Friday, June 25, 2010

The Tale of Two B's

Remember how I was rejoicing in the sanity and maturity of my youngster? What's that saying...famous last words? Yup, that about sums it up. Lately (yes the last forever that I haven't posted) my boy has been going through what I call his adolescent rebellious stage. Hang on to your britches kids cause you're in for a ride...

This unattractive phase began with a turn and bolt in the ring one pleasant afternoon while cantering. Being the naive and trusting mother that I am, once stopped, three strides later and in the middle of ring, I immediately thought, OMG there must be a grizzly bear in that bush. Though I've never seen a grizzly bear in a residential area in Northern Virigina, OK or ever, I knew that my little pumpkin would never try to duck and run without a legitimate reason. Not my horse; he's perfect. As we stood there, my body still straightening out from the 90 mile an hour whirl, I studied the surrounding. There was no growling, no rustling, not even a snicker from the surrounding squirrels. Then I looked at B's eye. This was a new look. A mischievous look. Right there it began: I was the mother of a teenager. Ahhhhhh!

After preparing for an increase in my grocery bill and demanding he not sleep til noon, I worked him like usual. Everything chugged along fine until around a week later when we had a discussion over standing without crossties while having his tail trimmed. Never an issue in the past, my little Ferris Bueller decided it was his day off. With a zip of the clippers, his head turned a quarter of inch to gauge my distance to his lead rope and he was off down the aisle. My only saving grace was that he is 12 feet long and 2000 pounds, not exactly a speed machine. With my pink pumas I dove at the rope and stopped him in his tracks. Well, not really. I was wearing pink pumas but it was more of a flailing like a caged animal in a desperate attempt not to have to rally race my horse down the driveway. Regardless, it worked. Two times later–teenager–we finally sorted the tantrum out and he stood quietly. For the first time ever, and I mean EVER I even had to slap him on the chest, at which point he jumped and looked around like a giant bee had stung him. If any of you watch south park this was B's Cartman moment...whatever, I'll do what I want.... Ugh.

All of this tom foolery was leading up to our defining who's going to be the pack leader moment. Once again, around a week later, I headed out to the barn on a Sunday morning for a quick ride before spending the day with my parents who were visiting from Canada. Thank the baby jesus I did not invite them. They are both horse people, as I grew up on a farm, but I think even they would have reached their limit with this episode. It was a slightly chilly morning compared to the previous few days and I noticed he was drying from the light rain during the night's turnout. The moment I put him on the cross ties I knew I was in trouble. His eyes were as wide as saucers and every move I made caused him to twitch somewhere. As any of you who have been following my adventures know, B is cold backed...some days more than others. Today was one of those days. Normally I can get the girth up to the fourth hole while ease while on the cross ties. This day I could barely get it to the first. Oy. As I walked him into the closed up arena I put on Norah Jones in hopes that it would have the same effect on B and it does myself...sleepy time. When you're riding a giant, selectively sensitive youngster sometimes survival involves grabbing at straws. I took my time walking him and slowly did up the girth but I knew this was probably not going to be good...and it wasn't.

Per usual, I mounted up at the block and even gave him two mints as he stood, which we had previously agreed meant that he would play nice. Within one stride he broke that contract rodeo bronco style. As you guys know I've ridden this multiple times so I'm familiar with the routine. My train of thought within the first 10 seconds is always do I bail or not? As he bounded up and down I looked for a soft place to land. Yep, dumped. I rolled onto my thigh and butt and scrambled up to ensure my safety. After leaning on the front of my thighs for a minute I walked over to grab B as he stood at the other end of the arena staring. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty mad and he sensed it. As I pulled him forward he said, hell to the no and took off crow hopping again. Here in lies one of the hardest things for a rider in my opinion: keeping your emotions at bay to ultimately get your point across to the horse. He stopped a few moments later and I swallowed my anger and said, "It's alright, come here, you'll be fine." Really, I wanted to kick him in the teeth. True, I'd have to be a rock star ninja even to attempt this, but I think with the adrenalin pumping through my veins if there was ever a time that was possible this would be it. I did the ceremonial thing and grabbed the longe line. As B went around in circles I watched the mischievous eye that first reared it's ugly head a couple weeks earlier. Though I longed him w/t/c for a while I could tell it wasn't doing anything. I knew I could longe him for ten days straight and it wouldn't matter it. The only way to resolve this was under saddle. When I got back on him he was going to do it again and this time with more determination.

