ridecamp@endurance.net: [endurance] [Long, story] Practicing what I preach....

[endurance] [Long, story] Practicing what I preach....

Diane E. Nelson (nelsonde@ttown.apci.com)
Wed, 10 Jul 1996 11:16:33 -0400 (EDT)

We had one of those rare summer weekends, warm with low humidity,
brilliant sun, brisk breezes. The Tiger Lilies were in full bloom,
cascades of orange flowers lining the banks along our country roads,
Boysenberry bushes laden with red berries and the usually ugly Crown Vetch
now glorious with purple flowers.

We headed for the Bucks County Horse Park to take advantage of the good
trails and the known mileage, Odie in tow and the cooler packed with the
newest Gatorade flavors (Raspberry, a fruit punch, yum) and "no-fat"
cookies (yeah, right....can you say "no taste"?). Kevin wants me to try
several new things--a full seat cover for my OF Swain CT AND his HRM.
Whoa Nelly, TWO things???? I opted for the seat cover, grousing 'cause I
didn't have "a leg" with all that "stuff" under me....and wondering if I
really wanted to give up my half chaps, especially since I'm wearing my
Lands End leggings with not much between the saddle and my lily whites.

Kevin's riding Miss B, me on Kasey. We headed out on the "white" trail,
a 12.5 mile loop, be-bopping along at 7-8 mph, with frequent stops at
every puddle and water hole, a surprising amount of water considering how
dry it's been. Both kids are wearing their fly masks. Miss B had a
definite agenda....full speed ahead and
no-Kasey-no-way-you're-gonna-pass-me. But occasionally, just because, I
make Kasey lead--not his favoritest thing--and noticed something
interesting, and disconcerting--shying! At first I thought it had something
to do with his wearing the fly mask, then the "he's being a little pig today"
crossed my mind, and finally my analytical side kicked in. I recalled my
vet telling me that he has retinal scarring, probably from a bout with
uveitis. I also noticed that he did not shy with the sun behind us, but
did it consistently with the sun in our faces. Same thing with or
without the fly mask, slightly better without. Hmmm...got me thinking
about the thread on shying horses. Obviously Kasey does not "see" the
same way under all conditions. When he is following another horse, I'll
guess that he just focuses on that horse's butt and doesn't pay much
attention to the scenery.

He is less likely to shy on a cloudy day--it's the brilliant sunshine
that sets up a shying scenario. Intriguing.

Anyway, we had a lovely ride.... Even took Odie for a walk around the
cross-country course, about 3 miles worth--not bad for a Newfi on a warm
day. He entertained us by taking some of the "chicken" jumps, especially
the banks.

Sunday we headed for the local game lands, only to be beseiged with skeet
shooters and big-game-hunter-wannabees. Even I jump at the rifle
cracks! We dodged fawns right and left, some deer flies, but not bad.
There is a lovely stream, fairly wide, that criss-crosses the gamelands.
I stood Kasey in the middle while I sponged, and eventually he decided
enough was enough, let's go...but Miss B wasn't ready, so "Whoa" (does
your horse think his name is "Whoa, dammit" at bodies of water?). Well,
my "Mr. Frustration" decided to WEAVE, with water rushing past, and me
looking down. Yeow, talk about vertigo!!! It was like being in a canoe
that somebody is rocking side-to-side. Time to go, NOW, Kevin! Never
considered taking a barf bag along on a ride--may add that to my list of

I usually ride Kasey in a hackamore, but now and then I try different
bits, none of which he's very fond of. So I've settled on a fat snaffle,
and through sheer persistence have managed to convince him that I won't
rip his face off with it (though the thought has occured...). He is
awfully stiff in the jaw and the poll, especially the left side. So last
night I decided to practice what I preach and do some ring work, at a
walk, to establish a few exercise patterns. He does an exquisite leg
yield, either direction, so we added that to the list just for something
different. I ended up putting him on a 15 meter circle at a slow trot on
the left rein, sliding my left hand along the rein until I could grip the
back of my riding pants along with the rein--the right rein is at normal
length, good contact. It took 8 circles until he finally yielded his
jaw, came round and down--so I immediately quit and praised the bejeebers
out of him! Then we headed out on trail (rather "on road"). Now that
little "success" may not sound like much, but our trail walk was simply
superb...active, parade-walk, with a nicely improved, more rounded
frame. And he held it for 2.5 miles!

Is there a moral to this story? Well, maybe a couple things to think
about...when you consider the issue of shying perhaps you need to think
more about how a horse "sees" his universe, and less about what his
bloodlines are. And knowing when to quit is probably the single most
important skill you, as a rider, can learn. I had one, tiny thing I
wanted to accomplish, lots of patience (I had more "time" than the
horse), and a specific exercise taught to me by skilled instructors that
allowed me to achieve that goal...and then I quit and allowed Kasey to do
something he likes more than anything....mosseying down the road on a
lovely summer evening (well, next to eating...).


Diane @ Safe Haven