Monday, February 2, 2009

Aging and Our Horses

I don't know if any you have ever found that riding and relationships change with your horse as you age. I found that out this weekend. I mean, I kind of knew it already. I'm definitely far more cautious than I was when I was a kid with the horses. When I was a kid, it was all about get on and ride like hell. When I came off (which I often did) I seemed to bounce. I might have shed a few tears, but not many because all I really wanted to do was get back on the horse and ride like a mad kid again. Plus, I had my dad always telling me, "get back on. Wipe yourself off and get back on." Of course, he'd make sure I was okay first, but once he had, I dind't have a choice. So, I would get back on. I'm actually thankful now that I had an ornery pony to teach me how to be tough and ride. I don't have a lot of fear because of my bucking bronco, racehorse of a pony who used to buck me off almost daily from ages 8-10, until I finally learned how to stay on.

However, what I have gained as I've aged is a lot of respect for the animal, and a realization that at any given moment my horse could use every ounce of muscle and hurt me, and the only thing I wuld have going for me would be my brain. My respect for my horse and my brain probably saved my life on Saturday (okay I might be exxaggerating a bit, but it at least saved me from getting hurt).

Krissy is 16.2 hands and because of regular work, a good maintenance program, and a lot of extra feed, she has muscled out, filled out and is one powerful mare. She is half warmblood and half TB. Most of the time her warmblood brain is in charge. But something was in the air on Saturday. I will give her the benefit of the doubt here, she did have a few distractions making her crazy. I took her out into the jumping arena. It was great--just the two of us and my trainer--and the fifty or sixty goats and their babies on the property next door tromping through the cornfield (you getting the picture), plus the kids next door jumping around on pogo sticks, and a horse turned out having a great old time. We decided to hold off on jumping and just do some flat work. The goal was to keep her focus on me and not all the chaos around her. Yeah right! Walk, trot around and she is okay. She's very aware of goats, pogo sticks and other horse, but she's listening to my aids and she's trying really hard to be a good girl. Krissy has a very good heart and a good mind, so I don't get too worried, but I do know she has a flight system deeply embedded in her body.

It was time to canter. The departure was great, going around was fine, until--one of the other riders decided to start taking down jumps and rearranging the course. I know what you're thinking--couldn't she have waited? Crossed my mind, too. All it took was for her to move a pole over into the bushes to send Krissy over the edge. With a toss of her head and more power than I have ever felt underneath me, she decided to take off. For a split second I thought, "I'm dead." I could hear my trainer yelling, "Sit back, sit back," which I did, but after I decided I wasn't ready to die, I heard this voice in my head--"Turn her, turn, her, turn her hard." It was my dad's voice, and I was a little girl on a fiesty pony again trying to run away with me. I turned that mare into me to the right and she stopped, and I was grateful that she did! The gal moving the rails apologized and said that she dind't expect that because Krissy is always so even tempered. I know, but the bottom line is that she is still a horse, and a horse has a mind of her own.

Krissy tried this stunt three more times with me, until she finally realized that she could trust me and she was safe and all I was going to do was turn her and stay on. By the end of an hour of helping her with her fears, she started to relax and forget about goats, pogo sticks and the wind in the trees.

I think we both came away with a little more respect for one another.

How about any of you? As you've aged (ooh hate that word) have you found the way you ride or treat your horse is different than maybe a few years ago or if you had horses when you were kid, is it different now?

On a separate topic: A quick note! I have two books out today. My first children's fantasy is out today--"Zamora's Ultimate Challenge." Ages 8-12. This a fun chapter book and for those of you with kids, just go to my site and check out the excerpt and the contest. If you have boys and they like video games then they'll enjoy this book, and girls will love the characters from The Pegasus named Isaac to Chelsea the Mermaid. One reviewer wote: It's a cross between The Narnia Chronicles, Spy Kids, and Lemony Snickett. Pretty cool!

Also out is the fifth book in the wine lovers mystery series: Corked by Cabernet. More murder, romance, wine and food, and laughs. I hope you'll go to my site and have a look around, read the excerpts, enter the contests, etc. Thank You.



Heidi the Hick said...

Yeah, I had that ol' ornery pony kind of horse education in my childhood too!

I do know that in my late 30s now, I don't bounce. I don't want to come off. Landing hurts a lot more. I take things much slower, and think things through. I was never a true horseback daredevil but hey, if it means not getting hurt, I'll take it slow!

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? I'm a total chicken now. I was a pretty bold rider when I was a kid and in my twenties (that's when I was breaking and training horses), but ever since then my chicken side has been taking over. Nowdays I only ride broke horses that I have confidence in. Sounds like you did just the right thing with Krissy. I'm glad it worked out well.

Anonymous said...

They smell my drive for self-preservation and consider it fear. You know what? They're right.

mugwump said...

C'mon, admit it Michelle. For just one split second, right when you felt your seat settle back into the saddle and you felt her mouth soften under your hand, wasn't it the exact same rush you had as a kid?

Anonymous said...

Oh boy can I relate to this post! Since I stopped training I have gotten more and more careful. Of course, I have been very, very sick and had 3 major surgeries in 9 months so that colors things a bit. But what Heidi said is true, we don't bounce and landing does hurt more. I have noticed that all my friends that are my age (50 something) have gotten much more conservative if not down right chicken shit. One of my trainer friends and I started trail riding daily to keep each other going because we had both slacked off so much, she was so bad she would only ride her 20 something mare and none of her other horses...once we were riding regularly she gradually started riding the other guys again. I swore I was done training a good 10 years ago and now find myself with a horse to finish in spite of myself...Mugwump is right though, when I am working her and she "gets it" I go back in time and find my bolder inner self because everything just falls into place. Not sure I will be up to that first ride though and I am quite worried about it. When she is loose and something rocks her world she is a big buck-er....oy...that could possibly not bode well for me under saddle.

A.K. Alexander said...

It is true--I did kinda like the rush Mugwump. It did take me back, but don't want to it all the time. LOL.