Sunday, April 6, 2008

Between These Ears

Between these ears is a wonderful mind. I had a ridiculously busy weekend and tried to squeeze in a ride on Bombay between 4:30 PM and dinnertime. Normally, I'm cleaning stalls at 4:30, but Bombay didn't mind this break in our routine one bit. He allowed me to halter him, saddle him, lunge him, and ride him, even though the sun was low in the sky and blinding us. I could see that his energy was low, so I set up an obstacle course to work on steering. It included a log, a step ladder, a tire, and a salt block.

I walked him over the log, and he lazily kicked it with each foot, too tired to step up higher. I steered him in small circles and S's and figure 8s. He just plodded along. After about 5 minutes we were both bored out of our minds. I urged him to walk faster, and he did these same things at a slightly higher speed. With that complete, there was nothing to do but move it up to a jog. I was a bit nervous about this, as he didn't seem concerned about clearing the log at a walk and I didn't want him tripping at a higher speed. He did trip at the jog, but it wasn't difficult to maintain my balance.

Something off in the distance caught Bombay's attention and gave him a second wind. He launched into a fast trot and did a good job clearing that log in addition to taking on those turns around each obstacle. Before I even realized that we had moved up to the canter, Bombay was sailing around those obstacles and clearing the log in one great leap. I felt like I was in my element, and Bombay seemed fairly pleased with himself as well.

During our cool down, I thought about how not so long ago I was afraid to canter. Not long before that, I was afraid to ride a horse at all. I loved riding horses, but I was afraid. My only experience with jumping was when Lostine cleared a log when I wasn't paying attention. I was actually looking off to the side at another horse that was misbehaving while we were at a fast trot. Next thing I knew we were airborne. Jumping seems scary, but the jolting sensation of the trot ceases in that moment when horse and rider are in the air, and it actually feels quite relaxing.

In Bombay's case, I have always been intimidated by his canter. He's my tallest horse, and his gaits are not very smooth. He has this animated up and down movement that requires one to squeeze hard with the thighs to maintain a seat. When we trot, I almost always post. His canter has such huge motion that we don't get far before I stop him. Usually, one foot looses a stirrup because I get so tense in my attempt to hang on with my legs that I point my toes down instead of up. Then when I try to feel around with my foot for the lost stirrup, I lose my balance and have to stop him all together. However, because the jump became our biggest challenge, I was too busy thinking about getting him into position for the jump to get tense over the canter. I also think the jump helped him to stretch out so that his canter was smoother.

The only bummer of the day was that it had to end, and that tomorrow is Monday. No more riding until next Saturday for Ms. Workaholic. I should either look for a night job so that I can ride during the day, or install lights in my riding area so that I can ride at night. Although my neighbors probably wouldn't appreciate floodlights shining in their windows while they are trying to sleep. There was a wonderful period of my life when I only had to work part-time. I spent half the day working and half the day riding. Now the horses have to settle for an occasional hug on the week days. They keep each other entertained while I push buttons all day and yearn for the next vacation. Once that vacation comes, I get stuck having to visit relatives when all I wanted to do was ride. Most years my vacation time gets eaten up by family emergencies. That's why I cherish these weekends so much. They are often my only opportunity to ride.


Beckz said...

Sounds like you had an excellent ride. It's funny how sometimes what you need to do is not think about it.

Molly said...

You get to contemplate that ride all week and look forward to finding that comfort zone again next weekend.
Have you ever considered riding bareback or without stirrups?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Beckz - I think you hit the nail on the head.

Molly - Bareback is a goal of mine. I rode on bareback pads as a child, which isn't the same as pure bareback, but I wouldn't want to try bareback as an adult unless I had help. I keep hoping I'll get some time off from work to take bareback lessons with a trainer, because my usual trainer won't work with adults on the weekends. She reserves that time for the kids who are training to show. I doubt that time will ever come, so I may have to bite the bullet and do it by myself. My horses spook by jumping to the side sometimes, and I worry I would slip right over the edge if I didn't have those stirrups to stop me. At any rate, I know that riding bareback is essential to developing better balance, and it shouldn't matter if I lose a stirrup if I have good balance.

