Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Strange Place Progress

I haven't been feeling well enough to ride until tonight. I knew I had to get out there and practice, because my equitation instructor is coming tomorrow, and he will be disappointed if I haven't done my homework. I led Bombay over to my neighbor's farm while Lostine and Gabbrielle threw their usual herd-bound fits. When we walked through the gate of my neighbor's place, several loose Arabian mares trotted up to greet us.

One mare started sniffing Bombay and he nervously eyed her, unsure of what to do. Another mare knocked up against the fence, making a loud noise, and that sent the entire herd off at a gallop. Bombay tried to run with them, but I yanked him back to me and yelled, "Whoa!"

I walked him around the paddock where I planned to ride him. This was the same location where I rode him last week, but he was still nervous about it. He actually spent the first two years of his life on this farm, but apparently had no memory of it. My neighbor and her granddaughters were busy lunging horses, bathing horses, and knocking down hay. With all the activity, Bombay was on pins and needles. I lunged him on the lead rope, turning and halting him repeatedly until he settled down.

Riding him was a struggle as he was too concerned with everything going on around him to pay attention to that pesky fly on his back. He spooked by jumping the side and bucked several times. Lostine, Gabbrielle, and all of my neighbor's mares were whinnying, so Bombay kept calling back to them. Then a ground squirrel ran out of the brush in front of him and he jumped. I forced him to walk along the fence line while the squirrel followed us. He was so sure that little thing was going to eat him. I just kept talking to him telling him how cute that little squirrel was. My voice seemed to relax him, so I kept talking.

I was spending too much time correcting him for whinnying, for shying from the fence, for moving up to faster gaits without a cue, for bucking, etc. I decided I had to give him a goal instead of just being a passenger and correcting his natural tendencies. I imagined us jogging smoothly in a big oval in both directions, and then put him to work. It took a few laps, but he finally did it just as I imagined. I then imagined us in a fast trot completing several laps in both directions, and he did it.

I was feeling good about our progress. I halted Bombay, looked up to see what everyone else was up to, and you could have heard a pin drop. Everyone had gone into the house, all the horses had been put away and fed, and I had no idea when it all happened. I was so concentrated on getting Bombay to have a successful ride that I shut out everything around us. I believe that he did too.

We took a nice relaxed walk around the paddock and stopped to watch a baby llama that was playing just beyond the fence. The paddock is on the edge of a cliff that overlooks several other farms, and the view is stunning. I sat there in the saddle thinking, "So this is what a successful trail ride feels like."

My neighbor came out and we talked a bit, which was a good exercise in patience for Bombay. She said that one of her granddaughter's thought Bombay would make a good Hunter horse. The other granddaughter said she thought he was more Country English, because he's so upright and prances a lot. My neighbor explained that he's "just a trail riding horse". I could tell that she was disappointed in me for not training him to show. She thinks he's beautiful. Bombay affects people in an interesting way. People notice him. He has personality and presence.

He looks just like his dam, Aziza (Ziggy). Ziggy was an amazing mare who took care of my neighbor's granddaughters when they were little and learning to ride. She died recently, and I think that seeing her son was somewhat of an emotional experience for the girls. They said that Bombay looks just like Ziggy, but he's much hotter than she was. In the Arabian horse world, "hot" doesn't mean sexy or sweaty. It means that the horse is excitable and loaded with energy. I asked if Ziggy was hot when she was young, but my neighbor told me that she had always been a very low key, easy to handle horse. Too bad Bombay didn't get her temperament in his genes.

We finished our talk and I rode a little longer. Bombay kept stopping where his lead rope was on the ground, and poking my foot with his nose to tell me to get off. I decided to teach him a lesson in patience by riding him to the far end of the paddock, and then zig-zagging at a walk all the way back to the lead rope. Only then did I get off him.

While walking him back home, I grasped his lead rope just under the snap beneath his chin. He spooked at something and jumped backwards, which tweaked my back since my arm got jerked behind me. Otherwise, we made it home safely and I was able to take some pictures of him before it got dark. I feel satisfied that we made some progress. I hope Bombay feels the same, so that he can be more confident during our lesson in that paddock tomorrow.


Twinville said...

Yes, he really does have amazing presence, even just in photos. I swear that everytime I look at him I see my neighbor Val's mare, Annie. They have the same colring and body design.

I'm so happy for you that the two of you found your 'magic place' and had such a wonderful ride.

Have fun tomorrow. I can't wait to read and see how it went, too.

Mrs Mom said...


NOW you are really getting it. All it takes is practice, and you will be able to find your "happy place" there at any given moment ;)

I am proud of you two! Keep up the excellent work there!!!

Andrea said...

I have to talk to myself a lot when I ride. Reminding myself to ignore outside things and just ride. I always tell kids, "Ignore what is going on around you and just ride!" then I have trouble doing that myself. Good luck tomorrow with the lesson!!

Callie said...

Wow, Excellent! Great progress! Congrats!

Glamour Girl said...

What amazing horses you have. I've been horseless for 11 years and arabians were indeed my favorite. I have 2 children and wonder if I were riding today if my stress level would be better! I recently got a dog and just holding him makes me calm. I suppose I'm just an animal person. Thanks for sharing your babies!