Sunday, April 5, 2009

Two Great Rides

As Funder astutely pointed out, there's no snow in those pictures. Spring arrived, gradually and then suddenly.

As a result, I had two great rides in the Great Outdoors. We've been doing ok in the arena, getting soft, solid work, nothing spectacular. But the Great Outdoors poses challenges of its own, like wind, things that move suddenly, wide open spaces and maybe some fond memories of fox hunting or galloping over hill and dale.

Regardless of the cause, when Brego goes out, he is ON. Sometimes naughty, but always ON. I rode him out in his French link bit and he minded. We even got some lovely rocking horse canters across the fair grounds. Brego was happy to be out and threw in some exuberant bucks, but nothing malicious and when I locked my hips and opened my chest, he came back to me.

The thing is, Brego is a great paradox. I am both in love with and afraid of the horse. When he reads my mind, saves my butt, is fun and game and happy, he is the best horse in the world. Period. But when he's had enough, when he is scared or bored or just done, he gets aggressive and dominant and very much not fun.

The last three weeks as Spring approached, he got worse and worse. Aggressive, kicking out in the field, he even bit my stomach once while I was bridling him. Very unlike him, he was unsettled or unhappy. And that makes me unhappy, because you know, this is as good as it gets. This life of his. At least with me. Sure, I bet he'd be happier on 20 acres of rolling pastures and five fun geldings to play with nonstop (as would I, believe me!), but he's on a muddy side of a hill with a geriatric and quite witchy mare. I was worried that he was unhappy in his life, and when Brego is unhappy, he's dangerous. I was starting to dread riding him out, that he would kill me in the first five minutes.

But something's changed. His eye has softened. Even yesterday with 30 mph gusts of wind and a storm rolling in, I forced myself into the saddle to ride. But before I swung up, I looked him in the eye and he told me, clear as day, that he was ok. He was soft. So up I went and off we went and even though the sky was threatening and a million things were blowing across our path, he was ok.

When we got to the fair grounds and he saw the huge field open in front of him and I braced for the take off, he waited. He went my speed. He trotted when asked, cantered when asked, and most importantly, checked with the slightest shift of my weight.

Today was even better. Again, Brego looked soft. He looked like he wanted to have an adventure. We hit the back trails which have been closed for a few months and they were wet but not boggy. Even the old mare was happy to be out on the trail. We headed over to the next town, found a really nice packed gravel road, smooth with no rocks sticking up, and tested a few gears. Brego was amazing, powerful, fast, but there, with me all the time. We finished the ride, two hours total, at a ground covering trot. He never even broke a sweat.

I think part of me is just not used to a horse that wants to go. Brego has a taste for it now and his preferred gait is a canter. That just blows my mind. Stacey talks about Klein that way, but she's young and obviously talented and fit. Brego has always been, well... slow. There's just so much power there when he wants to unleash it, it scares me. I need to treat him more like my Thoroughbred mare, expect him to want to open up and release some steam. Stop nagging and checking. Having a horse that wants to go forward is a GOOD THING. I just need to keep up.

It will likely rain the rest of the week, but this weekend was perfect tonic for both of us. We went out, we even had fun, and we cleaned the cobwebs that endless hours in an indoor will do to you. Brego will see the chiro on Tuesday and then get the rest of the week off to soak up the goodness. Hopefully, rain willing, we will have our first dressage lesson with my awesome neighbor next weekend and then, bam, show time. April 26th.


Sarah said...

I'm so glad that things are going well, and excited to hear about your adventures this summer.

Anonymous said...

I love how well you capture the same feelings I am having for my big girl. An out of control, belligerent Percheron is a lot of horse. I am scared witless of her. Then she come back to me, and I just love this horse.

When others are loving on her face in the barn, I have to warn them that she bites...but she doesn't bite them. She bites me, later, while I am bridling her. Or she flings my arm hard enough to dislocate it. Or she takes me for a 15-min bucking episode, while she carts around my friends like a draft horse. Today she tried to scrape me off on some trees, at the beginning of the trail, but then she gave me a fabulous ride...but, pranced and jigged on the way home.

sidetracked said...

