Saturday, October 22, 2011
The Comfort Zone
Laura has discussed in many posts about the traits of a sane horse and how she is now more excited about a pokey trail ride than a wild gallop after a cow. Me, too. Some of that is age (maturity, please) and some of it is the amount of time I have to exercise/train my horse. So in order to keep my rides free of gut-wrenching, hair-raising horse scares, I have perfected "the comfort zone."
I ride alone in wide open fields. Relish and I have been together for seven years since he was a two-year-old. He is not mean or ornery, BUT he is physically strong and mentally strong-willed. Every time we ride, his thinking process (as far as I can tell) goes like this: okay, she's made me walk back to the barn for seven years, but maybe this ONE time, if I break into a trot, she'll forget and I'll get to gallop . . . So we have had our moments. However, they have been few and far between because I have chosen to be cautious--not "scared out of my pants" cautious, but "let's avoid that" cautious.
I have only come off Relish once when a coyote leaped from a bush in the woods directly in front of us while we were trotting. Relish spun, the saddle slipped, I plopped to the ground, and he stood and stared at me as if to ask, "What the $%^& are you doing down there?" I was lucky he didn't take off with the saddle under his belly--a sure disaster. But I have mostly managed to avoid this type of accident, which is bound to happen on the trail, by sticking to my and Relish's comfort zones. Someone zooming a four-wheeler around the field? We go the other way. Wind blowing like crazy? We stick to trotting behind the barn. Spring fever making Relish antsy? Lots of circles on the only flat spot (groundhog holes carefully marked with sticks)in the field.
Some would say I am a chicken, and yup, I don't mind giving them a cluck or two. But at this point in my life, I am not interested in training a horse for competition, so for me, out alone on an unpredictable (by nature) animal, being chicken is fine. Not that I can avoid all disasters. Like the coyote they do happen. And I do spend time (when I can) getting Relish used to new 'spooks' (such as the blowing bag adventure) but I continue to minimize the risks I take and the bones I break by sticking to the comfort zone.
So how is your riding these days--are you into "The Twilight Zone" or "The Comfort Zone"? I'd love to hear your stories!