Trail Journal of Tango and I
I want to start riding consistently, long, hard rides every day; if not for me then for Tango, because god knows she needs it. If I have to be writing here every day, it'll keep me inspired to ride even on the days that are really bad. Even if no one cares, it will probably still help keep me going. And I'm posting it here, as opposed to the Member Journals, because...well, I just like this forum better, and it seems suitable.
So today I start:
Sunday July 4, 2010
I didn't ride for 4 long, long days; weather was not co-operating Wednesday, and I was away all day Thursday and Friday. Yesterday I just didn't ride because I was hesitant of how her behaviour would be after 3 dormant days. However, 4 days was enough, and though I was a bit nervous, I got dressed and went out. The temperature was easily past 30 (Celsius) and humid as anything; I was sweating by the time I had Tango tacked up. But I didn't entertain any false hopes that the heat would make her lethargic and slow-I've ridden in worse than this and she was still a firecracker.
Skipping the usual 15-20 minutes of jogging and patterns in our little open grass area (because she's come to associate it with misbehaving), we headed right out into the neighbour's just-cut and baled field. We trotted around the perimeter (the field is about 30 acres, more or less, scouting for holes, and she was fast and eager, ears up, strung out, but after 4 days in her paddock I can't really blame her. She shied a bit at a pile of tires at the end, and as we came back up the field to the road, beside the pumphouse, she started getting upset and nervous. Then, a gravel truck driving by made her completely flip-well, completely flip for Tango. For her, that means trying to canter a few strides, head up, eyes wide, looking around. She was trying to run home, so I turned her, and then she started getting REALLY upset-tossed her head, walked sideways, inconsistent jog, a few strides of cantering, swishing tail etc etc. Almost the exact same behaviour I'd met our first ride out, and in almost the exact same spot of the field. Well, even just months ago I would've been intimidated by these sorts of actions, and I was even now for a few seconds before I reminded myself "she's just doing this to try and scare you into taking her home" and it would be unlike Tango to do anything more than posturing. Well, head shaking furiously, we headed on back down the field, until she realized she wasn't getting anywhere and settled down. She's just like a child.
Some more trotting, a bit of canter. I was nervous about the gallop, but my instructor had told me that's what she needs-a long, long gallop. I asked, and she sprang into it right away. It was smooth and fast and awesome, but I chickened out, tried to slow her after a few seconds, and was a bit unsettled when she wouldn't slow. I dug my heels in and held hard on her mouth and she finally slowed to a canter. I came away from it a changed person. I'd always been so scared, so worried about letting her run. What if I fell off? What if she stepped in a hole? What if she went crazy? And I realized in those few seconds that that's all she can do: run. So we turned, walked back up by our house, turned facing back down the field, and let all hell break loose. It is so awesome to go that fast, that smooth. She sprinted the field in what seems like seconds, the wind whistling in my ears as I hovered above her. We turned a wide circle at a slow gallop and raced back, then back again-three lengths of that long field. On the third lap, she was so tired out she didn't even want to go faster, for once.
So then I decided the time was ripe for us to hit the trails. Through the forest, past the gravel pit, up and down steep, rocky hills. We followed a mysterious trail through the forest (where the bugs got REALLY bad) but had to turn back, then down a hayfield, across a wheat field (lol, she got weirded out by the wheat waving in the wind around her), past farms, through potato fields, through a small wood where we almost broke a leg. All the way, again, her ears were up, she was keen to trot, being annoying because I wasn't giving her enough to do. WHY CAN'T SHE JUST BE TIRED OUT ALREADY?! Finally, after 4 hours, we turned and headed for home. I used the technique that knickerb (sorry if I misspelled or got the name entirely wrong) suggested in another of my threads, and it worked really well.
Into the swing of galloping now, I took her out for another run and boy, was she tired. I actually had to urge her to go faster than a canter-imagine that! Galloping is just...I love it, because it's so much easier than trotting or cantering. I mean, with the other gaits I always have to be slowing her-at the gallop, she can't go any faster than that. But don't worry, I'm not just going to let her gallop whenever she wants to. I just won't be as scared to do it anymore.
Every part of her body was covered in sweat, but she still wasn't completely tired out. That horse of mine! The tack was wet and smelly, so I left it in the sun to dry and hosed her down. For once, she didn't get anxious as the hose was uncoiled. I mean, she never tries to bolt or dance or anything as you hose her, she's just not exactly fond of the idea. This time she stood still eating grass-I think it felt good. Well, doubtless. I was so hot that I just wanted to turn the hose on myself.
I really hope she gets better if I take her for rides like this every day. Really she needs rode twice that amount of time, but honestly, it gets a little boring being out all alone. And mom was getting worried about where I was. I didn't tell anyone where I was going, because I didn't even know where I was planning on going. Not a good habit to get into, I know, but I did have my phone.
Gah, one thing I forgot: this time and the time last week when I went out riding with Tang we've come across a low spot with a few inches of water. Both times she walks there with her head up, not looking where she's going, and then as soon as she touches the water she flips. Both times I've just let her find her way back to dry ground, because my purpose wasn't to make her go through water and I was willing to let her find the easiest path through rough ground. I totally didn't even realize what I'm doing by just letting her run out of the water until I got home, commented on it, and dad said: "Well make her go through the water." Then I kicked myself for letting her do that, both times. Next time we go out I'm gonna try to find water so I can make her walk through it, though there aren't any major rivers or creeks near here-we'd be lucky to stumble upon those puddles. Because I've let her get away with that though, I'm not sure how she'll react when she's forced to wade in..
Mannn a couple of these shots looked like out back of my place.
