Sunday, October 05, 2008

Who Are You Trying To Kid?

I am releasing for public ridicule this terribly embarrassing moment in my horse life. This picture was taken two days or so after Dakota was delivered to my place to become the all-purpose western trail and lesson horse. If I didn't make my point in the last post, perhaps this will do the trick.

I am not now and never have been a western rider. I have ridden westrish in order to run barrels, and I have sat in a western saddle on trail rides. I own two such saddles, in fact. I've been riding for 47 years. Can you tell that from this picture?

This is what happens when a shopper steps too far outside her comfort zone and isn't willing to rethink things. This ugly moment was in no way Dakota's doing. I never asked whether or not he neck-reined, and I don't know how to do it myself. Yet here I am asking for something approximating a left turn and getting something more akin to a horse begging for an act of nature to remove him from this situation. It's not surprising that it took the poor guy two years to settle in here. He had no idea what I wanted from him. Now he's in retraining to go English, which is easier for him to learn than western has been for me. Score one for the horse.

So . . .

27. Don't get cocky. Stick to what you know.

28. Trying out a new horse is not the time to play games. Don't freeze up in the saddle, but be polite to the animal. No bouncing or banging permitted. The theory that he "has to" be able to tolerate such behavior only applies to the second or third test ride.

29. No grabbing of faces. He's not grabbing yours; you should leave his alone. If he's so aggressive that you feel the need to ride his mouth, get off him and go away.

30. I know I'm going to catch some flak for this, but it has to be said: Don't overwhelm the horse with your size. If you can't fit within the general 20% rule-of-thumb, and the horse in question isn't of unusually solid bone structure or built like a brick barn, it's not fair to him and he's not likely to maintain his soundness for very long under your ownership.

31. Ride the way you always ride. This is not the time try out something you just read in a magazine. If the horse can't tolerate you, he'll let you know. Try to relax and be yoursef. If you fake it the horse will feel your tension and react as if he's about to get a captive bolt to the head. That can't be a good place for this meet-and-greet to occur.

Deep breath, now, and be the horse . . . ohmmmmmmmm.

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