What show are you going to on the 26th? That is also the date of my first hunter show. Glad to hear that things are going well with you and Brego.

Andrea said...

Aaaaah, the forward horse. Welcome to my world baby! Just wait til I post the pictures from the show where we ha a minor meltdown and all of our forward energy went straight up into the air - I nearly got knocked out when she clocked me in the skull with her own head while she was rearing. And then she was perfect after that. Sweet!

Embrace the forward love! It makes our job on x-country a LOT easier when we don't have to kick every stride! What show are you doing? My first real event is on the 9th-10th of May... that is SO SOON HOLY CRAP.

Daun said...

Sidetracked, I am doing the Wentworth Hunt Dressage show at UNH. I am excited to show off Brego's new canter. :)

Andrea, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but you are slightly crazy. I could never, NEVER, ride Gogo. Oh my god, I get heart palpitations just reading your stories. In all honesty, Brego is not that bad under saddle. I have not fallen off of him (where has has not also fallen, that is), since the first year I have owned him (knock on wood). It's just his hijinks from the ground are intimidating.

Plus, I am a weany.

Andrea said...

Yeah, I think I'm just a little bit crazy too. I never feel unsafe on her is the weird thing. Yeah, she did get me in the head this time but as soon as she did, she stopped as if to go, wow, sorry about that, just had a moment, didn't mean for it to go that far, and then turned and went right to the next fence like it never happened.

It's hard with a horse like her, because of all the abuse she's had with the only two other trainers that have been on her in her life. Especially the one that had her when I was in NZ, when I was blissfully unaware that she was starving, beating, and flipping my horse over regularly. So now, I feel as though it's my duty to do the best I can by her, because it's not her fault that she's a sensitive mare and she's been so wronged in the past. She's not malicious or mean. Never, ever malicious or mean. She just genuinely gets frustrated sometimes and she acts out, and given her history I can't blame her for it. She's got a ton of talent and she's going to go very far... she's just going to take longer than usual. And I have to be tactful, because she NEVER forgets.

Plus, my life would be too boring on a nice quiet horse. I need a little spice in my life. Or maybe I've just been hit in the head too many times. Funny thing is, I really get anxious riding hot horses, the ones that actually jig and prance and bolt at their fences. But I feel completely at home on Gogo, who isn't hot at all... just, well, you know, a mare sometimes.

Daun said...

Gogo is very lucky to have you. And I am lucky to have Brego. I've really been the only one with him from the beginning and he's a good guy. There are days when I trust him. And there are days when he's up to no good. But even the bad days, I don't think he wants to hurt me. He's just very expressive and you can tell what he is thinking at every second. He's an open book, very emotive, always talking to you through his body. When he's unhappy, he just throws a tantrum, and puts his whole body behind it. If my old Arab did the exact same thing, I would laugh. When Brego does it, I get scared. It's a whole order of magnitude BIGGER.

Also, maybe it's the size, but I have a very real, very palpable feeling that when Brego is good, he is good as a choice. I know we all want our horses to be willing partners, but you know the horses that would never misbehave, either out of fear or training. I feel like Brego is good because he is choosing to be good. And he reminds me of that.

In other words, I can't MAKE Brego do anything. If he wants to run across that field bucking and farting, I can't MAKE him stop. If he wants to rear while I am leading him, I can't MAKE him come down. I am not into total domination, but it is sometimes creepy how "equal" we are.

Like Gogo, you talk about letting her warm up, that you can't make her get soft. It's like that, except it's for everything.

It's hard to explain. I always thank Brego for behaving and good rides and someone asked me why I did that. It's because he has a choice to not be good and he chooses to work with me more often than not. I never take for granted Brego's willingness to do as I ask.

Andrea said...

Amen :D That's what proper horsemanship is all about, letting the horse chose to be a willing partner instead of forcing them through fear or pain. We're lucky to have two completely opinionated, talented, special horses.

Funder said...

Good post, great comments.