(Do you ever just itch to write?  This post has been sitting on my mind since Saturday! ....so you know it's going to be super long.)

(And, no - this actually has nothing to do with the massacre*.  Let's at least start by talking about more pleasant things, like my pony.)


My horse is a bully.

I'm sort of ashamed to admit this.  I've got a dominating personality.  I've tried, as I've matured over the years, to soften myself.  But I can't really get rid of that glint in my eyes, now can I?  Which is to say, if anything, I'm more oft accused of being a bully rather than being bullied.  (Except that one time in eighth grade when I reported a very, very popular basketball and football player for sexual harassment and he was suspended from playing and his goonies did not like that.)

But if you've been following my blathering for the last month or so, you'll note (maybe) that I've complained about Archie being a total grumpy shit tracking right.  I know it's his weaker side.  Was I letting him get away with murder?  Absolutely.  I was fucking up my own horse because I was afraid of him and his potential to throw temper tantrums.

I mean, shit.  We've all hit the ground.  Nine times out of ten, we walk away from it pretty much okay.  (I guess I'm a little more cautious because two out of the last three falls [spanning about seven years, mind] have resulted in visits to the hospital.)  But confidence is my biggest handicap and, for the past month, it's been crippling.

I don't know what changed on Saturday.

Something clicked though.  I put on my big girl breeches and made the goober canter, correctly.  I still had my little pyramid poles set up, off my "rail".  Every single lap walking and trotting, we went over those.  Keep in mind that this is all on his happy direction, tracking left.  We've been doing downward transitions and he feels really, really good.  All I have to do is look at the pyramid and he locks on and surges forward.  We canter two laps, bypassing the pyramid.  And then I decide that, by golly, we're going to canter this little stack of poles.  I sit back (how do I remember to do this?) and shorten his stride a hair (did I really spot a cantering distance, three years since I've last looked?) and he took that little eight inch stack of poles like it was a real fence.

So this left me feeling really empowered.  I can ride, dammit!

We change directions and I let him walk out for a little while.  I can already feel that he's switched personas. We're still walking over the stack of poles each lap.  After three laps of brisk walking, I start in on the downward transitions.  And then I realize something.

Part of the reason that he's felt like shit tracking right is because he's been bulging that inside shoulder.  I can't get him to bend because I can't get beyond that boulder of shoulder.  And to be honest - brutally, idiotically honest - it never dawned on me that this was the problem.  I've always complained about that right shoulder and let it go that I had a fucked up horse.  I never thought to make him use it.  Make him bend.

So, I start making him work and I start getting some gorgeous responses.  Then, about the third lap of downwards.  He explodes.

Trying to bully me again.

I was going to canter him three laps anyways, so after he explodes, I push him forward into the canter.  When I tell him, hey, get that shoulder back in line, he goes a little nutter and starts bucking and crow hopping and I am filled with glee.  Because I've done something right and I can ride my horse, goddammit.  While he's bucking, I sit deeper, impossibly deeper, and pull that damn head back into something of a frame and push him forward.  He starts doing his ginormous, previously intimidating, right lead canter strides.  I keep pushing and I keep asking for the right shoulder to soften and that body to bend.  By lap three, while not beautiful, I have a very pleasant, very reasonable canter.

And then I made him finish the downward transitions.  :)

On Sunday, the absolute only thing that I wanted to do was jump.  Jump, jump, jump.  I'd taken all the poles from the sole cross rail to make my stack of pyramid poles, so I took two pieces of wood from the tree that still hasn't been chopped up and placed one pole on them and set up a cross rail with no ground poles.  Then I set up that other little jump on the other side of the pasture.  My horse should never refuse any fences, ever, by all the ghetto crap I build for him.  It was a nice little practice, working on bending lines and not losing control of my Thoroughbred, as the idea of obstacles has invigorated him.  (We really need to work on the half-halt at the canter because I had no damn brakes.)

Hovering pole and little cross rail.
Hard to see, but the longer white pole is actually above the ground.
The shortest white pole (which used to be part of a standard), I
put there because last time he put his foot on the inside of the
 red pole and knocked all that shit down.
One day... I will repair those standards.
This all made me think that if I had a set of eyes on the ground, our issues would be addressed much sooner.  And since I don't know any local equestrians, I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to put feelers out for someone who would be willing to come to the barn with me a couple times a month and yell at me about the things that I suck at (at least until L Williams gets here and I can siphon knowledge from her, like an inquisitive and mildly argumentative sponge).

I do have two functional boots.
The mist was pretty but creepy.
*I have a hard time with massacres since the VA Tech one.  I have no claim to fame.  This is not a claim.  This is simply six degrees of separation and it touched me too much.  The second victim (they think) of the VA Tech?  The RA who heard gun shots and went to save/intervene/investigate?  I'm not saying his name because, god forbid, someone does a google search for him and they come back to my little blog and that is absolutely not what I want.  It's not about me - it's about the degrees.  I graduated high school with him.  We were in home room together for four years.  I dated his twin brother off and on my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college.  We were facebook friends and we hugged when we ran into each other in the grocery store.  And I think that there are tons of people exactly like me who were friends of friends or acquaintances and were still punched in the gut because some shithead couldn't handle his brain or his emotions or the fucking necessities of interacting with other people or the concept of being rejected.  I've been very honest about the fact that I have anxiety issues but everyone, everyone, has something slightly off-kilter about themselves and it's their responsibility to get that shit handled.

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  1. I also get weirded out in different ways about mass shootings because of something that happened to be after Columbine, I'll tell you later. That aside, eyes on the ground I think help immensely. And sometimes those horses just need to be bullied back. Love the pics!