November 4th, 2013 - Ruby
Ruby is a young mare and stunningly beautiful, but … she´s a challenge. I haven´t worked with her since the summer, but today my teacher asked me if I would ride her again. First reaction: sure! Second reaction: oh dear!
She´s okay to ride, but her behaviour when I get her ready for the lesson and when I try to get onto her back sometimes scares me. So I talked to the teacher about how she behaves at the moment and was finally confident that I could manage her. Getting her out of her stable was, as usual, no problem and she wasn´t nearly as scared as last summer when we walked across the parking lot
When I brushed her, she was tense but stood perfectly still. Cleaning her hooves...well. She absolutely knew what I wanted from her and lifted her legs without me having to touch them. At one hind leg, however, she suddenly stretched it, then seemed to lose her balance and kicked. I tried again and again, tried to calm her, but she did the same thing over and over. She didn´t like it at all when I put saddle and bridle on, but we managed.
Inside the riding arena she got a little excited, but walking around a little calmed her down quickly. Then, the big moment. I put my foot into the stirrup and – she jumped aside. I´m pretty sure she felt my fear. Some time ago she managed to throw me to the floor by doing that and yes, I was scared. My teacher took her away and tried to calm her down. But Ruby was freaking out by that time. She even reared a little and jumped aside when the teacher had done no more than get hold of her reigns and approach her. I´ve been told that Ruby`s previous owners didn´t treat her well, and I don´t dare think of the details...What the hell have they done to give her such a scare and let her be so mistrusting?
Well, with a lot of patience, stroking and talking I managed to get onto her back. She was still very tense, but calmed down quickly. This is usual: Once you´re on her back, everything´s a lot easier. Everything was fine, both in walk and trot. Then the teacher asked as to let the horses trot over three bars lying on the floor. I had already tried this with her earlier and she had done perfectly fine. However, watching a lesson some time ago, I had seen her starting to run when she reached the bars. I told this to the teacher who said she had never seen her do this and that I should just give it a try. So I did – and Ruby surprised me. She didn´t trot, she didn´t run – she stopped. Then she jumped half-heartedly over the edge of the bars. After laughing heartedly I tried again. This time she did trot over the bars, but lifted her legs high as though the bars were really, really dangerous.
From that point on, it got difficult. Walking was okay, but in trot she sped up sudddenly again and again. When I tried to slow her a little, she stopped altogether. When I tried to keep her trotting, she ran. This horse is so incredibly sensitive. I decided to ignore the bars for today and worked at keeping her trotting on at my pace. I also tried a canter, but no way. She pulled her head up and just ran – trotting. The teacher worked with us at trotting in a circle and turning directions again and again. Finally, she calmed down. She nicely bowed her head and I was able to slow her down when necessary but still keeping her trotting. We even managed a few steps backward
However, this increased her tendency to walk backwards when she´s unwilling.The teacher asked me to try a canter again. I did. Ruby´s whole body tightened and she nearly stopped walking again. When I urged her forward, she pulled her head up and it felt as though she was trying everything to get away from me. I got nervous and wanted to stop, but my teacher told me that no, Ruby was not to get away with that kind of behaviour and that she had to keep trotting at least. This was one of the frequent occasions when I´m not sure whether she´s scared or naughty or both and when I´m not sure what to do with her. I changed the direction and suddenly, without further fuss, she was in canter. And she did beautifully! We tried again and again in both directions, it went perfectly well and felt wonderful. I had the feeling that Ruby was enjoying it as well.
At the end of the lesson, we were both covered in sweat, but I think we have both learned from each other. Isn´t that the way it should be?
P.S. If you have any ideas on how I can deal with how she´s behaving, I´d be glad if you shared them with me