I had the day off work and, although overcast, it was a beautiful day. After the bitter cold last weekend, it felt so warm at -3C(26F). I was determined to ride outside. Yes, I knew I might have a fight on my hands...but we've hacked out alone before without a problem. Of course, we've also hacked out and had TONS of problems. I figured if I just stayed calm and patient, surely Brumby would see how much fun we could have.
We got along just fine at the start. I mounted and he was very forward as we walked away from the barn. Not TOO forward but he was striding out nicely. Of course, we were also walking toward his turnout at that point :)
There is a galloping track on the property with turnouts in the centre and along two sides. My intention was to start there and then head into the fields. I had checked the footing when I first got there and it was fantastic. As I got to the track and turned Brumby down the track, away from his turnout, he was still walking with calm confidence. That is, until we approached boogey man #1.
There are two places along the track that have known boogey men who most certainly exist for the sole purpose of eating him and only him. If I can get past these, chances are I`ll have a good ride.
Throughout this, I was actually very relaxed. I don`t think punishment is very effective on a good day and I don't think it`s ever a good idea to punish if you are angry, frustrated, or upset. At the same time, I had to let him know that this was BAD. Keep in mind, we've been hacking around the property a hundred times, he wasn`t spooking at anything, he just didn`t want to go that way.
I was glad that he was happy enough at that point to just stand (he is usually terrible at this, even in the arena, and I've been trying to work on it but he has zero patience). It gave me time to think about how to proceed. I did not want to get in a fight and push him too far but I also think it's ridiculous that I can't walk the horse around an area he is extremely familiar with. I did not think it would be a good idea to "give up" though it was rather tempting to just go to the arena.
After standing for awhile, I turned him around and headed in the other direction. He was happy! And even passed by his gate without a sign of hesitation. Then we hit the edge of the reach of boogey man #2 and I got to enjoy more fireworks. Once again, I insisted on standing quietly for a bit and then I turned and went the other way.
On the other side, we actually got further than we had before and I was quite pleased. Still, the brakes went on and I got an extra special rear-buck combo - Brumby's specialty in situations like this. Ok, I got several. I was only asking that he face that direction, I was not pushing him forward at that point. As soon as he did, I would relax with a light contact and my seat and legs relaxed but there. Not pressing but not absent.
We would stand quietly for a time, and I rubbed his neck and softly told him he was a good boy. Then, I would gently apply some leg and he would either spin, rear, or buck, or some combination of those. So, I would get him (often with a fair bit of "discussion") facing the direction I wanted and stand still again. After doing this twice, he started to show interest in a path just ahead that leads off the track into the fields where I had hoped we would ride today. I decided he could have the choice - the track or the path.
After a few moments, he moved forward toward the path. He went a few steps down it and then hopped a bit and spun around. Sigh. Yet again, I got him facing the right direction and let him stand still. He looked around. Breathed deep and chewed. Hmm. Once again, he volunteered to head down the side path and once again put on the brakes after a few strides.
At this point, I could feel I was losing patience and really wanted to wail on him. So I decided that once I had him standing calmly for a few moments again, I would call it quits. As long as I was the one to ask him to turn away. It had been about 30 minutes at this point.
After I untacked and had him blanketed, I hand walked him down the track, past the side path and well down the long side. Then, I turned around and walked him to the side path and up it a good way into the field. It was the best way I could think to end things.
I know there are probably lots of things I did wrong, and many other ways I could have handled it. I did the best I could in the moment and now I just have to try to learn from it.
Some of my (early) thoughts:
- I wish I could dismount and lead him through the tricky spots. If I were to do that, there would be no hope of getting back on from the ground. Perhaps next time I can pre-place a mounting block of some kind but I'm not sure anything would be available.
- I considered riding back and forth along the stretch he will travel both to drain energy and to see if he would go a little further each time. In this way, I could keep the pressure off as soon as I felt him resist, but would continue to make him move. On the other hand, I thought this would just be letting him get away with the behaviour.
- I guess I have to give up on the idea of hacking out alone. I realize many horses have issues with this...but I wonder if I should be leasing a horse like this since I value being able to hack - alone or in groups.
- I am glad that I at no point felt like I was in any danger of coming off. Without this, I wouldn't have been able to be as calm as I was through it all.
- I am also glad that I know for sure my contact did not make the rearing worse by taking a strong hold on his face. I was able to maintain some contact but not get strong or tense with his shenanigans. Yes, I'm sure. I think the regular jumping helps with this!
- I've been toying with the idea of terminating this lease for some time, for a variety of reasons. Today was one more reason to pursue another option. Maybe.
Ok, I'm done for now. I need to digest the day a little more. Feel free to share your thoughts. I don't mind criticism but please keep it respectful, I'm doing the best I can and am always trying to learn.