Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rachel & Grandma and Arabian Horses - Salem - Night Time Schooling

Part One Salem

This baby boomer should have known as she rode the Arabian horse into that old arena building. He walked much slower than usual and he was really attentive.......only it wasn't to me.

The horse was totally tuned into his environment. He was reluctant to move off my legs. His ears were locked tight on what was up ahead and the sounds bouncing off the walls. I can only imagine the fixed gaze on his face but the way he felt, I knew it was there.

I had to give the horse a swift smack with the bat to remind him he had a passenger. The choice of that word is no mistake......I'm sure to Legs that just what I was.......not a rider in charge.......but a passenger along for the ride. The horse was going to check this building out. He had nearly totally forgotten about me.

I immediately began putting him to work on something he needed to think about to accomplish. The only way I was going to get him listening was to make it hard for him to ignore me. So I pulled his head slightly to the inside and moved him laterally off my leg. As soon as I had him square beneath me, I changed the arch and the direction sending him off the other way. Alternating back and forth we worked our way down the arena in a series of half passes.

The building sounded hollow and echoed each footfall as we made our way around the arena. There were also creaks and groans like only old buildings can speak. The horse's jog was slow and deliberate but I know he only was giving me half of his brain. The other half was locked in on what might be hiding in this strange sounding building.

We'd just about made the corner of the first rail when some unseen goblin reached up and grabbed Legs. The horse went flying sideways in a flurry of confusion and fear. I could see the whites of his eyes as he threw his head into the air and tried to bolt.

I squeezed him with my legs as the adrenaline sent my heart pounding clear up into my throat. I tried to swallow it back down so I could "tell" my horse there was nothing to fear. I caught him mid stride and he instantly settled between my legs. A swift hard blow and snort was the only external evidence the horse had even been rattled. We proceeded down the rail.

Despite the slow steady beat of the horse's jog, the pace seemed feverish. I could feel the horse's heart beating between my legs. The horse may have been listening to me but he wasn't believing a word I "said." Legs was sure that something in this building wanted to eat him!

It was like the ghosts of horses trapped underneath the stands of this stadium arena so many years ago had come back to haunt me. Their clattering hooves on the concrete resounded off the walls as they raced around in circles trying to find a way out. The crashing sounds as their feet slide out from underneath them sending the horse crashing into walls as they tried to corner too fast. Their fierce cries ripping the air. I had lived that terrifying night and now it seemed that Legs was living it too. It was an eerie feeling as the horse spooked and I flashed back to that old nightmare.

I can remember thinking this was not what schooling my horse in the arena before a show was supposed to be. Instead of getting the horse comfortable I was scaring mine half to death. I wasn't sure this had been the best idea but now I had to see it through. There would not be enough time before classes to fix anything as dramatic as this.

I made several more passes around the arena with multiple instances of the horse trying to jump out from underneath me. Each time the phantoms of the past leapt into my mind. I tried to soothe my horse as a way to comfort me. Oh where could Rachel be?

I think I had even worked both ways of the arena before Rachel finally arrived with Dandy. Legs was still not buying the fact that this arena was safe although he was definitely trying. Adding another horse to the mix would muddy up the creaking noises of this old fossil of a building. I asked Rachel to get on Dandy and ride right next to us.

Dandy had a much more extensive show career in this arena, where Legs only had shown one season of three classes here. Those classes had been with a trainer who gives the horse flashbacks to this day. I wondered if the horse's experience with that trainer might have something to do without our current circumstance. But there would be no answers to that question.

The presence of Dandy next to him seemed to give Legs some reassurance. Since his brother was plodding along like things were normal, Legs began to relax just a little. The horse slowly began to rebuild his courage.

Dandy's only concern was that Legs might get too close to him. The horse has issues with traffic and that even applies to Legs. I think that Legs was relieved to have Dandy actually pinning ears at him. Somehow if that's the only concern his older brother could harbor in this arena, it must not be that bad..........

I don't know how much time we spent out there riding. The focus was more getting the horse to relax than it was schooling the usual issues to show. Collection wasn't nearly as important to me as it usually is......but then one thing about a stallion, when they get excited or concerned or scared..........they get round..........the neck arches........the butt drops.......the back really was a pretty ride but had little to do with my cues.

This show was going to be another learning experience for both Legs and me. I had no idea what kind of horse I was going to face in the morning. But then Legs probably didn't have any idea what was going to face him in the morning either.

To be continued............

First Day

The picture above is a much braver Arabian stallion and me at my open house last year. Legs was definitely full of himself and showing off for the crowd.

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  1. Hi Mikael,
    You don't have to post this for all to see. I just wanted to remind you to put the vote link in the next post as the last one is getting buried and hard to find now.
    *shakes off creepy feeling* You give a really good description. Remind me to leave before you start telling ghost stories. LOL! Otherwise you might have me running off screaming.

  2. cheri, how could I resist with a comment like this. lol I will add the vote link to this post.

    I'm not really into ghost stories. It was strange the way this happened. Legs would react and I flashed back like somehow they were related. I will tell the story sometime.......maybe I'll schedule it to post while I'm in Salem. I doubt it is a story you will want to miss.

  3. It's scary when your horse is scared, I know because my filly Lori is like that. She can be stalled for a few days because of rain or whatever and then I will lead her out to take her to the field and the neighbor will have moved a vehicle or brought something new onto his property or anything just minor and she will notice it immediately!!!!!! Big scary thing waiting to eat me LOL.

    Looking forward, as always, to the next instalment. I really hope I see pics of the new baby soon and that the other one arrives soon too. My husband just informed me that the mares will be coming home soon after their foals are born and they are a few weeks old at least, so I get rid of three and get 4 maybe 5 back!!!!

    Hoping for rain for my new pasture.


  4. not a good feeling when your horse is scared and not just being a brat.

    Looking forward to hearing more....

  5. I wonder if it wasn't just a lot of things scaring Legs, from his past training to creaking sounds, to being the only horse in the arena at night, to maybe even a little tenseness on your part from past experiences. You will never know with a horse what is setting them off when nothing seems to stand out. I'm glad to hear Dandy settled him down. Riding experiences like this are just what you need when you're dog tired at the end of a long day.

  6. Good golly MiKael... Thats got to be one heck of a story. Youhave my brain running around now, trying to sort out what might have happened in your past, to bring about such a memory...

    Surely hope things settled down well for you! Looking forward to the next installment!

  7. Hi Mikael--

    Into Equus ( is live. We'd love it if you dropped by, shared some photos and videos of your horses, and gave us your feedback.

    Into Productions