Monday, August 03, 2020
I loaded my mare, Rosie, hauled her to the trails, my rare outing with only one horse. Usually, everybody goes. On the trals, I ride one horse and pony another, while my donkey and dogs follow along. Rosie can be problematic when I ride her while ponying another horse. I’m too busy to focus on Rosie and she does lots of jigging and jogging, won’t simply walk. It’s been puzzling because Rosie can be a wonderful ride. She’s very light to handle with a well balanced frame that’s friendly to a rider.
So, why all the jigging and jogging? Is Rosie challenging her rider? Does she dislike Sunni’s following closely? Is something not right with her tack? Are the flying insects too bothersome? What, oh what?
Last week, my friend, Anna, an experienced horse-person rode Rosie, and Rosie fully was cooperative. Anna explained that she was leaving Rosie’s reins very loose, and very carefully was keeping her own body relaxed. She felt Rosie as a very sensitive horse and considered her delightful to ride.
My next time on Rosie, I concentrated on staying relaxed, left Rosie’s reins loose, focused on maintaining softness in my saddle, and kept loose my legs. For ponying Sunni, I allowed more than usual lead rope. The ride began well, but soon as we turned onto a narrow trail, Sunni began grabbing at grass and Rosie started to jig and jog, which continued through the rest of our outing. In fact, upon our return and reaching the trail’s end, near where weeks ago Rosie became frightened of a loose helium balloon, she refused to go forward on that section of trail. I was very challenged to move her on toward the nearby trailhead.
I decided that my next outing would include Rosie as my only horse. We’d work on our relationship. I’d follow Anna’s guidance by letting Rosie’s reins stay loose, would keep my body soft. Here’s what happened:
From the moment I got into Rosie’s saddle, her behavior was perfect. With little guidance she strolled comfortably out to the trail. On reaching a rocky, steep section, I focused on sitting softly and she moved upward easily. We turned onto a narrow trail on which she jigs and jogs, but now she strolled casually and stayed exactly on the path. Her behavior never changed as we traveled along roads or followed trails, and traveled some through cross-country.
Rosie was a perfect ride, and now, I worked harder to become a better rider. Rosie has a tendency to be hyper-alert, always moving her head to look around and pausing to focus intently, her ears constantly-rotating as radar-sensors. I remained physically unresponsive to all signals from Rosie’s head, neck, and ears. Experience has taught that Rosie signals concern by tightening her body under the saddle. A rider can feel that change and adjust. Through this ride, Rosie’s body stayed loose, mine stayed loose, and we teamed successfully.
Later, as Anna and I discussed all this, I had a sudden epiphany that explained why Rosie jigs and jogs as I pony Sunni who grabs at grass. Sunni isn’t a quick and unnoticeable grabber so I tug on her rope. While yanking the rope, my body tightens and it’s is a signal to Rosie’s high sensitivity. In exactly the way Rosie’s body tightening under my saddle informes me of possible action, my body tightening in Rosie’s saddle communicates to her the same. So, she dances in readiness.
Rosie is wired to respond to muscle signals. All animals are, and some like Rosie are more highly sensitive. I’ve been aware of this but mostly unconsciously, and only now am gaining enough insight to take a stab at articulating what may be causing Rosie’s unwelcome trail behavior. It’s my ponying a second horse while riding Rosie, and yanking on a lead rope. Each yank causes my frequent shifting in the saddle, and Rosie responds with, “What do you need from me now, mom?”
Am I trying to psychoanalyze a horse? Nah. Rosie simply does “horse things”. This is about me, having to understand, accommodate and adjust. A best-ride from any horse results from a rider’s correct saddle seat, kindness toward the animal, and the two being in an appropriate situation.
Next, I’ll take Sunni by herself, she’s an easy and bomb-proof ride. It’s been unfair of me to think that Rosie should be more like Sunni. Both are great horses, but each is enough different to warrant from me insights and accommodations to their individualities, and with respect and admiration.
Dear Friends: “Learning Rosie” is becoming a life-lesson that adjusts my worldview. Diana