Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Morgan Show..........more on the Lonely Arena

Part 1

I did think for just a moment that maybe I should call the show office and ask the show secretary to come hold Legs for me. I knew the horse would stand if I got help but I didn't want do that if I didn't absolutely have too. As far as I was concerned the darn horse should stand for me to mount no matter what was bothering him so I headed him back to that corner and we tried again.

His second protest the horse still flew out of the corner but this time Legs did not rear. His backward movement looked something like a stock horse that has just come to a sliding stop moving directly into a perfect back. Dirt was flying every which way. The horse was sitting on his hocks as he defied me once again.

If I hadn't had a firm hold of the reins, the horse would have been gone. I had to scramble to block his retreat. Then I headed the horse back to the corner trying to reassure him as we went. Sooner or later I thought he'd figure out there really was no cause for concern but that was just wishful thinking on my part.

This time the horse tried to take another tack to escape this time. As I headed him straight into the corner he moved laterally away from me. Then he turned his head away from me trying to leave.

Pushing his b*tt into my space is not one of those behaviors tolerated from my horse. As it swung into my space I smartly cracked it with my bat. Legs jumped straight into the air as if something unexpected at "got him." I couldn't believe how silly he was being over an empty arena.

It's not like the horse hasn't been in other empty arenas before. Most of the time we actually school by ourselves. Over the years I bet he's been in a dozen or so different arenas without horses and he's never behaved like this. I suspected this was all based in his belief there were no other horses around anywhere AND the fact this was a "new" him anyway.

Back in the corner we went, I managed to get my foot into the stirrup and was nearly ready to throw my leg over the top when the horse began to leap. I grabbed his neck stabilizing myself, screamed at him to stop and smacked him firmly on the neck. The horse did as he was told but it was still clear he was not happy. That head of his was shaking side to side telling me he didn't want to do things my way.

I managed to get myself into the saddle. My foot found the stirrup. I righted the saddle back to the middle as the horse tried to move off. Again I thumped him on the neck as "WHOA!" exploded from my lips. Legs stopped again but I could feel the spring coiling up beneath me.

I reached down to pet my horse on the neck. I lowered my voice to a melodic reassuring tone to tell the horse he really was ok. As I adjusted the reins I put my right leg against his side to bend him in a circle. Legs responded by moving laterally off my leg before walking down the rail.

Normally I like to start off a ride with some downward stretches. Still feeling that coiled spring between my legs, I decided loosening my reins and trusting my horse were probably not advisable at the moment. Instead I moved him in an alternating lateral movement down the rail. forming a zigzag pattern.

My horse was relaxing ever so slowly. Ever little creak of the building or clunk from the setting up vendors caused the horse to erupt. I hadn't really expected to school for trolls on this trip but that's exactly what I was doing. Legs was convinced there was something dangerous lurking in this building.

It's time like this I think I should feel old. My sixty three years should be enough to tell me situations like this are better left to the younger set. That's not, however, how they make me feel. Instead I feel in my element, strangely in control and competent. There's something about working through such issues with my horse that make me feel alive and whole.

While Legs was worrying about what was going to get him, I was enjoying the challenge of the ride. After the first time around the arena it was pretty easy to identify those spots that were going to be issues. Once Legs had been frightened in one area of the arena, he was convinced it was not safe to be in that area again. That meant I need to be sure his focus was on me when we came to those spots instead of looking for trouble.

In the beginning of this ride there were a number of pretty animated demonstrations from my horse telling me there were things to pay attention to that I was missing. It's not that Legs tries to dump me and take off when he gets scared. He just wants to get out of there. The intensity of his protestations are directly related to the amount of his fear. Explosions of sorts controlled by the confines of the collection I am asking for.

Because the horse is confined within a frame, all the energy of an eruption must go somewhere. The result is usually a leap straight into the air followed by equally intense movement forward. The horse hits that barrier provided by the bit and gathers all his courage to comply despite his fear. Sometimes there's a buck or two in this process but it's never about dumping me, it's more like a backfire because of too much compression in his engine.

The first couple of laps around the arena saw many of those eruptions. It was something like that work in the aisle way at the US Nationals last fall. I was surprised at the commonality between these two incidents in the behavior of my horse. Even though there was a lot less going on here, my horse was clearly as concerned about this new situation as he'd been with all that commotion in Tulsa. I was grateful for the unexpected opportunity to work through this issue maybe once and for all.

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

The Second Ride


  1. I really hope this experience has helped Legs get over all those trolls. Cant wait to see how things worked out for you.

    Karren from Australia

  2. AAL, me too but I guess only time will tell. At the very least it's helped to make things better.

  3. I have some questions unrelated to this particular story. If they've already been addressed in earlier entries, tell me to keep reading the archives.
    1. Had you always been a horsewoman or was this an entirely new venture for you? (Still considering riding lessons at age 57 here)
    2. I saw that Thoroughbreds and Arabians are considered "hot" as opposed to warmbloods. What does this mean?

  4. A Baby Boomer Dreams of Arabian Horses begins my story of dealing with horses. Before that I only had limited experience riding rental horses as a kid and I didn't get to do much of that. One or two summers a handful of rides each time. That's it other than reading every book I could get my hands on. If there's not enough info in those posts, ask away.

    As for "hot" I think the best way to define that would be having lots of energy/spirit. Mother Nature made horses to be "lazy" so they didn't burn off calories unless necessary.

    The big horses/drafts are considered to be "cold" and crosses with the light breeds and the cold breeds results in the "warm" breeds so it's not just Arabians and thoroughbreds that are considered to be hot. They are, however, considered to be the "hotter" of the hot although after what I've seen of the Morgans I think they hit that too, as do the saddlebreds.