Monday, January 14, 2013

Clowns on Four Legs

How A Ride Took Nearly Forever

It was another lovely day temperature-wise. It was still cloudy and damp, but in the upper 40's-low 50's F.

After another long job of cleaning the stalls--the Boys have been making quite a mess in the barn lately--and cleaning the west side run in shed, I was rather worn out, but game to ride at least one horse. In fact, I had it in mind to ride two horses.

The horses had a different agenda.

First, let me say that Tucker was a perfect gentleman from start to finish. He came to me when I called--bribed by some horse treats--stood nicely for saddling, and politely followed as I led him out to the arena.

And that's where the trouble started.

As you can see from my blog heading picture, the fence around the riding arena has suffered numerous dismantlings.  I have repeatedly repaired it, but to be honest, it has several sections with posts and rails down. Usually, when I take a horse inside and close the gate, whoever is left on the other side respects the fence line and stays out.  I have a few places where I can put the rails back up easily, but today, I thought it would be OK not to.


First Toby leapt a downed rail and came in.  After a rather vigorous chase, I managed to shoo him out, and then I put up the rails where I could, and closed the gate from the pasture as well.  All the while, Tucker walked quietly by my side as I moved barrels and hefted rails into place.


I led Tucker to the mounting table, was about to get on, when suddenly, both Toby and Chance came careening around the far end of the arena, out through the side paddock gate, around the run in shed at the west end of the arena, to leap at top speed over another downed rail at that end.  Now, the two of them were galloping madly around, trapped by closed gates and rails back up on three sides.

Of course, despite my chasing them, they would not go back out the way they had come in, so I had to put those rails back up, go to the other end of the arena, re-open the gate to the pasture, and once more chase them out that way.

Only then did I decide on the bright option of closing the second gate to the pasture so they could not get back into the paddock by the barn--the one adjacent to the riding arena.  I managed to shoo them out into the pasture, led Tucker back into the barn paddock, close the gate to the pasture and then go back into the arena through the main gate.

Peace, at last. Toby and Chance were none to pleased to have the game over, but I was.

I mounted up, and began to ride. I had no real plan in mind. The footing was a bit wet, so I wasn't intending on doing too much anyhow.

But Tucker dictated the ride. It was time to "listen to the horse" and ride the horse I was on today.

When I took up a little contact to put Tucker's walk together, he thought about not going forward. We worked on that for a few strides and then I asked for trot. Once again, he did not respond right away to the aid.  So I repeated it, a little stronger, and once we were in trot, went about half way around the arena to establish that indeed it was the gait I wanted, and then did a downward transition back to walk.  Once again, I had to remind him that I wanted a forward, straight walk and when we got it, I transitioned back up to trot.

Soon, it was clear that it was a day to simply work on transitions. My expectation was an upward transition at a light leg cue.   I didn't demand perfection on the downwards, mostly because I wasn't as worried about them as I was concerned about establishing a "forward" feel.  So, if the trot shortened into the walk, that was fine since I really didn't want him to lose his impulsion.  (I can almost always stop Tucker. Getting him to go is the larger issue.)

Gradually, he nicely in front of my leg, ready to trot off at the least whisper. Then, almost by accident, I cued a bit more strongly with my outside leg, and he did a lovely canter depart from the walk.  I praised him mightily and we moved on to walk-canter-walk transitions, then some trot-canter-trot transitions on both leads.  He was forward, responsive and a really good boy.

All in all, I rode, at most, for 15-20 minutes.

I think I chased naughty horses for another 15-20 minutes.

It was enough for one day.


  1. Sounds like you got more exercise than any one of the horses! But at least you did get to ride . . . eventually!

  2. Tucker sounds like a great horse. I'm glad you got a nice ride in today after all the disturbances. Seems like Toby and Chance has some exercise too. It's actually a pretty amusing picture you painted of their antics today. I hope you're smiling by now...

  3. "The best laid plans of mice and men..."

    Your boys do keep things interesting! I think winter is best suited to transitions. It always seems that the horses are stiff, or worked up, or both. Transitions are just fine. And 15-20 minutes is just about enough!

  4. Wow, what a nice ride you had on Tucker, despite all that help you got in the beginning.

  5. Ok this made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. When I read this was I was just back from the barn where I spent a good 30 mins chasing Bre down. Horses are so naughty but you have to laugh.

  6. oh boy. I kind of had one of those days, only the horse was so naughty (i.e. dangerous) I didn't even get on him. *sigh*
    - The Equestrian Vagabond