Sunday 6 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 6

Since my definition of winter was somewhat arbitrary, having nothing whatsoever to do with the earth's rotation cycles, I'll define the first day of Spring as the day after my last day of Winter. That would be March 6.

After a morning on the computer, I went for a 'tone it down' ride on my mare Smokey. Owyhee Smoke Signal is my homebred mutt - saddlebred, quarterhorse and arabian bloodlines. When I decided her dam (saddlebred/arabian cross) was too much of a princess and too hot to be an endurance horse I did what any responsible horse owner would do: breed her to the neighbor's stallion. And as it turned out, Carol's Quarab (Quarterhorse/Arabian cross) stallion was a good choice, in addition to being convenient. He added substance and brain to the mix.

But Smokey is a challenge. Had she been a human she probably would have spent hours on the psychiatrist couch. Or more likely, her friends would have insisted that she spend hours on the psychiatrist couch. She is subordinate to the other horses, but seems to want to compensate by constantly challenging humans. It is her right to call the shots when it comes to food and comfort. Every day I get the 'feed me or die' look. Every day I explain to her, 'that's not the way it works'.

She spent some invaluable time with my favorite trainer friend Ted, who taught her that respecting humans was not an option, it was a requirement. He also taught her to relax and think through scary stuff rather than over-react, and to respond well to rider cues. She's a great horse to ride, very responsive, and once I learned the same things that she learned (from the other perspective) I began really enjoying riding her.

Riding her is a balancing act though - she can be quite hot and forward, she can also pin her ears and do the 'you can't make me' routine. Or she can be a quiet trail horse... I just have to see what I've got each time I ride her.

The winter of travel seemed to gradually wind her up. Plus I didn't always take the time to adjust her sensitize/desensitize meter - easier to just go ride. Plus the harder she works, the more food and supplement she needs to stay healthy, and the fitter she gets, and ...

So, this was a 'tone it down ride'. A long walk (Merri/Dudley and Carol/Jose too) with lots of circles and riding through brush and downfall and forward and back and 'get over it' and use your brain stuff. Good for both of us, and it still surprises me how quickly she'll come around when I just take the time to Ride her instead of just being a passenger. Maybe someday she'll be one of those horses you can just get on and go, the same horse every day... but for now every ride begins with the first encounter, the first eye contact, and my first response to who she is on that day. Spring Diary

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