Saturday, November 18, 2017


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.

Poopy head.

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. 

1 comment:

  1. This is SUCH an Arabian trick!!! He's so smart... if only he would use his powers for good instead of evil!


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