Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The spirit is willing but the body is toast!

Have you ever had one of those nights where you know you are just riding like shit?

It doesn't matter how well you ride, it can happen. Your balance is off. Your legs feel like noodles. You know you are leaning in funny ways. You don't feel secure. You know that if the horse decided to offload you, they could do it without breaking a sweat. You hope and pray they won't take advantage, and try to just get the horse worked without doing anything too complicated.

When I was younger, I only felt this way when I was sick. I particularly remember it from when I was riding with pneumonia. Now? Could happen at any time, and it definitely happened last night.

We started with the SSBG (sorry Josie but that's his name until he shows me he is not going to repeat his behavior!) and I decided it's definitely time to go to a bit with him. If you're going to slam your head to the ground pitching and rip the reins through my hand in a bitless or halter, then guess what, you're going to learn to carry a bit. Now.

He's not bad about the bit. I set him up and let him free longe in the round pen with the reins loosely knotted on the horn. He tested them and felt them out but he's not terribly resistant to them - he's normal for a green horse. Free longeing him is work. There are horses that will pretty much just go around while you stand in the middle and read your e-mail. He's not one of them. If I took my eyes off of him for even a second - he stopped. He was always looking for an opportunity to spin and go the Preferred Pony Direction, so I had to be on guard and positioned at his hip to counteract that. It was probably more work for me than it was for him!

We also did a lot of work on stopping, but stopping without a rider has never been his problem. He stops great when someone on the ground tells him ho. When you ask for it on his back, no matter how gently, his first instinct is to throw his nose up and resist. So I decided we needed ground support. We put a rope halter on over the bridle, I mounted up and we just worked on walking and stopping. If he wanted to walk through my request to stop, he got reminded with the halter that this wasn't an option. My whole focus with him for the next week or so is going to be all about installing brakes before we go any further. He was a good boy, although very distracted by all of the horses running in the fields - but that is the price you pay for using the round pen at twilight!

By now it was quarter to ten again (I know, I know, it's just I have all of these horses to feed and waters to fill before I can even think about riding, plus the phone kept ringing) and I needed to ride the VLC. As soon as I climbed on, I knew I was just...mush. I was past tired, my coordination level was zero, and I just couldn't quite pull it together the way I wanted to no matter what. I felt loose, I felt off balance and just not quite right. I hate that. But hey, it was the VLC, so he trotted around without any drama and everything was fine. I did have enough common sense to decide not to lope, and to work on something easy - stopping and immediately backing a few steps. He is figuring it out well, and is not resistant about backing. What a good boy! Josie makes fun of me because she can hear me when I'm in the arena in her aisle and I am always telling him he is the Best Colt in the World and Such a Good Boy. Well, he is!

To me, one of the primary indicators of a really good minded horse is what happened last night - the horse that does not take advantage when you're not riding your best. Believe me, the horse knows if you're off balance and weak. A good horse packs you around regardless. A dishonest horse goes, woo hoo, here's my chance to offload her! We've all ridden both and, at this point in my life, I want to ride the good minded ones.

A couple pictures tonight of Honey, the BTM! They are blurry because it was twilight when they were taken, not because she was moving that fast. (The trot pics, yeah, those are so blurry you can't even see them, ha ha!) These were from ride #2. Standard disclaimer applies, I am aware of my lack of a helmet and yes, I am riding in sneakers. Just think, you can use me as an example of how not to ride for your kids! :-)
I see why Karen misses her so much. She is a snuggly Honey Bunny and was all over me for petting this morning while I was out watering. Anybody would love to have her around, and she gets along with the other mares so well. She and Lucy were mutually grooming each other - I wish I'd have had my camera!


equus said...

when i was thrown last week, it was directly due to the fact that i was really too exhausted to ride, but did anyway. i won't do that again. btw, i do have a slight concussion from that fall, and it wasn't THAT bad of a fall. hate to think what would have happened if i didn't have a helmet on. (hint, hint)

like you said, it was ok when we were young, but now, not so much.