BarnGoddess said...

wow-what a great day for you and Bombay! sorry your rides are far between, I am a stay-at-home mom these days and my rides are sometimes spread far apart too...

gone are the days when I used to canter and even gallop bareback,I got old and grew some sense. These days Scooter and I do venture out on the trails bareback but since his withers have narrowed w/ age, its not comfy anymore.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

barngoddess - Oh yeah, being a stay-at-home mom can be more demanding than most office jobs. I've got one kid who drives, so that lightens my load in the chauffering department.

onthebit said...

Well you already mentioned that your neighbors are...interesting, but I have a friend who has a backyard barn herself and she found these great standing lights. They do require electric, but they are perfect for riding after dinner. They are bright enough to ride, but not blinding. Plus they are light enough she just moves them from her garage to the field to ride whenever she needs them. It is hard to find time to ride, even in perfect conditions. I am glad you had a good one!

Callie said...

Sounds like a very successful ride! A great day!

Crystal said...

I know what you mean... about working and having time for horses.... it's hard.

not sure what I want to do when I have to go back to work.

Twinville said...

Wow. I felt like you were taking the thoughts right out of my head with the way I am currently feeling about riding...being intimidated and scared.

I've had Baby Doll here at home now for more than a month and not once have I ridden her. But I haven't taken anymore lessons either, which were helping me get past the fear and lack of self-confidance.

I keep explaining it away to the weather being too cold and windy to ride, but I know there's more to it than that.

She's a very sweet horse, but seems so big and strong. And with all the wind seems so much more spooky than I've ever seen her. She sometimes even bolts when she's spooked, instead of just side-stepping or taking small jumps.

If I was younger I'd probably be less fearful, but with kids and our little ranch, and all the responsibilities, I keep having flashes where I'm injured. It's scares the you-know-what out of me.

I've even asked myself, why did I buy this horse? Maybe I should give up that dream of riding and doing trails. I'm like the deer in the proverbial headlights. Is this really what I wanted...a horse?

I did get the opportunity to ride bareback in several of my lessons, and I know what you mean about being so good for learning balance and communicating clearly with the horse, too.
I really enjoyed my bareback riding, even though it was only in the round pen. It just felt so good.

Hopefully, I can stop making excuses about riding soon. I still need to order a saddle and get my bridle from my lesson instructor. Your post was a good wake-up-call reminder to me.
Thank you.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

OnTheBit - Thanks. I'll look into those lights. The neighbor has been limiting her unwanted behavior to just peering through the blinds at me and occasionally opening her window so she can eavesdrop. As long as she stays in her house, I'm fine with that.

Callie - It was.

Crystal - You've got to get creative with a work schedule and horses.

Twinville - Keep taking riding lessons. My daughter's first riding lessons were in high winds on a "green" or inexperienced horse. However, the trainers demeanor was calm enough to influence both the horse and my daughter to be calm as well. I had to spend a lot of time with that trainer to get past some of my fears. Even today when I get nervous, I recall my trainer's calm nature and try to bring that out of myself. You bought Baby Doll because she completes Laughing Orca Ranch. Without her you would have to change the name of the ranch.

Rising Rainbow said...

Finding time to ride can be a challenge whether working away from home or in it. I know sometimes I can't believe my day has gotten away from me and I haven't done half the things with horses I wanted to do.

Maybe your problems with the canter have to do with tension in your body. If you went over the log and it was fine.

Twinville said...

You said
"You bought Baby Doll because she completes Laughing Orca Ranch. Without her you would have to change the name of the ranch."

I can't even begin to tell you how much your words meant to me.
Thank you for your support, gentle reminder and kindness.