Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First Ride (Sorta)

Sunday was a cold, blowing day, but I didn't care - I had to get out on my horse!

I had thrown the saddle pad on her and taken her around the block right after she got her pedicure on Monday, but the five minutes I was on her didn't count as a ride.  All it did was make me want to go on a real ride.

My washing machine has decided to quit working, so each Sunday I've been taking my laundry up to the Lodge to do it and I had just enough time after I started the washer to go for a quick ride.  I would have preferred a long ride, but the weather was nasty.  We had horizontal snow, but I wasn't going to be deterred.  After all, the sun was still out.  It wasn't warm by any stretch of the imagination, but who cared?

Bill bundled up and braved the elements with me and off we went.

Estee wasn't nearly as excited about the prospect of going up on the mountain in the nasty weather, but managed to put one hoof in front of the other.  With some urging, she even managed to do it at a reasonable clip.  She and Ranger moseyed along the trail, willing to take us out but determined not to enjoy it.

Until we turned toward home.  Suddenly Estes got all sorts of energy and when I got after her for it, she did something she's never done in a tantrum before - that little bitch reared up on me.  It wasn't a big rear - she wasn't trying to put me off, but she was definitely letting her opinion be known.


Bill managed to snap the picture just as we were coming down.  Thank goodness for all of the balance work that my trainer's got me doing and the few lessons I've had on M.  I've had horses rear up on me before, but I was always in a saddle, not on a bareback pad whose cinch won't tighten enough to even make contact with Estes.

We had to stop and stand nicely for a little bit and then we headed off again.  At the Estes Two-Step, which felt so good on my back, let me tell you!  We did a lot of "whoa" and "stand" until she remembered how to walk.  Then we did stuff we both enjoy - we got to go snow bashing!


I love riding through snow, and I love it even more when no one else has marked it up with their own little paw prints.

We weren't out very long - only about half an hour, but it was WONDERFUL! Cold, snow and all. I'm so glad to have my girl back. I even love that she's got opinions - it keeps life interesting.

I can't wait until I can get up there again to ride, but it'll be a couple of weeks, darn it. Between the Health Fair and coloring Easter Eggs with the family, I'm not seeing any ride time until the 23rd.

Warning: mini-rant

I recently read an article on how important it is to be able to control all four of your horse's hooves when out on the trail.  I don't buy it.  Estes knows a whole lot better than I do where to put her feet to get where we need to go.  We rode over downed tree limbs covered in snow, skirted tree stumps and wove through the trees.  Even when we were crossing multiple downed limbs that required her to place her feet in small spaces between the limbs, I didn't have to "control" her hooves.  I feel like people who must "control" all of their horse's hooves don't have much trust in their horse.

I've been in situations on the trail that I've put us in and then had to depend on my horse to figure out how to get us out of it.  And the horse (no matter which one I was on) managed to figure it out and get us back on the right track in one piece.

I just feel like there are a lot of people who want to trail ride, but want to bring the "rules" of the arena out onto the mountain with them.  They work so hard to be "in control" of their horse at all times, that there is no trust built between the horse and rider.  Of course, my perception may be skewed because the only effective way to work with Mustangs is to build trust.  Estes isn't a Mustang, but she responds well to the same kind of treatment that they do.  She has a brain in her head and she wants to be allowed to use it.

I'm the boss when I'm riding, but like any good boss, I'm open to suggestions.  I don't want to micro-manage my horse.  Do I have expectations for her behavior?  Yes.  Will I correct her if she doesn't meet those expectations?  Yes.  But does that mean I must be "in control" of her every move? Nope.  We're a team when we're out on the trail - we may have disagreements along the way just like any team - but I trust her to get us home safely and she trusts me to not put us in too much danger.


Tj and Mark said...

I'm the boss when I'm riding, but like any good boss, I'm open to suggestions.

Amen Sister! Glad your ride turned out well.

Allenspark Lodge said...

Next ride, I'm out there too. Just got final approval from my surgeon, who told me to,"go ride your horses!" Gotta train these bionic hips right.

