was little I could do. Once I got settled, I pried his teeth out of my leg and we set off across the field. Fifteen feet into the field Ashke started to fight me. He was trying to bolt. Trying to buck. Trying everything. And a few minutes later he managed to toss me out of the saddle. I knew it was going to happen a couple of seconds before I was tossed (my stirrups were way to long for a serious buck) and I was able to land without injuring myself. I wasn't happy though.

I know people say you need to get right back on. I didn't. I went to the round pen and we learned to lunge.

Mark Rashid said in his book Nature in Horsemanship, that sometimes reaching harmony between a horse and rider looks different to the horse than the rider may want it to. I don't know about Ashke, but I would say it looks a bit different to me now.

Ashke cantered in a circle for a good fifteen minutes. He didn't squeel but he snaked his head, tossed it around, bucked and kicked as he tore around. We went in both directions at a canter. There were a couple of times when I had to snap the whip at his hind quarters, but he got the idea pretty quick. He cantered and trotted in both directions until he was pretty sweaty. When he changed directions I would talk to him, pet his nose and tell him he was a good boy. Then off he would go the other direction.

After he had finally calmed down, no longer kicking or striking out, I stopped him, put the reins back on his bridle and then rode him in the round pen in both directions. He was very calm and did what I asked without issue. I only did a couple of rounds in both directions and then took him into the stable. I unsaddled him and then rinsed him off. After that I walked him around until he was cool and almost dry. Then he went back to his stall and got a handful of treats.

My only regret is that I didn't take the stirrups off my saddle. One of them clocked him behind the elbow on his left leg. It left a small gash there. I was it clean and it wasn't too much more than missing skin. Of course, it could have happened when he tossed me. All I know is that I found it when I took him into the stable.

Maybe if I had gotten him at a younger age, before he had been left to stand in a field of dirt for two years, before he had been chased around with ATV's, before he had been sent to the cowboy trainer with one arm and no real horse sense who proclaimed him unbreakable, before he had been starved and neglected, before he had stood in mud and manure shaking with the cold while the people who were responsible for him stood around and laughed; maybe then I could have worked him in peace and quiet and achieved harmony without forcing my will over his. Unfortunately, I am not 20 any more and can't afford to be thrown in an effort to train him in the manner my heart really wants. Instead, I'm going to work him in the round pen on the lunge line. I'm going to teach him his gaits and work some of the steam out of him. I'm going to show him how to achieve a working/loving relationship with me that includes being ridden in a manner that is safe and fun for both of us. Perhaps then he will figure out that biting isn't acceptable. (Silly boy should be past the toddler stage, but obviously not.) I don't want a horse that is going to stand around in the stable and eat his head off. I want a horse that is going to be a partner in my endurance adventure. I think Ashke has the willingness and attitude for it, now I just need to get him trained.

I guess we will see how he is tomorrow. . .

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