Saturday, November 09, 2019
I borrowed this Normal Thelwell cartoon from his Facebook page. His pony-child images perfectly reflect how my mare, Rosie, and I sometimes “don’t get it together”.
Yesterday again, we experienced our joint effort differently. I was using 30-foot ropes (long-lines) to guide Rosie in a routine she understands well. After a walking warm-up, she’s to trot in a circle to the right for ten minutes. Next, she turns and trots in a circle to the left for ten minutes. This repeats over another twenty minutes, and then, Rosie walks to cool down.
At my first signal, Rosie did as asked and trotted to the right for ten minutes, but in turning, maybe an instant when I was loose with a rope, she took off at a full gallop. I stood watching her freely circle the loafing shed, chase Sunni and Pimmy, and gallop in large circles throughout the dry lot while trailing those 30-foot ropes. (Rosie’s blinders don’t interfere for she knows every inch of the lot and fencing).
Lately, that’s happened and I’ve considered seeking a trainer’s help. Typically, the now-free Rosie gallops awhile and then returns to me, waits patiently while I collect her ropes and return us to the work area. When again she starts trotting, if I feel her energy rising, it’s Bingo! she’s off again. There’s no holding Rosie back and she’s delighted.
As in Thelwell’s cartoon, I’ve spent off-hours revisualizing Rosie’s breakaways and trying to figure out how to handle her ropes effectively. In practice, regardless of how I adjust my handling, nothing deters Rosie’s determination and strength.
Typically, after letting her break away and run several times, my most useful response has been to follow while beating a dressage whip against the ground. The action and noise force Rosie to gallop until she’s willing to resume working. Sometimes we manage to finish her workout okay, but sometimes Rosie’s brattiness continues.
Yesterday, my response changed. At Rosie’s first turn-around, in the instant she took off, I immediately grabbed the long whip and followed beating on the ground. The mare galloped on and on, and even when she slowed and appeared tired, I didn’t let her slow or quit. Finally, when she really paused, I set aside the whip, waiting while Rosie walked forward, ropes trailing, and stopped before me. I reached for a rope and let my hand slide along it as I moved behind her and lifted the second rope. Holding both ropes, I asked Rosie to walk forward.
When we resumed working, Rosie circled and reversing directions properly without breaking away. We finished, with her sweaty, foamy, and worn out. In the barn, as I removed her harness, Rosie gobbled fresh apples.
An experienced trainer might know how to prevent such breakaways, but maybe I’ve discovered the solution. It’s a rapid, extended response at a first offense with my whip. By allowing Rosie’s galloping breakaways to succeed once, twice, or three times, before I respond, has made her freedom episodes rewarding enough to encourage the take-offs.
In our remaining days of nice weather, I’ll continue exercising Rosie on the long-lines. Starting today, the instant a misbehavior occurs, I’ll force her galloping to continue until the rascal is worn out.
About, Thelwell, the artist. I understand that when his then-young daughter was learning to ride her pony, he captured many of the duo’s problem moments. For anyone not hands-on familiar with ponies (ah, yes, cute little critters), they definitely have minds of their own. To me, this artist managed better than anyone–more fully and with fun–to capture the realities and humor of horse-handling.
Dear Friends: Big Rosie both is sweet and too-smart, she keeps me on my toes. Diana