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Archive for October 2011

October 2011: Aftermath of an Explosion

with 5 comments

By Katherine Walcott, Illustration by Jean Abernethy

 

Sherlock Holmes: [extremely irritated] Oh, hell! What does that matter?! So we go around the sun! If we went around the moon or round and round the garden like a teddy bear, it wouldn’t make any difference!
Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Great Game” Sherlock [BBC 2010]. Courtesy of Wikiquote.

 

Rodney has added separation anxiety to his repertoire.

Monday: In the morning, as usual, he had a session with his heating pad to loosen a back scar from a foalhood injury. He stands. I do daily crossword puzzles. Fifty minutes is the longest either of us can go before terminal boredom.

For the afternoon groundwork session, I wanted to restart hillwork. To be as simple as possible, I chose a short, gentle slope within sight of the barn the entire way. He was nervous but in a different way than going towards the ring. Garden-variety separation anxiety. More than I cared to see, but nothing unusual.

Tuesday: Hubby goes out each morning before work to count noses and feed carrots. This morning, he used the daily treat to lead Rodney up the hill sans halter. They got 75% of the way before any stress occurred. During our heating pad session, I pondered how to play off this. Rodney is too much of a carrot mooch to use carrots regularly. Instead, I would put a hay pile at the top of the hill as goal and reward. To be even easier, I would put a second pile for the mare so that he would be walking toward company, thereby easing his separation anxiety.

That evening, we led both horses up and Rodney followed reasonably well. Hubby stayed at the top with Mathilda while Rodney and I turned around and came back down. He wasn’t relaxed but, again, did reasonably well. Then I turned to go back up the hill and

KA-BOOM

Hooves and horse everywhere. I let go of the leadrope. He tore up the hill (?!) bucking and kicking. Upon arriving, he didn’t stop (?!?!). Instead, he flew around the pasture (?!?!?!) finally fetching up in the barn/run-in shed where I caught him easily.

After one of these outbursts, he calms right down. If I may project, he looks as if even he doesn’t understand why he does this and is a little ashamed by his behavior. He comes over and puts his head down to my chest to be reassured and loved on. After that, he walked up the hill a few more times. Not serenely but obediently. Still, the cloud of despair had already engulfed me.

Perhaps it was time I faced facts? Perhaps, despite two wonderful rides when I tried him out, he would always be too unpredictable? Perhaps, I would never ride, much less show him? It was a dark night.

After mourning the death of my riding career (I don’t see going through this again) and lamenting the loss of the embarrassingly large number of blue ribbons we were going to win, I began to wonder, does it matter? If my darkest dread is realized, how will that change what I do tomorrow?

In 23 years, hubby and I have shared our household with 14 cats, 5 dogs, and 3 horses. The only animals we relocated were one overly-sensitive kitten who needed a quieter lifestyle and another kitten to a friend. One reason we took so long to find a horse was that we knew we would have him or her for the next 20 years.

So, Rodney is here for the duration.
Will I leave him in the field to rot? No.
Will I stop grooming and socializing him? No.
Will I stop working with him – to whatever extent he allows? No.
Many things matter in theory. In practical terms, not so much.
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Blog frequency – monthly.
Links to past WordPress & USEA columns, plus weekly commentary, on Facebook at Rodney aka Perpetual Motion. Note, I occasionally forget to switch identities before posting there, so please select “Everyone (Most Recent)” under the photo strip to see all entries.
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Written by Virtual Brush Box

October 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm

September 2011: My Two Horses

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By Katherine Walcott, Illustration by Jean Abernethy

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [Scholastic 1998]

They are the best of horses. They are the worst of horses. I don’t know which is which.

Each morning, the mare and I don our Red Hats and go for a stroll around the pasture. Mathilda is my husband’s 27-year-old Quarter Horse cross. Over the last 20 years, she’s had a brief career as a driving horse, a briefer career as an event horse, and long, successful career as a grass converter. She even tried backyard dressage with me. Despite her lack of overall talent, she was better at dressage than I was. She has the mind for it. Our story made USDF Connection as “Square Horses and Round Holes” [November 2008]. Now retired and arthritic, Mathilda benefits from regular walks to loosen her joints, plus it’s good for both sets of bones.

We are not building towards anything. Best case scenario is that she lives for another 10 years and we go for another 3,000+ walks. Far from resenting the chore, I look forward to the time to amble and ponder. I talk to myself. I swat flies. I rewrite troublesome text. Mathilda trundles along behind, snorting, stretching, and occasionally hocking bits of chewed carrot against the backs of my legs. Our only goal is to make it four times around. On days when one or the other of us isn’t up for it, we end early and try again the next day.

On the other hand, I had hoped to ride Rodney in the AEC this month. As I write this, horses are pulling into Chattahoochee Hills. Instead of dwelling, I grit my teeth and focus on our gains:

  • Rodney stands quietly ground-tied during grooming. Since he adores being fussed over, this was easy. He is getting the message that whichever side I am working on, the feet on that side stay firmly on the ground.
  • Rodney drops his head below my eye level to have a bridle or halter put on or taken off. He’s better about remembering during the off than the on.
  • Rodney accepts funny objects. When I rolled our blue exercise ball into the field, he put up his ears and trotted towards it. When I led him up to the ball, he put his nose on it and thought, Big, squishy, rubber thing. So? I kicked it around the field. I rolled it gently against his legs. I rolled it underneath his belly. I finally terminated the exercise as it was having so little impact.
  • Rodney is starting to jump sedately. In his former life, they claim he jumped 5’2″. I do not doubt it. Nor do I doubt that he would fly over anything at which I pointed him. However, he will not walk quietly over a crossrail. I am working on convincing him to use only the amount of energy required for the task at hand. There are times when you want afterburners: a mini-prix jumpoff, a Preliminary cross-country, a Second-level extended trot across the diagonal. Until then, he needs to learn to ration his energy.

In sum, I think Mathilda is a waste of time and space (don’t worry, the feeling is mutual), yet I have a lovely time with her each day. Rodney is everything I was looking for in a horse, yet everything about working with him makes me crazy.
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Blog frequency – monthly.
Links to past WordPress & USEA columns, plus weekly commentary, on Facebook at Rodney aka Perpetual Motion. Note, I occasionally forget to switch identities before posting there, so please select “Everyone (Most Recent)” under the photo strip to see all entries.
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Written by Virtual Brush Box

October 8, 2011 at 9:43 pm