Riding at my barn is typically a very standard affair. I can pretty much rely on the fact that there will be no more than 2 other people riding at any one time, and in winter, there are never any lessons going on. Things tend to be quiet and calm and all that. (Seriously old media this post, sorry everyone)
Then, I showed up to ride on Saturday. Due to the weather, May didn’t get the ride I was planning on Friday, so she had a few days off. Either way, I was expecting to find my horse wide eyed and looking frantically around the outside of her stall… cool. Some deer came flying out of the woods, and I figured that was the end of it.
(Side note – how did I ever think the chair seat my old saddle put me in was at all acceptable?)
My plan was to just get the first day of our fitness plan started. I hopped on, and the ground was frozen enough to allow us to go on a walk through the adjacent field. It has a small hill in it, and it seemed like a good place to start our ride. And it was. And then we started heading back toward the main ring. Then, she saw it.
Recently, a horse owner with some disabilities moved into our barn. She uses a wheelchair and enjoys her VERY CUTE Morgan gelding by driving him. The cart has been hanging out in the indoor, which May hasn’t objected to, but seeing the cart chasing a horse around the outdoor arena was too much. We pranced, neck arched, and nostrils snorting. She threatened to spin and take off on me, and of course, I was using the mildest bit I had in my arsenal. Great.
There are two ways riders react to these situations, and I have been on both sides of both options.
- Freak out. This is always fun. I once rode at a barn where there were several older riders. One had a horse who had a nasty habit of bucking and breaking parts of her body. So when something spooked her horse, her reaction was to get off, start slamming things, and screaming at whoever DARED to spook her precious Pookie. I understand where this behavior comes from. She was scared. She had been hurt. She did NOT want to be hurt again. However, for the several years I knew her, her horse’s behavior only ever got worse because he never actually had to deal with anything.
- Just Ride On. I own a horse that I know I can handle. I specifically own her because I know that I can comfortable and capably handle her even at her worst. So I sat deep, kept reminder her that walking was what she wanted to do, and I continued our ride in the dressage arena. I didn’t push the issue by forcing May to work in the same space as the cart. (Partially because the lack of prep was unfair and partially because I have never actually seen this person drive and I wasn’t going to try and play dodge ball with something my horse is afraid of) Instead, I modified our trot sets. They were no longer about anything other than relaxing over her back and coming forward into the bit, and you know what, it took her all of 2 full 3 minute trot sets to relax into real work.
For our finishing walk work, I walked back to the main outdoor arena where the horse and carriage were now cantering around, and we walked outside the arena. May pranced a bit, especially when it came rolling up from behind her, but she was significantly more obedient than the start of the ride.
You can bet the next time I see that cart, I am going to ask if I can ride in the arena with them. (also, how cute would May look PULLING a cart?) How do you handle unexpected changes to your rides?
And for the record, May thinks all’s well that ends well, as long as it ends with cookies.