A Promise to Do Better

A Promise to Do Better

This is a promise to do better.

I’ve always ridden with a little too much spur. It’s a byproduct of legs that are too short and a horse that likes to live stuck behind my leg. It’s never fallen into excessive territory, but if I click my tongue and he doesn’t trot off there’s a good chance I’ll skip to my spur rather than try to fruitlessly leg-hug the life out of him.

Before our three month hiatus, I made the choice to set aside my spurs. Ezhno and I were at a place where he was moving off of my leg and voice, if not fully committing himself to our “forward is good” mantra. When I started riding him again at the start of April, I kept the spurs off, intending to pick up where we left off.

Then he went full bronc and I remembered that spurs are my comfort zone—because it doesn’t matter how big the horse, I can always win the fight if I’m properly armed.

But last week I started to wonder if it was time to take the spurs off and dedicate a few rides to sharpening Ezhno up off of my leg again. I’ve started to ask him to be softer in the bridle, so it’s probably time for me to start softening up my cues, too, right? I tabled that thought for my lesson this morning, though…

Spoiler Alert: Ezhno was soaked in sweat by the time our lesson was over.

I spent all morning dreading having to do the transition from trot to canter, so by the time my lesson rolled around I was too nervous to go through with it. Instead we focused on lateral work at the walk and jog.

The start of our lesson was less than optimal. We kicked things off with some turns on the haunches/forehand in motion (yielding the shoulders and the hindquarters on a circle), starting at the walk and then progressing to the jog. He was… sort of a dick. He kept locking up through his neck and throwing his head (precursor signs for rearing). The best way to disengage him is to pull his head around to my knee and unlock his hip by kicking his hind end over. His turns on the forehand were pretty good and he made major improvements on his turns on the haunches!

From there we took a walk break and then went into our leg yields (with the half pass as the goal). The purpose of the leg yield was to put more weight on his inside hind, which naturally helps him slow down and teaches him that leg pressure can mean forward and sideways at the same time—novel concept for the lazy APHA. Nevertheless, the leg yielding went very well!

Notice that both of those exercises are things we did on Sunday of our own accord. PRO STATUS 😉

We finished up ten minutes early, so Trainer M got on to hash out some trot to canter transitions. Of course, Big Horse immediately locked back up on her, which earned him a lot of exasperated cries of “Ridiculous!” and “This horse!”. She did a few canter transitions, then ended up putting him on the lunge line with side reins to help with some of his stiffness problems. (Side note: he didn’t care one whit about the side reins, he was just happy to gallop around her like an idiot.)

It was a great lesson—until the end, and then it was 🙁

I didn’t notice the spur marks until after we were done. They were dark—like streaks of dirt from our gritty arena—until I hosed him off, then it was very clear what had happened. There’s a cluster of them on the back of his right barrel (the side that he’s more resistant on), towards his flank.

I feel SUPER BAD, but at the same time it’s frustrating because he showed zero signs that the cuts had developed while I was on him. He’s an 1100 pound brute and even though I know the marks hurt (he flinched when I rinsed them off), when I was on him he literally did NOT care. There was no way I could have noticed them (unless I was staring down at my feet, which is exactly what I’m not supposed to do). Nothing I did was malicious (if I had gotten anywhere near that line my trainer would have stopped me 100%), the only time I got a little rough was when his behavior was dangerous (rearing threats).

I corrected. I released. I praised. I repeated. In some ways I can’t help but think it’s his own fault, but feeling that way also makes me feel even worse. I thought my ride was productive and now I just feel shitty about the whole thing.

Time to put the spurs away. Time to do better.

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