Monday, April 28, 2008

Backside in the Saddle

Did you notice whose butt that is? (Yes, of course it's mine! I meant the horse.)

Saturday was Consolation's big day. Though I did sit on her once last year, just before winter set in, but we can say she's officially started under saddle.

So far, Consolation has proven an easier subject than Aaruba. I'm always intrigued by how different stimuli affect different horses. Something that sends one into an emotional tailspin may not make another so much as blink.

Aaruba came to me with a few rides on him and a reputation for bolting when mounted. To break the bolting habit, I identified the precise cause of the behavior by breaking the pre-mounting and mounting process into steps. It turned out that he was terrified of seeing a rider's leg swinging over his hindquarters -- so terrified that I used a blue foam swimming pool "noodle" to desensitize him before even trying to climb aboard.

Consolation, on the other hand, had no issues with objects swinging over her back. What set her off was the strangeness of seeing a handler bobbing up and down at her side, and the thump of dismounting feet. So, for the last week, I've been doing a lot of jumping up and down beside her. I started at the end of the leadrope and worked closer until I could bounce around like a maniac while tugging on the saddle and her mane. I'm sure the neighbors were highly amused. (On the bright side, I can now model for the cover of Calves of Steel.)

Before mounting, I reviewed lateral flexion and disengaging the hindquarters.
Once aboard, one of the first things I did was check to be sure that emergency brake still worked, because a horse can't bolt or buck when its hindquarters are disengaged.

And then we were off. I let Consolation choose her direction at first, allowing her to focus on balancing the strange, new weight on her back. She showed an obvious preference for turning to the left, so after a few minutes of wandering around, I asked her to turn right instead. She resisted enough to make me a bit nervous, but gave in when she discovered that the rules with me astride are the same as when I'm on the ground: Give to pressure, and you get instant release.

Back on the ground, I considered the ride. I was a bit disturbed by Consolation's resistant attitude until I remembered that such behavior is very much in keeping with her personality. When something is new and uncomfortable, she tries to take control of the situation. Firm consistency on my part works her through the discomfort and back into compliance.

Sure enough, Sunday's ride was notably better. I'm sure we'll encounter more bumps in the road -- the fourth through seventh rides on a green horse are notorious for being the most eventful because the horse is often a little muscle sore and has gained confidence in her balance under a rider -- but this is, nonetheless, and auspicious beginning.
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2 comments:

ell said...

Lucy has put her foot down as to having an iron bit put in her mouth. She bumped her teeth on it cause she gets too nervous about letting it go. Last tiem she had it on she really paniced and got it hung up hard on her lower jaw ans her head went up and up and up. No way can I get that that thing in her mouth now. I am thinking of a Happy mouth or a straight rubber or, I see you have a bitless on Consolation--can you tell us more about that please?

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

You bet! Coming soon to a blog post near you. ;-)

Sorry about Lucy's bad experience -- something similar happened to Aaruba, which is what got me started on bitless.