Dec 22, 2011

Another chilly, damp day, but Dharla and I managed to squeeze in a ride despite the threatening clouds. It was supposed to be sunny and warm, but the sunshine never materialized. My friend called early to say she didn’t have any herding lessons until later in the afternoon and wondered if I wanted to ride. Since I’d already planned to get out, I said yes and we set a time for about noon.

The icicles that had been such an obstacle earlier in the week had almost vanished in all three places. We warmed up with a nice extended trot that was uninterrupted by Dharla’s wanting to dodge and weave when we neared the rocky ledges. It’s so amazing how having another horse along will bolster a young horse’s confidence. After we got the kinks (and a few hops and kicks) out, we slowed things down and worked on getting a nice relaxed, slow jog. Dharla didn’t have much trouble sustaining a slower pace since that’s what we’ve been working on for a while now. But Bullet was a bit resistant.

In Bullet’s defence, he’s never been ridden by anyone except my husband in the six or seven years we’ve had him. Prior to that Bullet was only ridden by his previous owner enough times to call him “started.” I’m sure Bullet was not too thrilled to have a completely new person on his back, one who hasn’t ridden herself in over 30 years. That said, Bullet’s not known for his cheerful personality. He’s known as a bit of a curmudgeon and pest even in the best of circumstances. But put a rider on him who doesn’t know what makes him tick, and he’s going to mess with their head every time.

About halfway into the ride Bullet started dropping his head, rounding his back and collecting, but at the same time he began fooling around with the bit. I’d never seen him do this to this extreme before and I thought it was kind of funny. His rider didn’t. She worried that maybe something was wrong. Had he gotten his tongue over the bit? Was there an issue with his mouth that we couldn’t see? She was so disturbed that we finally stopped so I could dismount and check things out. Nope, no apparent mouth issues. I remounted and we continued, and Bullet kept up his routine. He wasn’t fighting or tugging or flinging his head, he was simply toying with the bit. And yawning. That aside, the rest of the ride was unremarkable, but I tried to make a mental note to ask my husband if Bullet had ever done this before.

Sometimes stuff like this makes me feel like my horse isn’t good enough. Bullet is nicely broke and does exactly what my husband wants him to do whenever he asks, but he’s not a lesson horse nor does he suffer schooling gladly anymore. Bullet loves getting out and hitting the trail. That’s the crux of what we do here. My husband didn’t spend years ring and ground working this horse because that isn’t the kind of stuff he does. He did a bunch of that in the beginning when we first got Bullet, then he just taught him to do what he needs to understand for the kind of stuff we typically encounter …. and Bullet does that very, very well. Now all of a sudden someone else is riding him and nit-picking him to death and this makes me feel kind of bad. Bullet’s a good horse, a powerhouse and a steadfast, reliable boy, but God love him, he’s not a reining or cutting horse and probably never will be. That’s not something we have any opportunity to do here.

My whole point in offering my husband’s horse was to give this friend a chance to get back in the saddle again after a 30+ year hiatus. I didn’t think it was important that the horse be super finely tuned to her and I don’t think my husband really cares about that either. While there’s a place for schooling, there’s something to be said for just getting out and relaxing. That’s all I was trying to do. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it matters on a ride like that if your horse wants to drop his head and play with the bit for awhile. But maybe in my old age I’ve just gotten too laid back?

Ride time: 2.5 hrs

Distance: Approx 6 mi.

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2 thoughts on “Dec 22, 2011

  1. Hi, Cher!! I enjoyed this post. No, I don’t think it’s ‘crazy’ to allow your horse to relax and mess with the bit. In fact, in my opinion, Bullet was doing something RIGHT…bending at the poll, rounding his back and collecting. His mouthing the bit means that he was accepting it. The fact that the rider had 1. no idea what he was doing and 2. probably had asked him to do so without knowing she did it, tells me two things: Bullet is very well trained, and two, the rider isn’t.
    Bullet is smart enough to be able to get away without collecting and accepting the bit. The fact that he goes just fine without it means he’s got a brain and knows how to use it.
    There’s a sort of horserider that is completely anal. Always after the horse to do this and that, and never rewarding the horse when he does it. I don’t understand it either. Which is why I shall never, ever be anything but a ‘beginning’ dressage rider. One mindset is that once you do something to a horse and get him to to do it consistently, you may never, ever, ever NOT do it. I am not that way. While I try to ride correctly (and I had a GREAT ride today!) there are times when all I want to do is ride on the buckle, let him drop his head and just mosey and relax. If this makes me inconsistent, so be it. I don’t think horses are as anal as we are, nor do I think that inconsistency makes them miserable. Every horse is different, and what some horses will find incredibly frustrating another finds to be just dandy.

    By the way, I finally had a chance to scroll through some of your photos. Your shots of the red-tailed hawk missing an eye are very good. The others are, as well. My goodness, Bean was lovely. As is your other Arab…

    • Poor Bullet! I think he’s not sure what hit him, given that he’s never been ridden by anyone else! I suppose it’s probably good for him to learn to tolerate other riders, but it’s amazing how horses, like people, get set in their ways!

      I’m with you … I think his mouth antics were OK. That’s just how he goes and how he relaxes. I’ll have to try to relate that to his new rider the next time we go out!

      Thanks for the kind words on the photos. I do enjoy photography, but it’s a really challenging hobby …. as I’m sure you know! šŸ˜‰

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