Back in the Saddle, Ride Four

Today was cloudy and kind of windy,  and I didn’t ride until the afternoon.  As if my getting on a horse made the clouds part, the weather changed abruptly and it turned sunny–a bit hazy, but not cloudy.  Too warm for my warmer riding tights, so I wore the lightweight denim ones.   Sure enough, Rags is shrinking a little in his belly–he girthed up at 4 holes on one side, 3 on the other.    Mounting is still not smooth, but OK, and I’m practicing on the old western saddle on the one really strong stand.  It will come.  We headed out into the near meadow, partway up the east end toward the east trail to the highway, but not onto that trail.  Came back, did a weave through the young bur oak row, then out over the rock crossing of the old ditch, up the rise to the dry woods (Rags wasn’t bothered; he’s done that before) across the front of the dry woods and back down…he anticipated turning onto the trail but I insisted on exactly where.  Turned east again on the near side of the old ditch to cross at the rock crossing, and go back up to the horse lots.  Today he did not stop anywhere with his previous “That’s enough, we should quit now” attitude.   Nice change.   Got off with the aid of the top rail of the portable stall…that’s really working and I could get my leg smoothly over the cantle and  his rump, no touching.

That took up 15  minutes.  Rags wasn’t eager to be tacked up, but then willing for everything else.   Tomorrow will complete his first week back under saddle, and will be a 15 minute ride again, but on a different route.   The goal for week two is gradually increasing across 5-6 rides to just under 30.  Week three to 45.  Week four to 60 minutes.   I need to find the book of mine that has detailed conditioning schedules to be sure 15 minutes/week isn’t too fast an increase but that’s really individual from horse to horse…what is the work load like for this particular horse.  He’s got a sound back and good loin coupling, but bow-legged in back involved both stifles and hocks…so I’ll keep an eye (and feel) on that as the rides lengthen.   He’s very comfortable to ride at a walk…it’s not sluggish or hurried…and thus is a good platform for me to practice my position and use of aids.  We will do some work in whatever horse lot Tigger isn’t in…poles to walk or trot over, side pass over, go between, etc…but these first rides are intended to be pleasant and not very demanding, even relaxing (since relaxation is one of the foundations of training.)

Meanwhile, my body’s also relaxing, the muscles that first get sore and stiff from riding stretching out, joints adjusting, and so on.   Balance is improving once I’m up and we’re moving.   One of the next steps for me is being able to “float” over the saddle at a walk without adding any pressure on the reins, and balance that way for increasing lengths of time.  There are two basic positions for that–one is standing upright in the stirrups (something I could do at all gaits on Ky, including gallop) and one is inclined forward, balancing right over the horse’s center of gravity.  Finding the balance took me awhile when I was learning to ride in an English saddle, preparing to learn to jump.  And it will take me time again.   It’s much easier to post to  trot than stay in two-point or half-seat, but if you’re riding fast you need to stay up without having to lean on the horse’s neck or use the reins for balance.

Today’s ride was especially pleasant–a balmy temperature, a light wind, just enough sunshine, a horse that felt relaxed and willing.   Tigger gave me sad eyes when I got back, and I said “You know, if you were willing to be saddled again, and learned to ground drive from the halter, I could ride you and we could go places…but you need to show me, because we both know the last time you had a saddle on, you got hurt.  You did it to yourself, but I know what you remember is being scared, bolting, then hitting the fence, falling backward, and being hurt.”   “Gimme cookies,” said Tigger and he got some, along with some petting, which he allowed.


11 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle, Ride Four

    1. Thanks. I’m wondering today whether to do part of the Center Walk trail or part of the Eastside trail (runs up the east side of the dry woods hump.) One or the other, which? But first…there’s other stuff to be done, like breakfast.

  1. Curious question – is Rags aware that you are not so young and flexible? Do horses care the way dogs will to someone who is getting along in years? I can ask that because I will turn 67 in a month.

    But enjoy Rags.

    1. He’s very aware that I’m clumsy and slow getting on and off–any horse would be. He lacks a lot of experience with lots of riders. So I doubt he has any “age scale” in place. Some horses are aware of a regular rider’s gain or decline in skills, but they have to have the experience over time. To care about their rider’s condition requires a regular relationship. That being said, a horse that is bonded to its rider *is* sensitive to that rider–horses ridden by people with physical limitations greater than mine can be taught how to accommodate them (for example lying down to be mounted from a wheelchair, learning to accept different cues for being ridden by someone who’s missing both legs) and some (no info on what %) can adjust quickly to a rider injured on a given day. An older man around here was moving cattle away from a flash flood when he came off and broke his hip. His horse stood for him to partly remount and carried him back to his truck. Many horses are sensitive to children, much gentler with them than with adults. One of Rancherfriend’s relatives had a stallion that was very difficult with adults, but when a toddler got into the pen (much as I got into pen at about three) and wanted to pet him, the horse stood still, did not kick or nip, even when the toddler grabbed his dangling “hose”. One of my horses, who’d been gelded only shortly before I bought him, tolerated M- as a toddler (why do toddlers invariably get into horse pens? Why do all of them want to? Even ones who aren’t horse crazy later?) M- was playing with Macho’s tail and then grabbed a hind leg. Horse kept all four feet planted on the ground…no kick, no stomp. SAFETY COMMENT: NOT ALL HORSES ARE NATURAL BABYSITTERS!!! Even for their own foals. Mares routinely kick back if a bumptious foal kicks them. Not to kill, but to teach. But if your little kid/grandkid/nephew/niece ever gets in a pen of horses, and the horses are calm with it, don’t panic and rush in to the rescue…quietly call the kid *out*. And adult rushing in can spook them into moving suddenly, and that’s more dangerous. If something like “Come on, honey, it’s time to go” doesn’t work, trying “Let’s get some ice cream now…” may.

  2. Back when, you mentioned you watch ponies on youtube. Do you follow Yvonne with Friesian Horses? Today she posted a video that I think was taken back in September. She was checking on the two and three year olds about half way through the video and one of them really wanted her face scratched, and rubbed, and rubbed. The horses were very sleepy. I found myself getting sleepy just watching them snooze. I like the channel because she doesn’t add music so you can hear the horses and I’m also fascinated by how many American words I pick up in the Friesian/ Dutch language she speaks. A nice stress reliever. I tried to post the link to the channel and it wouldn’t.

    1. Should have mentioned the channels I do watch most often:
      Elphick Event Ponies,
      Life on the Left Rein,
      EMD Eventing:
      Footluce Eventing:
      Moody Mare Diaries:

      Also other people that I don’t exactly follow but check on when they show up on the sidebar of one of these, some pro and semi-pro eventers (Piggy Marsh, YES!), some UK steeplechases, flat races, some barrel racers, and whatever else catches my interest. What I want to watch varies from week to week.

  3. I once fell off a horse that I was riding for the first time, directly onto my tailbone (ouch). I didn’t have a prior relationship with the horse. But, after I fell off, she came up to me and nosed at me a number of times as I lay on the ground. It was obvious that she was concerned about me.

    1. Ouch indeed. Tailbones bruise easily and some people break them. I’m glad your mount showed care for you. Quite a few horses do at least show an interest…”What are you doing down there? I wasn’t bucking…honest…” It’s easier to forgive a horse that seems sorry, than one that bolts off to the end of the field, high-fiving bucks along the way and then starts grazing.

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