Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Eyes Up, Hands Up, Breathe

I wanted to ride Winston this evening after work. Brett fed the horses early, mucked, gave water to the goats, and brought Winston and Mufasa into the barn so all I had to do was change into my breeches when I got home. I was in a race with the setting sun.

Winston was a pill while I was grooming him -- pushy and mouthy. He reminded me of the boys in junior high who strutted around the school insulting anyone within earshot. Too cool for their own skins. Obnoxious as hell. Once we were tacked up, Brett and I walked the horses out to the dressage court. Winston balked as we approached the arena but I was on foot so I was able to keep him going without any trouble. I was concerned about getting on though.

I know some of my readers don't ride their horses at feeding time. It isn't my favorite time to ride either but I'm a firm believer in having a horse who is used to being ridden at all times of the day. I also had no other option if I wanted to get a ride in during the week. So there I stood, watching Brett get on Mufasa, with the sun setting behind the oak trees and the evening chill rolling into the valley. And a ball of dread in my belly.

Winston stood quietly at the mounting block. Once I was on, he took two steps, popped his head in the air, lowered it, and humped his back.

Oh, crap.

I gave him a loose rein, grabbed hold of the bucking strap, and nudged him forward. Amazingly, he went. He walked a few steps and then broke into a rushed trot. I sat deep, he came back to a walk. While we walked around with the reins long and his ears signaling his indecision about whether to behave or be a brat, I started talking out loud.

"One, two, button my shoe. Three, four, shut the door. Hands up. Eyes up. Ankles out. One, two... oops, hands up. Loose rein, leg on, are you getting all this Winston? Crap, my hands are low again."

Funny thing, the talking calmed both of us. Pretty soon we had a lovely swinging walk and I started working on bend from my seat. Then trot; good work. I thought I would experiment with canter. I have, historically, had trouble with my hands in the canter transition. Either I throw the reins away or I restrict. I already had Winston on a long rein so I kept them the same. When I slid my outside leg back, he stepped cleanly and quietly into a lovely canter.

I was pleased with the ride. Pleased that I got past my fear. Pleased that Winston acknowledged me as leader and got past his tantrums. Pleased that he decided to work with me and not against me. And when I got off, he looked pretty pleased himself.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. I knew you two were a beautiful team...

    congratulations on getting over the fear - it only gets better from here on out ;)

  2. Good job dealing with that, and with your own doubts. I've found singing (in my case, so long as no one else is around!) can also be helpful - it makes you keep breathing and helps lower tension. I've also been doing some loose rein work, more to help me than the horse although as you point out the result is I get out of the horse's way.

  3. Nice! I get a little cranky when I am hungry too.

  4. Voice is an underutilized aid. They get used to obeying voice commands from the ground. Why not include that when riding? I've also found that if a horse is heading for a buck then a good yell/roar from the saddle will bring his head up while he works out what the hell just happened:)

  5. I am finally caught up!! I have literally spent the last few days reading over a year's worth of posts on your blog. When I got busy last year I stopped reading your blog back before you got Mufasa. Wow I missed a lot! However I am now caught back up and will try not to fall so far behind again.

    First of all congratulations on the new horse (Mufasa) and the new home! I'm so happy for you guys! :D

    Also, dealing with fear sucks. I'm going through it too. Chrome has never done anything to cause my fear, it just comes from riding alone. I am a twin and literally never rode by myself as a kid. Now that I have no one to ride with I get scared and make excuses not to ride. It's awful. I'm proud of you for pushing through your nerves and working with Winston. :)

    I look forward to following along again and sorry I got so far behind!


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.