Thursday, July 16, 2009

Taking the next step

Last night when I was talking to the new boarders, I expressed relief when they invited me to ride with them sometime. I mentioned that I'm not crazy about the idea of trail riding alone, partly because I'm afraid Panama will spook and lose me.

"Is he jittery about the bicycles?" they asked.

"No," I had to answer. He's not. He's fine with bikes.

It's the imaginary stuff he's scared of. Or the really silly stuff, like birds flying around.

But the conversation got me to thinking. Why haven't I ridden Panama off the property yet? My plan all along was to ride him in the field, and slowly extend his comfort zone outward until we hit the trail (which is probably 200 yards away across said field).

It's not because he's not ready. He actually doesn't spook much anymore, and when he does it's no longer as violent. Or maybe I'm just a better rider now, and better able to sit it.

Anyway, I decided I'd done enough pussy-footing around, so today I went out to the barn with the intention of riding Panama in the field. I wore my boots, since I'm not comfortable riding him out there bareback, and I don't like to use my tennis shoes with stirrups. I didn't want to give myself any excuses not to follow through with my plan.

We rode in the field for only about 15 or 20 minutes, but I thought that was pretty good for our first time. And guess what? Panama was GOOD. We walked everything first, then trotted a bit. We went up and down a slight grade in the field, riding parallel to the fence line about 30 yards from the barn. We did circles one way, and then the other way. With a little work, he listened to leg yields, and my requests to collect or slow down (three things he typically has some trouble with on the trail).

Panama only spooked twice, and they were little spooks. The first time, I have no clue what he spooked at, but he jumped sideways. I sat it fine, and actually I noticed that I could feel it coming — something that I used to think happened too quickly that I would ever feel it.

The second time, he spooked forward. Again, I felt it coming: I could feel his butt lift as he gathered himself underneath him for one powerful spring forward. It was like riding a rollercoaster, but again, I sat it. (He didn't canter out of that giant spring forward — evidently he knows his momma as well as his momma knows him.)

Honestly, I think it's part of two things. One, I've noticed that Panama has gotten less jumpy as he's gotten older. He seems much more sure of himself, and I'm certain it's because he's achieving some maturity he'd lacked last summer. But also, I think my riding skills are improving: I'm more confident, too, and I feel more secure in the saddle than I used to. Plus, I've been riding bareback a lot lately, and I think that is really paying off.

Anyway, I was really thrilled with how well Panama did in the field today. In fact, I think he's already doing well enough that I feel I can push him a little further out on our next ride. I'm so excited — it would be great to be able to ride the trails, whether or not I've got someone to ride with!



At July 17, 2009 at 8:07 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

That's good. You know the theme of my horse training lately has been exposure, exposure, exposure. In some ways the improvement happens amazingly fast, while in other ways it seems to drag on for years. If you don't keep pushing your horse's boundaries, you both will get bored.

At July 17, 2009 at 11:12 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Oh yes, NM, you're part of my inspiration. In fact, following your example I think I'm going to try to con my husband into taking a hike with me and Panama this weekend. Wish me luck. :o)

At July 17, 2009 at 11:12 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

P.S. Your example on the hiking, not the conning. ;o)


Post a Comment

<< Home