I value my partnership with my horses on the trail; they have been life savers, literally.

Rachel said...

Eek about the rearing in a saddle pad! Good for you for keeping your seat! And awesome speedy shutter finger Bill!

I have no problem admitting that my horse knows far more about her abilities than I do. And I HAVE to trust her, because she can hear and I can't. So she can react appropriately (with all four hooves) if needed.

I had to trust the livery horses too... I didn't know the trails, they did. And I sure wasn't about to ask them to step somewhere funky when shale was sliding down the mountainside...

Cheyenne said...

Your mini rant? Was spot on!! Truly said girl!
Too many people with horses spend too much time arena riding, especially over here, and when they go out into the countryside, they wonder why their horse does a "flaky!"

Great post!

Mrs Mom said...

Right on Woman!!

You try to micro-manage that wonderful Estes of yours and you KNOW darn well what she'll tell you... lol... I bet that old girl can make a sailor blush if she really got going with cussing ;)

Glad you got to ride!! Wicked excited that your Bionic Cowgirl can join you now too!!!

GunDiva said...

Arena riders are amazing - I can't do what they do. I've seen them do things with their horses that I couldn't imagine. However, it's a completely different type of riding from trail riding.

I "grew up" trail riding - I'm absolutely comfortable in wide open spaces going up and down hills, through running water, dodging branches, etc. But, put me in an arena and I don't know which way is up. I suspect that arena riders feel the same way about trail riding and that insecurity is what leads them to want to micro-manage their horse.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Well, I agree with you in the mini-rant, but I don't really think it is so much about trust as it is that there are a lot of people who are trying to take horses that have been raised in small and controlled environments into a setting they have no experience in dealing with. The horses lack the knowledge, experience and common sense our horses have developed.

Mustangs raised in the wild have developed common sense about such things, just like Estes has from living and working in the mountains, as have my horses from growing up on the ranch. Horses raised in pretty little paddocks and exclusively ridden in arenas have no concept of how to handle uneven terrain, go up hills or downhill...much less how to figure their way out of a sticky situation.

I've ridden a lot of horses like that and No, I wouldn't trust them to know where to put their feet either. Reminds me of the time my step-mom sooo wanted to impress my grandpa with her fancy-shmancy show mare. The mare had won classes at both the Cow Palace and The AQHA Congress. My grandpa left the yard on her to check cows and came back leading her. The grass freaked her out, the openness freaked her out and by god, she was NOT crossing that creek. Grandpa grabbed his scrawny, ugly, ancient paint ranch gelding and got the cows checked. He cussed 'show' horses forever after that. it took a couple of years, but that show mare did end up being somewhat decent to ride in the pasture. She was never great about it and never did develop the sure-footedness that came so natural to the horses that were born and raised on the ranch. Where other horses would just naturally step around a hole, if you were not watching for her...she would just fall in it.

Linda said...

I agree, trail riding is a different animal. I've seen good arena horses make horrible trail horses and vice versa. We have an awesome trail horse that if you put him in the arena he will go bonkers. We 4-Hed with him--and you have to do both-but that nit-picky crap was not for him. He's the kind of guy you can throw a saddle on once a year and you STILL have a solid trail horse. How does that work? I don't know. Anyway, I always figure the work I do an arena is for ME, not my horse. The balance issues you referred to with the rearing--all of that--it's my problem, not the horses.

Shirley said...

I find that trusting your horse means letting go of preconceived notions about the battle between your will, and the horse's ability to understand you. There is a time and place for micro-managing, but building a good trail horse is all about them figuring things out, not you telling them what to do. Encouraging them in fearful situations, and insisting that they do something like crossing water or mud, is part of building that trust.

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm with BECG on this one. There are horses I'd trust to know where to put their feet but there are horses I've seen that wouldn't have a clue. I wouldn't want to be up in the hills on one of those horses unless I had the control to be able to teach them what's been trained and maybe even bred right out of them.