Look… no hands?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I’m grateful to have been able to find a day or two here and there for some regular riding each week in between freezing rain howling wind and snowstorms.

We ended up with more snow accumulation than anticipated Sunday then beautiful sunny and mild Monday with the bonus of closed schools (no teaching for my afternoon lessons) which is a recipe for a perfect snow riding afternoon for me!

Armed with only one halter and dreams of a carefree snow ride I went into the field. After feeding, Khaleesi moseyed up toward the big round bale. No problem, I walked up to catch her between bites and she was easy to get.

What took me aback was Wild Heart.

She’s almost always near Khaleesi. However this time as Khaleesi headed up the hill to eat Wild Heart headed the opposite direction- straight to the red gate and stood ready to exit the field waiting patiently.

I’ve never exactly seen her do that before.

She was asking SO politely I decided not to refuse her. I hadn’t brought her halter but I knew she would string along so I decided to let her join us.

She came right along perfectly as if on lead.

<Sigh.>

So much for my carefree ride plans. Ponying along Wild Heart would mean staying closer to home, mostly going slower (which is ok in snow anyway) and a lot more work than fun.

But I had a feeling this was what I needed to do today – so I went with it.

I took my herd/pack (me, two horses and two dogs) across the highway and headed up the home trail which (being in a river valley) is a good uphill right from the start.

Wild Heart has walked these trails before with and without rider, but she began pretty quickly to drag anchor. It was like she didn’t feel like having to climb the mountain today.

Too bad. This is what we do. You wanted to come remember?

It was only 10 minutes into the ride when I’d had to stop for the however too many of times as she got behind… she would plant her feet and though I could convince her to keep on moving with some flicking of the lead rope it was NOT the ride I’d been dreaming of all day.

At that moment – before I allowed frustration to creep in, I stopped and took a moment to think.

Q: What do I need to do for this to be an enjoyable ride for me- and the horses?

A: Keep Wild Heart moving. It’s the constant stopping that’s making this not fun.

Q: What can I change to fix it?

[analysis of the ponying experience thus far today]

A: I’m behind the action. I am letting her fall too far behind before I try to keep her moving and I’ve already ‘lost’ her. When she’s that far back I have no tools available to me… I need to get ahead of the problem.

Q: How?

A: I know it would work better if I kept her head right around my knee. I’ve been *thinking* I’d like her there but haven’t been prepared to keep her in place I’ve been allowing her to fall behind to Khaleesi’s hip then have no control at all by the time she’s behind and allow her to control us because if she stops there’s nothing left to do.

So I’m essentially training her to get behind and stop us.

Uh oh. That’s not what I want. 🤭

Q: now what?< em>

A: instead of waiting to react when it’s already too late, I need to correct her immediately when she gets a few inches behind and I still have access to my whole lead rope.< strong>

Q: can you do that with only one hand as you’re holding your reins in the other?< em>

A: 🤔 I don’t know.

This is when the magic happened.

I decided that for the solution I worked out I would need both hands to work the pony horse on lead properly… so… it made perfect sense to clip my reins (I was riding in a halter not a bit so that helped) to the carabiner on the front of the saddle and use both my hands to wrangle the pony while I used my body to ride Khaleesi.

And it worked.

The next 70% or so of the ride I rode K without any reins and was able to keep Wild Heart right next to me and in fact she was quite good there and did not stop anymore.

We wound our way through some forested sections where the trail is less defined, and I even took some sections at a trot and that was SO fun!

There were about 3 instances when I had to reach for my reins to back up and clarify my request but I was tickled that the process worked so well.

It wasn’t the ride I expected… but by being open to what was instead of what I had in mind I was rewarded with an experience where all those things I have been working toward came together!

And that felt pretty darn good!

2 thoughts on “Look… no hands?

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