Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Installing the Reset Button

Today was one of those rides where I (no shit) thought that I was going to end up in/on/under/through the fence about 42 separate times.  Prair was beyond a little nutty and while I felt mostly secure in my seat, my self-preservation minded brain could see no alternative other than me getting tossed into the fence or onto the sand. 
Full. of. BEANS!
Usually this sense of ominous doom is partnered with a strong frustration for the mare and whatever nonsense-nothingness is causing such an uncalled for reaction.  Today however, I did not blame the beast.

The owners of our boarding facility are in the process of rebuilding one of the farmhouses and the construction zone just so happens to be approximately 2 strides from the outdoor arena.  Thus far I've been very impressed with Prairie's nonchalance regarding the cranes, bulldozers, loud noises and general mayhem that's emanated from the old farmhouse. 

Today however, the crew was working on framing the new house which came with irregular drops of plywood along with an army of men with nail guns blam-o-ing away in what could only be described as a Gatling Gun of noise.

Prairie was totally fine with everything except the machine gun fire of the nail guns.  This flurry of sound would happen every minute or so for about 15 seconds.  For the record this is just often enough to interrupt every circle but not often enough for the mare to get used to it. 

She was freaking out.  She actually started out okay, but  got progressively more and more concerned about the nail guns until I finally let S get up and work her through it. 

S pushed her forward and while she didn't do anything magical (or mean,) Prairie immediately started to settle.  S has the guts to keep her leg on more than I personally do in such explosive situations, and also has the balls to soften the reins and allow the mare the opportunity to make a good choice and not explode.

My personal M.O. is to think "soften soften soften, leg leg leg" while in reality I'm scrunching up the mare's neck, turning her trot into a jog and pinching with my knees.  (not exactly a textbook recipe for success).

S was only on Prairie for about ten minutes before I hopped back on and felt much better about the horse under me.  Prairie was still a little looky-loo and not 100% trustworthy, but I was calm enough to soften my hand and add leg without the mare threatening to explode vertically.  (yay).

So we got back to work.  S had set a really nice little course complete with trees and a liverpool and I had eery intention of schooling it.  I sat the trot to a few small verticals before we worked our way up to cantering through a line.  Surprisingly, Prair was soft and very responsive to my half halts.  We ended up working over a small course totally productively and without any major issues. 

I did revert to holding Prair to a miniature stride, so we were putting 7 into the 5 stride (whoopsie), but I think it was the right ride for the horse I had.  The smaller canter/lope allowed me to let go of Prairie's face and maintain a nice rhythm through a whole course and not argue about anything.

I got off wildly impressed with how well we finished.  Six months ago we wouldn't have been able to recover so completely from such a bad start.  Realistically, we would have headed for the indoor and settled for a few decent canter transitions instead of staying outside, working through the freakout and still getting a good jump school in.

I'm very (very very) grateful for Prairie's new found ability to deescalate if might be my favorite new tool.  I'm getting closer to being able to press her reset button without S's direct help - but for now I'll gladly take it when needed. 

Great last lesson before we head out for the show tomorrow.

Think positive vibes for us!


  1. Man you are a showing machine! Best of luck!

  2. Good luck! And good for you for riding through it! You guys are going to rock this weekend!

  3. Have fun at the show, jealous! I do the same thing in spooky situations. My brain is like "put the horse in a tiny tiny box... that is the best thing"... not!

  4. I want to go to a horse show!!! Have fun and rock it!

  5. Yay! That's great. Go Prairie! Good luck at the show and have fun!


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