Oh, yeah, forgot to mention: feel free to offer constructive criticism or advice on any problems that might arise...Ok, well, anyways:
Monday July 5, 2010
It's the kind of day that make the AC and pool gifts from above: hazy, humid, and so hot that it feels like you're suffocating. As I saddled, Tango was limpid-eyed and lethargic, and as we headed out into John (the neighbour I mentioned earlier)'s field, I was overjoyed to see results already. Her walk was easy, relaxed, her head was down. Her trot was easily rated and for once she wasn't tense and trying to run run run. I was so pleased with these improvements that we headed out right away.
Due to my past two transgressions, I was determined to find water to cross today, so we headed to the one place I knew for sure there would at least be a small pool: the abandoned gravel pit beside my cousins' farm. The farther out we went, the more disobedient and annoying Tango seemed to get. I guess it might be just the fact of going new places that makes her more alert and outwardly-focused. If that's the case, only going more new places and more work in those new places will be the remedy...
I was pleased to find a large standing pool at the bottom of the little quarry, so we climbed down the rocky slope and went up to the water's edge. She wasn't exactly afraid; more just used to not being forced into the water and so was wary of it. We paced the shoreline until she deliberately touched one toe in the water, then hurried away. Enormous praise and I let her walk off and relax for a minute before circling back and trying again. After a few minutes' resistance, she ended up walking through a low spot with all four feet, and then I left it there and we headed home. Boy, wouldn't that be fun to go swimming with her?
On the way home, unusually for her, she got really excited. I mean, not trying to bolt home, but she was walking ridiculously fast and her head and ears were straight up. In the clearing behind the empty cow pasture I made her do circles and patterns, trying to get her to settle down but mostly we both were just getting worked up and frustrated, from the heat and mostly from each other. Then I realized that I was getting waaay too focused on her; for all the stuff I blame Tango for, I have just as many bad habits. Probably the worst is: whenever there's no one else around or if we're doing something boring that doesn't provide any real intellectual challenge, my mind drifts inward (unlike Tang's, whose drifts outward) and I focus so bad on Tango; every mood, every movement, every flick of her ears, and I start riding based on her mood, and not with any real goal or purpose. Well, as you can imagine, this inflates her ego and makes her even more headstrong. When I catch myself doing that I have to give myself a kick and look up and out, thinking about what to do next. Most times Tango soon gets over herself and settles down a little.
Even without being totally focused on her, I could feel the second she took a false step that something was wrong. For a moment I thought she'd hurt her leg, so I stopped her, looked down, and saw a big old coil of wire that we must have dug up from the grasses with all our circling and commotion. I jumped down and saw that it was loosely (thank GOD!) wrapped around her hind leg. I spoke to her calmly and quietly, and though she undoubtedly was nervous, she was very level-headed and stood still unless I asked her to move, which she did without freaking out. I couldn't get it off, so I ended up just picking up her foot and freeing her. And for all the b*tching I do about her, I'm glad I have her as my trail horse. How many 6-year-old horses would stand quietly and not be scared of a wire wrapped around their legs? Not many that I know.
There was no way I was walking the final 30 acres leading a horse eager to get home, so I mounted again and she was content to walk quietly down the field. I think she's come to semi-enjoy her hosings that she gets back at the barn. I know I sure would!
Sorry, no pictures today, though I should've at the gravel pit. Ah well, next time.
Keep up the good work!! You are both learning.
Water or any scary objects- Only ask what you know you can get. Example if you know you can get one step forward but not two then only ask for the one then stop let down the pressure. If you know you can get all four feet in the water ask for that. Approach and retreat. Approach a little farther and retreat. The more experience you get you will be able to tell.
Gallop- Pick your place but a different one every time or a habit develops. When she is galloping just stay out of her way and she will take care of you. When you are ready to slow down think what you are going to do and stick with it, ease to the left or ease to the right or just back down straight.
I hope things are becoming more enjoyable for.
Looks like fun!! I Love Love Love galloping through new mown fields!
Looks like so much fun! Good luck with her :)
Thanks everyone. I'm having a blast with her. Hard work every day makes her settle down...well, a little bit.
=( I won't be able to ride for at least a few days; an old little limp that she had once every so often has turned into lameness, and the vet gave her some pills, some accupuncture (boy, she did NOT like that!), and a recommendation of light work, so I'd rather just give her a week or so off entirely than risk overexerting her. I'm still beating myself up for working her too hard, or not having anyone look at her before. What if she never comes fully sound again? I'd rather be safe than sorry when it comes to riding her with a bad shoulder.
I never thought not riding would be so hard, but now I just don't know what to do with myself all day, besides going back and forth from the house to barn to visit the horses every 10 minutes...
Water-I knew 100% that she could go through water-she just didn't want to. The trainer who broke her had her on rides up through a bunch of national parks, which have big rivers (with current!) and I refuse to believe Tiffany wouldn't have taken her through at least a couple rivers-Tiffany doesn't do it that way. If there was any sort of water in their way, Tif would've made Tango go through it.
I think I did a fair job getting her into the water, anyways. At first it was one step, I let her walk away, then by the end she splashed through with all four feet, so I'm satisfied with how that went.
Galloping-Yeah, at first it was a little bit awkward. It took me a few minutes to find stride with her and be able to ride it out without flapping all over her back :lol: But it was really fun. Having said that, I don't plan on doing it again soon...I just wanted to get her energy out, so I just ran her until she got tired, then a bit more. If I do it too often she'll start to anticipate it, or get too fit or something.
='( I still feel really, really terrible about her going lame. I think it was my fault. My instructor had never worried about that little limp before, only commented and said: "I don't like seeing that". We should have got a vet sooner! Or I shouldn't have taken her down to the gravel pit-she might have twisted her foot on a rock. Or was it those ridiculously small circles I made her do when she was being a brat? Even galloping could have strained her shoulder. I don't know what to think. I just really hope she gets sound again.
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