Monday, December 29, 2014

Not with My Horse You Don't

A couple of weeks ago Ranae and I went for a fairly typical Saturday ride.  You might remember Jessie stuck her right foot in a gopher hole while loping and came up a little gimpy.  Yes, it had to be at least a year ago and, maybe she doesn't get enough rest, but it still bothers her from time to time.  I try not to make her stop hard because that seems to aggravate it.  Well, anyway, she was gimping at the trot.

Ranae quite often complains that Dusty is gimpy too.  It's either the farrier didn't trim the feet right, or he picked up a rock, or something else (hey, I'm just the husband - I don't listen to everything).

My point is on this day we were both a couple of whiners.  We got about a hundred yards down the canal bank and I knew I had to mix it up so, I stopped.  "Okay, let's switch horses," I said.  "Yours is lame, mine is lame, we are not going to have any fun worrying about them.  Let's switch."

It's not that we don't care about each other's horses.  Of course we do.  It just seemed we were too in tuned to how they were feeling.  And, if you know horses, you know they aren't particularly thrilled with leaving lunch to carry a couple of pokes around the farming fields no matter how nice the day.

We worked up to a trot and played around measuring each horses stride and response to our different cues.  Before long we were out at our big field loping around.  The horses had worked out any kinks they had and WE had a good time.  As we headed for home we switched back to our own horses with the knowledge that maybe our horses had us a little buffaloed (is that a word?)

Ranae had been doing groundwork with Dusty before our rides .  He usually kicks up once or twice, particularly while doing Lunging for Respect stage 2.  I give her words of encouragement and try to offer advice as far as her cues go, but I'm not the best teacher.  Like almost everyone (me included), she has a problem going from a light touch to high energy and back down again.

That particular problem was one of the topics on the NWC dvd this month.  I watched it over the holiday and on Friday the weather was nice and I wanted to ride.  I decided to take Dusty.  Ranae always encourages me to ride her horse.  I wanted to see if I learned anything from the dvd.  Following Ranae's routine I lunged him after saddling and before the last cinch check.  With the dvd instruction still in my head I tried the softest cue I could muster.  He took right off.  "Wow".  When I changed directions, I took a small step in front, raised my finger - BOOM - it was a bit of a hop, but a nice "yessir!" change of direction.

We did this for a bit and every cue was tiny and soft AND got the right response.  We went out and had a nice ride.  We worked on lead changes and scary objects.  Ranae got home shortly after our ride and I told her how light the cues could be.  She tried it the following day and got the same result.

It's a nice relationship to have one horse, but sometimes you need a new perspective.  It's good to work someone's horse and to have them work your horse.  It's kinda hard, for us anyway, to find someone willing to switch horses.  If nothing else it sends a little wake up call to your horse.  Maybe for them humans are just too easy to read once you get to know them, and they get bored with us.  Either way it proves one of my favorite Zig quotes, "If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep gettin' what you're gettin'."
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