Karen V said...

In my "humble" opinion, Honey looks awesome under saddle!

I remember posting on the SAFE board right after I got Honey that she was aloof and stand-off-ish. She would walk to the other end of the run, rather than coming to see what was going on. She wouldn't even come in to eat until I'd gone back to the house. Then the one day when I pissed her off and turned her loose in the arena to blow off some steam and every time she ran past me, she'd kick at me. (Me standing OUTSIDE the arena, by the way)

It took her a month or more to "cuddle up". But you're right, she was VERY snuggly. Not unlike my Fat Appy Mare. I can just go out and love on them, talk to them, or stand and smell their neck.

Mike's Big Grulla Mare is the same way, for the most part, but she TOTALLY enjoys having her butt scratched! She's so dang big, I use a garden rake. It's safer that way!

I am SO HAPPY that Honey is doing so well. I may have to make a trip over just for visitation!

Serendipity said...

A dishonest horse goes, woo hoo, here's my chance to offload her!

My horse is exactly like that, so I have to be careful, even though I'm twenty-six and can take a knock here and there. He hasn't tried to bully anyone on the ground in a while, but he likes to pull stupid shit to intimidate his rider (i.e. random cow-hops during transitions, suddenly grabbing the bit and bolting toward the gate, etc.)

The only solution is to make him work, and when I'm exhausted, I simply don't have the energy to make him behave. It's a vicious cycle.

CutNJump said...

I can relate. Not that I want to or wish that I couldn't, but I can.

I can tell when it all starts going downhill. I try to work 'on the buckle' so as not to bang around on their mouth, but I still flump, flop, plop on their back from time to time.

Won't get on the greenies when it happens. Why give them any idea that occasionally 'Mom rides like shit!' or that 'Now is the time to ditch her...'

My TB mare Tess, I cannot for the life of me, sit her trot. I cannot do it even for short amounts of time so I end up posting. The more you flop, the faster she goes and the worse it all gets for both of us.

I will *ask* to be put on a longe line so I can work on ME. I appollogize to the unfortunate one who packs me around while I try to get it all back together. I at least owe them that... and a few cookies help.

These lessons are short for a couple reasons-
A) It is all going so many ways of wrong I can't ride that way for a length of time.
B) Is it really fair to any horse to have to pack me around like that?
C) It is hard on their back and body until I get it right.
D) If I am 'that far off' maybe I should skip riding for a few days til it all 'comes back'.
E) A lot of times I am tired, sore or haven't been using my body right so stretches seem to help me get it together again. Even at the walk.

Just as we have 'off days', the horses do too. Next time they are acting up 'right out of the gate', may be an 'off day' for them and simple longing could be the fix.

CutNJump said...

VLC and Karen V- Every time I see 'Honey', I think of Miss Honey from the movie Matilda.

She was the teacher, the nice one...

Deered said...

When it comes to horses minds I had one the was great when you were like you described, either absolutely knackered, or hurt, but if you were being slck or alseep at the reins,, he'd but in a wee side step (quite often with a theatrical snort) just to make sure you were awake. He was also the pony who moved sideways over a fence to try to keep me on when my hypoglycemic ass tried to fall out of the saddle (sometimes Type 1 diabetes and riding aren't a good combo).

barngal said...

I know what you mean about that feeling of riding like shit. I don't want to end up on the ground so I usually ride only when I feel good about it. Those days I'm not up to par aren't ignored, I don't ride. I also have a horse that makes you work for everything you do. I have been taking a few lessons and each week BCG makes me work hard at just keeping him in a trot! But now his new thing is that he wants to stop if he feels my leg squeeze or kick then I have to pop him with a stick. I feel like I'm mush all over him, but I do have videos from almost all of my rides and honestly for an old person, I'm pretty happy with the way I look on him. Last night at the lesson, the canter was hysterical! It was like a rodeo. I won in the end and finally had a nice canter. I asked the instructor (half my age) if she wanted a try. She jumped at the chance and after her ride realized why I was so worn out! I know I wouldn't be able to go through this if I was having an off day!

mugwump said...