With this in mind I brought him back to the mounting bloack, tied up the longe line and got ready for battle. This was it. It was either he or I. As I put my foot in the stirrup I readied myself for a defining moment in my youngster's life. If I fell I knew, having been through this kind of test with many a yongster before (thought none over 18 hands!!!) that if I didn't win this round his challenges would never truly disappear. With reins so short that his ears were practically in my eyes we stepped away from the mounting block. True to form, within one stride we were rodeo bronco style hard core. I planted my heels, pulled on those reins with everything I had and maintained the mantra, " The only way I'm going down, is if you go down first." Probably eight or nine giant leaps later we stopped. Like two cowboys meeting in the middle of town: wah wah wah do do do...the ultimate stand off. We stood there for awhile just staring each other down. As I allowed him forward one step at a time we looked at each other: wah wah wah do do do. We eventually got out on the rail and actually had a quality ride filled with lots of lateral work and lengthens. I'd be lying if I didn't say he was a giant bucket of foam by the end.

Since that moment B has been pretty darn cordial. We had another bucking explosion in a lesson weeks later but in his defense we were schooling flying changes, which is all new to him. Plus, the change was clean, so as anyone who has taught changes before knows all is forgiven after a clean flying change. ;0)

Just so you don't think B's all bad we did go to a show at First Level for the first time a couple weeks later and placed second out of 14 horses with a 66 percent. He hadn't been off the property in over a year and he was like a rock star veteran the whole time. :0)

Oh youngsters...I think much like children, after having one you're never the same person again but if you're lucky enough you wouldn't want to be.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Comfort Zone...Finally

Isn't it great when your baby finally starts growing up? You don't even have to answer that. It is. Well, at least for me anyway. I know some folks enjoy the allure of the unknown and the beginning of a new relationship. I am not that person. Like in my non-horsey life—I've been married for almost four years—and life has never been better. I like my comfort zone and I like choosing when to stray from it. I now know that look in B's eye that means gather up the reins or die, and the feeling he gives me right before he's about to step into his sassy pants. I've learned that immediately after I mount he doesn't get to walk with his nose on the ground only to build up momentum that results in being thrown out my comfort zone, which from 18.2 hands is pretty much out of any zone. Oy. Thankfully, B has played nice and now we barely even have to walk around in-hand before each ride anymore. Last week, the temperature finally jumped into the 60s and the sun peaked out. With only a normal workout inside first, I was able to take him on a long walk up and down the driveway without incident. The horses across the road that used to appear like mountain lions have now turned into kitty cat like distractions. Here's to growing up B!

Monday, January 18, 2010

B versus the Poles

I walked into my last lesson and saw four poles perfectly lined up beside the wall. It was dun dun dah...pole night. The last time B and I wandered over these white sticks was probably a good two to three months ago. Game on! Before B and I could take our first trek over, they had to be lengthened out a good foot or so. The horse before us was vertically challenged, by that I mean he was under 17 hands.

The first time we walked over, B hit every single pole. Yup, every single one. Nice. I thought, well, he's just warming up, I mean, come on, it's below freezing out here. The second time he hit only three. Yahhh progress!

With that success, we proceeded to the trot. After hitting at least one pole each time he attempted them at the walk, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having thoughts of him landing one the first pole, rolling into the next three and doing the splits. Not that I don't faith in him or anything. It's probably similar to having a child competing in a sport that isn't really his or her forte. On the outside you have to be all, "you're going to be awesome little suzy, I know you can do it!" But, on the inside you're thinking, oh sweet baby jesus don't let little suzy trip and smash her face as she's running down the court.

In any event, we got through the poles with only one tap. Break out the party pants! After all the smashing you may think, were they adjusted correctly? Being ever the inner cheerleader for my pony that thought may have crossed my mind, except for the fact that my coach set them out. All riders know the greatest commandment of them all: Though shalt not question thy coach. Regardless, she was getting her workout adjusting them each time and the truth was when B was paying attention he floated over them quite smoothly.

After many rounds of poles I knew his hooves were no longer black. Oops.

During a break my coach turned to a gal watching and said, you can always tell horses that are going to be good jumpers because they never touch the poles. Hey! What are you saying? My dreams of jumper stardom were dashed in that moment. He can't be perfect at everything, right? Wrong—secretly I blamed his less than steller pole performance on the fact that his feet were due to be trimmed that week. Yes, my horse is a super, perfect genius. There is absolutely no bias here at all. Can't you wait until I have kids?