Sunday, March 30, 2008

Attack of the Flying Dogs!

Today I was doing so well riding Wyatt that I envisioned myself calling his previous owners and telling them about our progress. He longes like a champ now. Under saddle he bends quite well and flexes at the poll. He's even cantering (you can't quite call it a "lope" yet) at a fairly respectable pace and holding his leads (most of the time).

We'd succeeded in cantering nicely to the left and I was just about to end our schooling session by cantering to the right.

And then my neighbor, who lives in one of the homes that borders the arena, let her pair of Labrador retrievers out to roam the hillside. Because the arena is set down in a sort of flood control plain, the dogs cavorting on the hill must've looked to Wyatt as if they were flying.

You know, just the sort of incomprehensible sight a greenbroke 3-year-old needs to see. *Sigh*

I lost his attention completely. He tuned out my hand and leg aids, which is always a disconcerting feeling. He began to snort like a dragon with his tail raised above his back. Then he headed toward the gate at a big, lofty trot. Naturally, I tried to deter him, but it soon became abundantly clear that Wyatt did not steer as well as I had thought... at least not when flying dogs were pursuing him.

Now, generally speaking, when I was younger-- and didn't have about $20,000 of computerized medical equipment implanted in my body-- I'd have stayed on and ridden through the distraction by circling, bending and/or galloping forward. But today discretion was the better part of valor. I gave Wyatt about 90 seconds to cool his jets. When it was evident he'd mentally checked out, I dismounted. Quickly. And then I introduced him to one of the most important tools of working with a young, green horse: The MRL (also known as the Mid-Ride Longe). In my opinion there is no shame in the MRL. It allows the horse to work through its anxiety or residual friskiness without me struggling to get him back into work mode. In about 5 minutes Wyatt had relaxed enough that I could climb back aboard and safely finish my ride. I've never been so determined to canter a horse around an arena on its right lead! Although the circles in the corners weren't quite as round as I'd like, there's always another day to polish them. Once Wyatt comprehended that he had to canter forward from my leg, give to my hand and circle when requested, and hold his right lead, I pulled him up, gave him a pat, and called it a day.

Tomorrow we'll repeat the whole lesson once more, minus the flying dogs. And without an MRL. I hope.

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nothing will make your insides turn to goo and your knees go weak, faster than a 1000lb animal who has forgetten you are sitting on his back because he is preparing for flight mode! Even in an arena, flight mode can turn into a running, bucking mode, which is just as bad. There is NOTHING wrong with what you did! I doubt I would have waited 90 seconds, because when they get like that...seconds count! Congratulations on an accident avoided and an invaluable lesson for Wyatt!

Joy said...

Oh Cindy you don't know how happy it made me to see someone else who doesn't see lunging through a ride as a bad thing..everyone at my barn turns their noses up at me when I do it. But this is the first greenie I am bringing along almost on my own with some trainer help..sometimes things just get a bit much for me. Good luck with your boy!!

Anonymous said...

The MRL is a very smart, wise, AND honorable choice when you are about to become a helpless passenger on a out-of-control roller coaster! Congrats for making the best decision possible and turning it into a good thing for everyone!

~Sasafras

Nancy said...

There's nothing wrong with turning into Captain Safety at a moment's notice!!!

Remember how fearless and dumb we were as kids???? Those days are gone forever! As I get older ( i just turned 50 last year), i'm becoming more of wimp, and Captain Safety comes out quicker and quicker! I want to live to ride another day!

Gina said...

I don't hesistate to use the MRL when I ride. I've been turned into such a wimp after Seeker.

I remember quite vividly one ride. I had gotten on her and Seeker saw my mom with the video camera, spooked, took off, reared, and deposited me in a frozen puddle. I got up, caught her and lunged her for a good fifteen minutes, got back on. During the SAME ride, Seeker dumped me again, I got up and longed her AGAIN.

The most MRL's during one ride was six. Seeker was horrible that day. Apparently she's a nice sane quiet trail horse somewhere now. Guess hunters wasn't her forte.

Horse Gal said...

MRL are very important. I had to do one the other day. I guess the ground hog outside the fence had gotten scarier since 5 minutes ago when my horse last saw it.

Cindy Hale said...

Aha! MRL lovers, unite! Maybe we should create a secret handshake?