Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hello, goodbye, and trotting bareback without falling off!

Here's an idea for encouraging your horse to care more about when you come and go: Take a horse that is used to (and spoiled by) getting lots of attention every time you're at the barn, and then for two days straight, show up and leave right away, without time for anything more than a quick hello.

I made three such visits over the last 24 hours. Last night we stopped by to get betadine and furacin for my mother-in-law, whose horse recently injured himself. This morning I stopped by to get my bridle, so that I could take it to the tack shop with my trail bridle for comparison (my trail bridle needed to be altered so that it would fit). And then this afternoon I stopped by again, to try on the trail bridle one more time and report back to the tack store owner on how much shorter the cheek pieces needed to be.

(The trail bridle is getting altered, by the way, and I should have it back sometime mid-week. I'll take new pictures and blog about it then.)

Anyway, all the hellos and goodbyes were obviously really confusing Panama. He'd stand there and stare at me every time I arrived or left. The last time I arrived today, he actually nickered at me several times in greeting — a rarity for him.

After running all my errands, I finally had an opportunity to spend some time at the barn. I've been waiting to ride since our failed lesson on Wednesday, and I didn't want to let another day get past me. However, it was getting close to the horses' dinner time, so I opted to ride bareback to save time.

As it turned out, dinner was a bit late, so I had longer to ride than anticipated. Panama took this opportunity to give me the little kick in the butt I needed to accomplish something I've been needing to for quite a while now: trotting bareback. He's young and hasn't filled all the way out yet (or maybe it's just because he's a smaller horse), so he's narrow and a little slap-sided (as my saddle fitter calls it). As a result, there's not a very big margin of error when you ride him bareback — there's not much time between slipping sideways and falling off.

Because of this, I've been very hesitant to trot him bareback — but since reading Horse, Follow Closely, I've been more interested than ever in overcoming that particular failing of mine. Pony Boy claims that if you position your legs correctly on the horse, you can even post the trot bareback, so today while circling the pasture at a walk, I worked on "posting" the walk: lifting my seat bones off his back for two steps, then sitting for two steps.

It was hard, but to my delight I found I could do it. And that's when Panama kicked me in the butt (figuratively). As we rounded one corner of the pasture, I was thinking really hard about trotting, trying to envision it. I felt like I could do it — my imaginings felt almost real. And I must have been sending out signals to Panama unintentionally, because as we rounded the corner he started to trot, realized I wasn't actually asking him to, and slowed back down to a walk.

As it turned out, though, that's what I needed, and I decided to just go with it. Once Panama wasn't trying to anticipate the trot anymore (which only took a few seconds), I gave him a very soft cluck (and no leg at all — he is very sensitive and I didn't want him lurching forward on me!).

Panama started trotting immediately but tentatively. (He's used to me not wanting to trot bareback, and he always does his best to take care of his mommy!) Almost right away I pulled him back down to a walk, but I'd done it, and I didn't fall off!

I trotted him again... and again... and again. After a couple of times, he stopped being so tentative about it, but by then I was gaining confidence. I noticed I was hunching, like I was trying to scrunch down as close to his body as possible; but once I sat straight and tried to sit back, I found trotting was easier. We trotted for a little longer each time (and he become more and more reluctant to slow down after just a few strides).

Of course, all thoughts of posting flew right out of my head once I actually started trotting — I'm just working on sitting the trot right now. I figure I'll try posting once I'm a bit more confident in my ability to stay on his back.

For now, though, this is an amazing achievement for me, one I've wanted (but didn't quite have the guts to try) for a long time!

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3 Comments:

At September 6, 2009 at 5:03 AM, Blogger Kate said...

Very cool! I think you know that my younger daughter only rides her mare Dawn bareback, and I rode bareback throughout my young and teenage years.

 
At September 6, 2009 at 8:02 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Congratulation! I've been having so much trouble with all of my horses lately that I'm doubting I can even stay in a saddle. Bareback has been one of my goals, but I keep putting it on the back burner.

 
At September 6, 2009 at 11:31 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Kate, about a year and a half ago (before I moved to a "monogamous" relationship with my horse) I was riding my trainer's horse bareback. He was nice and round and I found it comparatively easy to stay on his back compared to Panama's. I think if I can master riding Panama bareback, I'll probably be able to ride any horse, because it will take impeccable balance to stay on his back!

NM, I hear you about staying on. Let's just put it this way: I won't be riding Panama bareback on the trail anytime soon. That will be limited to the nice safe pasture for a while yet. :o)

 

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