Monday, January 24, 2011

How Panama saved me

I had another great lesson on Friday.  Panama was a bit squirrely when I arrived — Spaghetti's owner and I met around late morning for a playdate before my lesson, and he was pretty eager to get out there and run.  He remained amped up when I was tacking up, so I really had no idea whether he was going to behave himself during our lesson or not.  I really need to start riding more often again — once a week is leaving too much of his mood and behavior to chance.

As it turned out, though, Panama was very well-behaved during our lesson.  As usual, the first ten minutes or so had to be spent reminding him of the "ground rules" — working him into corners, and reminding him to bend and not let his inside shoulder fall in through turns.  But once he and I worked through that, my trainer suggested we work on cantering for a bit.

We haven't worked on cantering in a lesson for a couple of months at least, I think.  I've cantered a few times, but usually only once or twice when he's being especially good, as Panama tends to get pretty fired up once he gets to canter, and I spend a lot of time working him back down from his excitement.

This time we cantered several times in each direction, practicing it both in the saddle and in my two-point.  Although I'm still coming out of the saddle a bit during my sitting canter, it's not as bad as it used to be, and both Panama and I are doing much better in our upward and downward transitions.  I do need to remember not to just hang on his face when I'm trying to slow him down from a very excited canter, but other than that, we seem to be doing much better than we had been.

We had one scary moment during our lesson.  The arena was quite crowded, with two or three other riders, one person hand-walking a horse that just had surgery, and one or two people on foot in the middle at one point.  We were passing the mare that was being hand-walked and getting ready to canter; her owner walked her away from the rail so that we could have it, and we got ready to pass her.  As we approached, I saw her stop and plant herself, getting ready to kick us.  Her owner tugged and got her moving, and then she planted again, and as we got even with her, I saw her kick.

This all happened so quickly that I didn't have much time to react.  We were maybe four or five strides away when she planted the first time; I could have perhaps slowed him in time at that point, but when her owner got her moving again I didn't think I had to.  By the time she stopped and planted herself the second time, it was far too late for me to do anything.  It was Panama who saved the day: He slammed on the brakes and turned quickly into the rail, presenting her with his butt but not kicking back.  I was in my two-point, and for a moment I was worried I was going to fall, but I didn't (which tells me I'm getting to be a much stronger rider, as this all happened very quickly).  The mare's owner got her moved away from us, and I let Panama stand at the rail for a moment while both of us got our bearings again.

Later, my trainer said that I was pretty close to getting a hoof in the knee.  It's hard to remember because it was all such a blur, but I'm pretty sure I didn't tell Panama to do what he did.  I'm pretty sure he acted immediately and instinctively to protect both of us.  I am still amazed that I stayed as balanced as I did, especially since I was ready for a canter, not an abrupt halt and direction change, but I managed.  I got a lot of compliments from others in the arena for how I handled it.

In that brief instant, I think Panama redeemed himself for much of his naughty baby behavior during the late summer and fall.  Despite the occasional growing pains he still goes through, he is showing signs of growing into a confident horse and a wonderful companion and riding partner for me.



At January 24, 2011 at 9:38 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I think experiences like that help us to trust our horses more.

At January 28, 2011 at 7:23 PM, Anonymous Melody said...

Go Panama!

What a smart boy! He's going to be a wonderful companion. That's incredible that he knew what to do immediately to protect you and him. I don't doubt for a moment that he wasn't trying to take care of you as well.


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