Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tipping Point

I mentioned in the last post about Kat and I having a run-in with the irrigation ditch. Something has been on my mind since then. 

At the last ADT I was talking to one of the club members who offers lessons in our area. I had mentioned to her about one of our previous outings when we encountered the garbage truck 3 times and how each time I stopped Kat, hopped out of the cart and stood by his head. When the truck went by, I hopped back on and we went on our way.  Kat doesn't often spook and doesn't often bolt & run like a twit but I felt better, safer, standing by his head and making sure he was calm and relaxed, seeing me there calm and relaxed.

I was told I should Never dismount the cart in a situation like that. If he were to spook and bolt, he would be running away and there is no way to stop him or bring things back under control. It is better to sit in the cart and wait it out. You have more chances of preventing an accident that way then to step off the cart and head the horse.

Ok, that makes sense and I understand the reasoning behind it, but I also know that sometimes there is a time to just get off the horse and let them kill themselves too. In cases like that, have at it horse. Take yourself out, but you aren't taking me with you.  Sometmes they handle things better seeing us on the ground, standing safe and calm while crazy shit happens around us. They see and feel us blowing it off, looking but not scared and do the same.  You aren't freaked out, why should I be? is their reaction. 

Knowing this, when things started to go south and the ditch was right there, I went with my instincts and stepped off the cart. I didn't let go of the reins, never got excited or lost my mind, but instead, stood there and waited for Kat to get his mind back and stop reacting to everything like he was. Sure it could have gone seriously wrong, but I did what I knew to do and waited for Kat to slow down and figure it out.

I know every horse is different, we are all different, every situation is different and how things turn out in the end vs. the could have, would have, should haves is all going to be different too. But do we all know what our own 'breaking point' is? Do you know when to get off and when to stay on and ride it out? What is it for you that defines it? Sometimes it is a gut feeling, reaction, instinct or you just know... but when do you hang on and when do you bail?

Monday, May 7, 2012


There's a couple of reasons for the title of this post. One because I need to catch up and two because of how things went over the weekend. 

Kat has been getting time off lately. It is getting hot, but also I am trying to finally get Mondo going. In the process I am also getting some of the carts fixed up, cleaned up and will be listing them for sale to get them out of here. Why hang onto things that you don't use, can't use and don't fit so you won't use? If it is gone there is now more free space, you no longer have to care for it and maintain it and the bonus here is- you can sell it and put the money towards things you need!

Last weekend I pulled Mondo out and tried the nylon harness on him to see how (if) it would fit him. So far so good.  It will fit him well enough and work long enough to get him going. I fastened up the traces and the breeching/hold back straps and took him out to lunge him and then work on ground driving. There were a couple of bouts of bucking on the lunge line, but he kept his head and most of all, kept moving.  When he had settled down and was ready to work I put the bridle on him and the lines on him and got behind him.

Now Mondo has been saddled plenty and I have been on him a few times, but he hasn't been ground driven yet. Hubby asked if I had ever done this before with him and said he hadn't either, so off we went. Sort of. Mondo wasn't so sure what I wanted, but when he started to walk off and I praised him with plenty of "Good Boy" mentions, he got the idea. His turns were not so good, but he eventually got the idea to follow his nose.  Circles were very egg shaped and oval, but we managed and I didn't expect perfection on our first shot.  Stop? He did that a few times on his own too.  Asking for it though, he didn't act like he understood the concept. 

Hubby took the lines and worked him a little so I could watch. A lot more walking, more turns both left and right, a few stops and wait, then walk off. Stop and wait wasn't so much his strong point, but ok, we can work on that.  As things were finishing up Mondo came around the long side of the arena, he wasn't so much responding to the reins (right rein on the inside) and signal to turn and then.... He responded all right, spun around and was facing hubby. From there he put it in reverse and started backing up.  At least until he got to the fence and bumped into it. 

