Just the two of us

Horses need the company of other horses and a lot of horses don’t like to ride out on their own. Never mind the human on their back, they just want the comfort of another horse’s presence close by. Minnie and I used to ride out together quite a lot, but it took her a while to get used to it and she was always braver if we had company, although it never stopped her spooking. That is just who she is.

Today, Cassie and I went out together. We had not been out by ourselves since before Christmas. The only times we rode out since then have been in the company of Maìre and Ben. The evenings are getting longer though, and I’m hoping to ride out on fine evenings after work, so Cassie will have to get used to riding out without equine company. The day had turned out quite nice after the morning drizzle, so I tacked Cassie up and off we went.

It was hard. Although Cassie with her longer stride is often ahead of Ben, I know that it is the feeling that he is close by that would have given her confidence. There was no such comfort today and it showed. With no horse to guard her back, Cassie obviously felt she had to look out for herself. I found it hard to get her attention while she was looking around, trying to assess the danger posed by plastic bags or fallen branches, and it was even harder to get her to walk at a steady pace because she kept swerving and side stepping. When we entered the forestry, Cassie got even more nervous and a subsidence in the path where a fast flowing stream was threatening to boil over was the final straw as far as she was concerned.  She dug her heels in and then she was on her way up. When her head and neck came up and I felt her forehand lift, I moved my weight forward and pulled the reins down. At that point Cassie decided that a whip around was a much easier option. I opened my rein and let her spin around until she was facing her starting point again. Then I dropped the reins and sat still, giving her time to work things out for herself and when I eventually asked her to move on, she did, albeit sideways. It was the first test the Enduro bridle got. It is easy to ride around on a loose rein on a calm horse, so it’s good to know the Enduro will also help me to stay in control when I need it.

I didn’t want to push it, so we didn’t go far today. When Cassie was still dragging her heels on our way home, I felt myself getting annoyed. All I wanted was for her to walk in a nice, forward and steady pace, that was all, nothing difficult. I thought of all the people I know who would have told me to hit her, but that is not the kind of relationship I want with my horse. So, there I was with Cassie trundling and crabbing sideways and I’d had enough. I suppose I could have gotten off and walked her home, but I didn’t. I bent forward and said, “Cassie, will you just WALK for goodness sake” and my exasperation must have come through, because she surged forward in trot and then walked until we got to the start of our track up the hill.  

Today was not an easy ride, but it was good, because Cassie and I had to work things out between us, without the support of company or the option of letting another horse take the lead.


3 thoughts on “Just the two of us

  1. I’ve recently started a young horse on the trails. The first day we went with a buddy and the young horse wanted to walk right up the seasoned horse’s b*tt. The second time we went alone and now the young horse’s step went to itsy bitsy maybe even mini horse sized steps. He was so nervous about being out there by himself.

    I just laughed at his reaction and he knows if I’m laughing he’s probably being foolish. I could see his quizzical expression as he tried to figure out me laughing when the world was trying to eat him. Poor guy!

    It took a few times for him to get to normal size walk steps for him but I can always tell when something worries him because his steps shorten some. It’s actually a pretty good indicator of what’s going on in his little brain so I appreciate it as warning that some defensive maneuvers might be needed on my part. Otherwise I can just relax and enjoy the ride.

    I think an insecure horse can even find confidence on the trails depending on how we deal with their early concerns. Sounds to me like you are on the right track. Good for you.

    • I always laugh at them too when my horses spook and you’re right, it is a great way to show them that nothing bad is going to happen.

      Cassie doesn’t necessarily shorten her stride when she is anxious, but she is very high-headed when she gets tense and she’ll put her back up as well, so I always have advance warning. If she is relaxed enough to walk with her head at wither level, I ask her to lenghten her stride and walk on nicely. She doesn’t always do it though, unfortunately the careful walk has become a bit of a habit since her shoes came off last September. At the moment I think it is more important that she gains the confidence to ride out alone and stay calm and relaxed, we can work on improving her walk later.

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