Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Total Freakout!

Yesterday, while riding along peacefully in the field, Shorty freaked out. This wasn't the garden variety, "let's look at snuff and snort" kind of spook that I've become accustomed to in Shorty. Shorty had a long career on the track, so few things phase him. Car, trucks, motorcycles, brooms, hoses, plastic bottles, garbage bags being dragged down a gravel driveway... these things are fine with Shorty as long as he can get a good look at the offending noise/movement.

Not yesterday. In the open field, one side is dominated by a line of trees. On the other side of the tree line is Hosford Road, where cars traverse between the busy Route 44 and the slightly less busy Ravenna Road. Normally the cars do not pose a threat.

I was trotting large circles and practicing my steady outside rein, open inside rein maneuver. As I passed by the treeline, a car sped towards Shorty on the road, making a loud acceleration noise. Shorty took the open door opportunity to run through my soft inside rein and blast off in a series of bucks, spins, and crowhops. Shorty finally lived up to his Jockey Club name of Spicy Devil. As I attempted to reel my inside rein back in and regain my balance (I'd lost my inside stirrup as well) Shorty bolted for the barn. Thankfully, a big exhale and a strong half halt, followed by plenty of circles, brought Shorty back. I got my stirrup back. The blasted leather had twisted three or four times thanks to all of the twisting break-dance moves on Shorty's part, and I took a moment to thank the Lord for thigh blocks and giving me long legs before continuing back towards the offensive tree line.

Sure enough, every time Shorty heard a rustle or thought he saw something move, he'd pop up above my hand and blast off like a rocket. Did I strap on Air Jordans instead of bell boots? Did someone fill Shorty's waterer with Amp Energy Drink instead of water? After lots of circles and half halts, Shorty started to settle down. For the rest of the ride, a solid 45 minutes, I kept Shorty close to the treeline and praised him for not bolting when a car went by. I had to hold his little hand like he was just started under saddle, not the veteran that he is.

In the aftermath, I realized a few things:
  • I've ridden some cantankerous horses in my life that could throw a mean buck. However, most of them were Quarter Horses. I learned that a horse with long legs can really throw himself in the air like no short-legged horse can. If Shorty were human, he'd be the next LeBron James.
  • Even horses that can handle F-15 planes and air ballons without much care can spook at something he's seen nearly everyday. Heck, I once had a professional barrel horse that spooked at a BARREL in the middle of the arena.
  • Long legs and thigh blocks are awesome. I love my saddle, I love my full seat breeches, and I love my grippy half chaps. I love my helmet, too, and my gloves.
  • When opening your inside rein, be aware of your surroundings. Don't get caught, as I did, in midair when your horse suddenly becomes the next Challenger Space Shuttle and propels himself to the moon. I'll take the blame for a lot of this one, not because I think that I caused Shorty to somehow spook, but because a more aware rider wouldn't have been caught so off guard. I sometimes get tunnel vision and block out my outside surroundings, but alas! when climbing on top of, and attempting to control, a 1,000 pound plus animal, it pays to be observant.

1 comment:

  1. Hey good job staying on, keeping your cool, and continuing your school! Thoroughbreds are amazing athletes but the times they choose to express those talents make it hard to appreciate sometimes.