Yes, I know it’s already September. In fact, September’s about half gone, and this is my first post since, what, July? Well, at least I can happily say that I have been too busy riding to take time out for sitting at the computer; which I guess is a decent enough excuse, considering!
So Zeke and I have definitely been busy! We’ve been working out the kinks and sharpening up our skills, and we’re planning to do our first little show on November 3rd. The Morongo Basin Horsemen’s Association is holding a schooling show right here at Yucca Valley Equestrian Center, so it’ll be perfect for us! We don’t need a trailer, and we get the experience of showing without the pressure, since MBHA shows tend to be really positive, fun, and encouraging rather than overly competitive.
So what have we been up to? Well, I knew if I didn’t keep up with the blogging I’d forget, but let’s give it a try. First off we have been riding mainly in the wood arena, although this past Wednesday we went into the big pasture for the first time. We’ve been out there before, obviously, but only after a full ride, to cool down and play with the toys there. We just walked, and a little trot. But Wednesday we went straight out there with Cindy and Mac and Helen and BB, and did our full walk-trot-canter like a big boy. And Zeke did very well, though I felt a little…exposed? It just seemed like such a big, free space to me after being in the arena. A few more rides out there should get us both comfortable!
We’ve also managed a couple small trail rides in the past month, a decent length one with 2 other horses, a bunch of small ‘cool out’ ones, and, last week, a full 20 minute ride on our own! Zeke and I stayed very relaxed through the whole ride, and it was quite enjoyable. Then last week someone claims to have seen a young mountain lion out the back gate – someone who knows the difference between a mountain lion and a bobcat – so, maybe we’ll hold off going out alone for a little bit! Seriously, though, it is fairly unusual for mountain lions to venture into this part of Yucca Valley, so chances are it was quite young, and has probably moved on into better, more hidden territory than in the middle of town!
I also told myself that with this blog I wasn’t going to sugar-coat or gloss over anything. I want to show what it’s really like for an average person to train a mustang, so I’m including the road bumps as well as the fun. And during August, we hit one of those road bumps – frustrating, but really not surprising.
I have been working with Zeke on collection, and of course working in a balanced, energetic, forward manner by rocking onto your hind end and bringing your back up is really tiring for a young horse. They need to build up the muscle to be able to maintain the positioning themselves, but once they do, they are so much more balanced, freer to move quickly in any direction, and have a powerful stride. But…it’s hard. And Zeke is not that into ‘hard‘. He likes easy. Lazy. Effortless.
So his little brain began to work when we really started getting nice collection at the canter. He gave me a day of “Fine, but I’m going to drop my inside shoulder on every corner so my circle gets smaller.” That was unsuccessful, since my inside leg just picked him up and sent him around correctly. So for the next couple days, he tried, “Well, I just won’t canter at all then!” Yeah – he’d walk and trot, and when I asked for canter, his normal light departure became a sullen, cranky, sticky spot. Sadly for him, I have the big girl spurs on now, so he got a polite request, then an insistent tap, then a poke. So that didn’t work our for him, either.
Then he figured it out. All he really wanted was to stop cantering, right? Because collected canter is hard. So as I glibly sat on his back, giving him the loose rein I thought he deserved for bringing his back up and rounding so nicely, he grabbed the right side of the bit in his teeth, ran straight for the fence, then pulled me right (we were going left) as I struggled vainly to stop him.
Oh he got me, good. I stopped him, turned him, and sent him right back on, but he’d already made his point – “You asked me to stop when I did that.” So he did it again. And again. And again. Swearing ensued. He, and his parents, were called bad names. I just couldn’t seem to catch him in time to prevent the pull and turn, and it showed that hole again – the willingness to totally blow off my right leg. The same leg he’d blow off other times he was putting on a show of disobedience. Darn it – I thought we’d past that, but you see how those things come back to haunt you.
Anyhow, Cindy showed up at ringside about then, and for the first time since I got Zeke, I was ready to let her hop on and ‘fix’ it for me. I knew I’d blown it by letting him win – several times in a row – and I really didn’t want to create a runaway. But Cindy gave me another chance (okay, maybe 2 or 3 more chances!). She had me shorten my reins to the point that my arms were out straight and up next to his ears (a severely uncomfortable way to ride, but certainly builds shoulder muscles!). When he tried it again – he had 2 corners that by now he’d established as his ‘duck out’ areas – I was supposed to raise my hands straight up to lift his shoulders, then nail him with that right leg to prevent the duck out. And at all costs, keep him going forward, not letting him stop.
It took me about three tries to get it coordinated, but I did it! Cindy said I was that close to her taking over, but I pulled it out. And the cool thing was, I was so determined I forgot to be afraid. And Zeke being Zeke, he never once offered to do anything dangerous, like buck. Like Cindy said, he may be lazy, but at least he’s completely honest. You can see it coming before it happens, there’s nothing sneaky about Zeke.
But anyhow, it took a bunch of rides like that to get things back to good, and each ride he made fewer and fewer attempts. I took to calling out, “We’re going left” before I asked for left lead, so everyone in the ring with me knew not to get between us and the corner – or if it looked like we might run into them, we probably would, so go!
I have no illusions that this behavior is gone forever. It’s going to crop up every now and again, when things get too tough. I just need to be prepared and not allow it to be his best alternative. And in the meantime, we have been cantering around on a slightly looser rein, all collected and pretty for as long as a 3 year old can manage before I have to pick him up again.
This week we really got into our sidepassing. And guess what? He just doesn’t want to go to the left, moving off that right leg. Ugh!!! Here we go again…
A couple weeks ago my mom and her husband Don came out and met Zeke for the first time. Don took a bunch of nice pictures for us, so here’s what we look like these days!
with Cindy on BB and Helen on Mac (the paint)
our back-up is getting nice and round and free
on the new bridge
with Mom and Don