In all the excitement he had busted loose the D-ring the crupper attaches to the surcingle with. The crupper and breeching had to come off and work resumed a bit since we can't end on that note.  They finished up and Hubby said we need to put a 'whoa' on him and we are a ways off from putting him to a cart.  

Tuesday night I put him in long lines again and ground drove him some more. On the lunge line though we worked on what 'whoa' means. I like how my mare walks off on the lunge line, then works up to jogging and trotting and maybe pushes into a relaxed canter. Mondo learned there is no reason to blast out to the end of the line and pull on it while tearing around like a freak. Any time he sped up or got a bit excited, he had to stop and start off again. When he was going around nice and relaxed, I left him alone. 

When we moved on to ground driving, he didn't start out all that great, but about mid work, he learned that a couple of gentle tugs on the rein menat to turn that direction and follow your nose. I kept my hands low and used the rein to push his butt over if he didn't respond after the first couple of attempts. Tug, tug, tug, step over to the outside and tug the rein but also pull towards the outside a little to move his butt. As the butt shifts to the outside, the head is aimed into the turn in the direction you want. Kind of a cheater method of getting it, but also makes the cue for turning a bit bigger and clearer if not overly exaggerated for the horse. We'll get there and he is showing progress. He stopped and waited patiently and I told him that driving work is a long, low, slow process, but when we get there- he will be a Rock Star for sure.

Fast forward to this weekend.  I finally got the chance to put the new bit on Kat and try it out. In moving carts around in the shop, I looked at our cart and thought I needed to get Kat out and going again.  I did ground drive him with the new bit before putting him to the cart and getting in. Let us both get a feel for the gentleness required and the feel for how much pressure it will take to get a response.  We drove around the arena with the cart too. And Kat acted like he was bored the whole time. Even though I asked him to and let him canter, he kept it to a few strides and came back down to a trot, so we headed out.

We managed to get out the driveway and down the street past one of the neighbors houses before he spotted the next neighbors horses in their field and got goofy on me. We were trotting down the side of the road on the easement and he was showing off and looking at the horses. He wasn't so much paying attention and next thing I knew he was bolting to the right away from the horses that were on the other side of the street. Only problem with his plan of this being a good idea was the cement irrigation ditch on our right. As he was headed right at it, I was telling him 'whoa' and stepping off the cart.

Next thing I knew he was in the damn ditch. At least his front end was. I was still telling him 'whoa' and holding the reins as he tried to get out of the ditch. Then in went the back end. He was up, he was down, up, part way out, then down and back in. I kept telling him whoa the whole time and waiting for him to stop. He kept  getting up, slipping, falling back in and all the way down on his belly, his side and lather, rinse, repeat.

Then as quick as he was in the ditch, he was out of it. Problem was he was on one side, I was on the other. The cart? Still attached only it had one wheel on each side of the ditch. This was not what I had in mind for the day.  I held the reins and stepped across the ditch.  Now to deal with the cart. But my leg started to shake. The neighbor had come over to see if I was all right and if I needed any help. Another neighbor had come over too after seeing/hearing the comotion.

I figured to let Kat settle down while we talked and I assured them I was fine.  I led him forward and the cart found it's way across the ditch. Now the big question was how to get it all back on the other side... At the end of the field, the ditch goes under the road so we were fine, back on track and since he showed no signs of injuries- no blood and no lameness, we headed out like originally planned.  Everything was good and as we came back the one neighbor was still out. As we came by I told him we made it and were headed home, no further incidents." He watched as we made our way past the porperty and the horses and said he hoped we didn't go in the ditch again. "Not like I planned it the first time, but yeah, I knew what he meant."

Hosing down Kat afterwards- he only had a couple of small scrapes on his left front leg where he lost a bit of hair and some skin.  Nothing major that required a lot of attention as none of them were even as large as a dime. Sure he may be stiff the next couple of days, but as would be expected after something like that. The harness- not a single scratch on it. The cart? I haven't really looked, but I will be going over it again too before using it... Never hurts to be concerned about safety.