We lope circles in my world. Millions and zillions of circles.
I have days when I can't sit.
I don't know. I do know I can't ever get the groove if it isn't there when I start to ride.
I have learned to pack it in and go clean stalls.
Honest v. Dishonest?
Oh yeah. My thought is they have to be honest if you show.
I don't know about you, but I turn into a lop-sided gomer when I show.
My horse better be well trained and kind, because half the time they have to baby sit me....

manymisadventures said...

Ugh, I hate it when I feel like that. It's usually when I'm sick or unusually tired, but sometimes I just have an off day and I feel like a sack of potatoes.

The VLC sounds downright adorable. I just want to meet him and cuddle him!

I have to love the honest horse. You know, my first horse, the OTTB, was like that. He was a pain in the ass, for sure. He was a bully on the ground until I learned to deal with him. He was resistant, could be spooky at shows, often rushed.

But he was honest.

If I rode like shit, he would react to the way I rode, but he wouldn't take advantage of it.

If we got up to a big fat jump and my brains went out the window and I just threw myself forward and gave him the reins, he'd just roll his eyes and jump it.

I liked that about him. Is it just me, or does it seem that a lot of TBs have that quality once they get some training and love into them?

SammieRockes said...

My horse is def. good minded, the trails we do bareback, he has to be cause there is so many times when I have to duck or lift my legs and just trust him to keep trucking.

I miss my TB when it comes to roundpen work, he was the easiest thing, this one, man I am gonna have to put a lunge line on him cause the second I ask him for a directional change he goes to the gate and eitherp pushes it open til he can jump over the rope that ties it or keeps putting his weight on it til it gives.

My gelding is still pretty amazing, he is starting to learn that if he fights meo n the direction, he will get a big fat smack on the neck and a jerk on the bit.

You wont believe the Pony my barn got today. around 14 hands, basically white with black spots on his skin(yes I know white techniquelly isnt a color) POA, 4 years old, unbroke-Free to good home. The lady had to get rid of him because he is an escape artist and was getting her into trouble, my guess is he WANTED to leave, because this horse that has never been on a trailer got in in less than 2 minutes, very brave guy, cute, not too bad of conformation, sweet, will be a great trail horse if not anything else. I will post a pic as soon as I get oen.

equus said...

I am going to second the other equus' comments regarding helmets. I know you don't want to hear it :) But really, what would your horses do if you were to have a fall which resulted in your brain being unable to perform the two jobs you need to support them?? I wouldn't be surprised if they are all taken care of in your will, but don't you think they are all better off without you being brain damaged? And never mind the horses, what about your fugly/vlc fans? We would have to form a support group or something *shudder* ;-)

sidetracked said...

When I ride in the winter sometimes or in the extreme heat and I'm just plumb out of energy I ride like crap. I ride huntseat and my legs are not as tight as they should be, my heels are floating up, I start to roach my back (I'm a short rider so getting everything into the right place always takes extra energy) Lately I've taken a few days off from riding. I just moved into a new place,BF and I are starting over, it's been so freakin hot and then rainy that my body is just going through a lot. I'm not gonna feel guilty about taking a week off. I usually ride 5 or so days a week and show regularly but this is an off week, don't have any shows for 2 weeks and I need some time to myself before I drop dead. I work in the child protective field and work has just been crazy and ultra stressful. SOmetimes your body tells you when enough is enough so before I do more harm trying to ride on an empty take of gas I just give it a break. My horse usually likes a few days off and comes back refreshed and ready to work. It also doesn't help that he has a fresh round bale out in his paddock that he sleeps in, rubs on and just plain loves. I know later this weekend when I get ready to ride I'll be on my game and ready to get to work.

nhalle said...

What breed or cross is the VLC? I made an attempt to look for the answer , but my lazyness is winning the battle! He is gorgeous , no matter what the breed!