Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mutual Respect

So today when I went out to the barn, I was almost done grooming pony (I had half of a foot left to pick) when I heard a fall from the arena.  I went over to see what had happened, and I saw a beautiful palomino standing by the gate with no rider.  I opened the gate and he stepped towards me, stepped on his rein, couldn't figure out how to get away from the pressure, spun around and I saw myself getting kicked for a second.  Luckily, he had a pretty calm head and didn't even offer a kick.  He simply walked around in a circle a few times until I picked up the rein and started to lead him down to the man on the other side of the arena.

It was an older man, I later found out he is almost 80, I was thinking more along the lines of 60.  He was panting and heaving on the ground.  I asked if there was anything I could do and he said no.  So I stood there.  For about 20 minutes until he asked me for help.  He was clearly prideful, and I didn't know what else to do.  I didn't know the man, or the horse, so I couldn't go put him away by myself.  Finally, he asked me to step to his other side and help him up (he fell on his left shoulder so wanted help on his right side).  He leaned against the horse and we slowly walked to the gate so he could go sit down in the tacking area.

We made it to the gate before he needed some more rest.  We stood there for another few minutes before we stepped through the gate.  He took another few minutes rest before he made it to the chair and sat down.  I haltered the horse and tied him up while he described to me where to put his tack.  Turns out the horse is one he leases from the barn.

This horse was an absolute angel this entire time.  He was the sweetest thing in the world.  I put him away, went and got the man some water and sat with him for a few more minutes.  At this point, it had probably been about 40 minutes from the fall.  He was having trouble taking deep breaths.  Finally, we walked to his car and he got in and I rode with him to the gate so I could get out and open it for him and he didn't have to move.  He said he was on his way to the hospital.  I told my trainer about it later, and she called him, he made it there with his wife and they were waiting for xrays when she talked to him.

I guess last time he fell, he broke a few ribs.

I felt so bad, and wished I could have taken more charge of the situation, but he was clearly very stubborn/proud and I just stood there and let him tell me when he needed help.  I didn't want to start yanking him up if he wasn't ready to get up yet! Plus, im 20 years old, clearly I have never experienced a fall at his age.

Anyways, the point of this post is about what someone at the ranch said when we talked about it later.  He said 'knowing those two MAN (not putting names) probably kept asking for stuff and HORSE probably let him know he was done.'  He said it in a totally respectful way, not like he was saying the rider was a bad rider or anything.

But my point is, we expect our horses to respect us.  We are constantly asking for them to follow what we want, where we want it, how much we want, etc.  In turn, we need to listen to our horses when they tell us that they are done.  I'm not saying you have to fall off, or they have to do something bad to tell us.  Listen to their small cues that let you know they feel like they have done a good job and they are ready to stop.  Listen to them if they are speedy horses and they suddenly really don't want to go anymore.  Listen to them if they get a bit unruly, calm them down then call it a day.  Listen to them if you get on and they seem crazy from the get go, keep it a walking/groundwork day and call it a day.

With that being said, if you respect your horses wants/needs, I honestly do not think they will abuse it.  They won't pretend to be off, or do whatever quirk it is that lets you know, everytime you get on them! They will work, until you are done, or they are done.  This obviously comes with exceptions, so take it with a grain of salt, as all advice goes.  But just remember that.  Take what you can get, and respect your horse when they give you all they have and are then done.

This is put into play perfectly with pony last night.  She was absolutely crazy.  So crazy that the owner of the barn asked me to ride in a different arena since she was teaching lessons and they were beginners. (She was very kind about it, but it hurt nonetheless)  We went to the upper arena, and she was absolutely a nut job.  I sat back and let her choose her gait, and it was a crazy lope with some humps.  Clearly, that was not working since the longer she did it the worse it got.  I couldn't get more than two steps of walk before she was trotting.  I finally took her to my trainer and let her know that I honestly think its saddle fit.

And it was.  I switched saddles, took her back to the arena and she was a different horse.  She was clearly still a little hot, but when she loped it was beautiful  However, the second time I asked for a lope, it was much faster.  She was telling me 'Hey, girl, its almost feeding time and I've been pinched and prodded and I wanted to go home.'

So we ended it there.  Because she had had a rough day! She was tired of me being on her, and I had figured out that it was the saddle fit that was causing problems.  I was happy respecting her wishes that she was done being ridden since she had put up with me through a pinchy saddle.


  1. Glad you figured out it was saddle fit for pony, that has to be so awful for them. My ponies never ask for me to quit, often times when we are really working (cows or ranch work not in an arena) it could be all day so they don't mind an hour or so in an arena, lol. even the show pony has been to so many all day shows its all short when i ride her.

    Hope the man is Ok, that would be a tough situation.

  2. It's amazing how much the fit just being out a little bit can effect the horse really is! Hope the man is okay, it's a tough situation to be in :(

  3. I'm glad you recognized that there's a big difference between a fall from a horse at the age of 20 and a fall from a horse at the age of 80. You were so patient with that man, and you did some problem solving recognizing that your hoses wasn't acting out for no reason. My alpha mare is very clear in her feelings and I used to think she was just a grouchy girl, but there's always something legitimate that triggers her outbursts. If I ignored her complaints, she'd flatten me. She's very well behaved from the ground and even helps me discipline the other horses when they are misbehaving, but she sure insists on being ridden a specific way. I just remind myself that it's like I'm riding an 80-year-old. I have to be gentle with both her body and her stubborn pride.

  4. I think you handled the situation perfectly. You waited quietly for him to work through his own head what to do next. One thing I can tell you about old guys (I live with one) is that they are as stubborn a breed as any I have ever met. So jumping in a taking control is never an option. Being there when they are ready for help is huge. I am so proud of you for keeping a cool head. Truthfully most 20 years old's that I know could not have.
    And like the others have said, good job with Pony. You listened. Again, most 20 year old's I know, would not have.


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