Remember last Friday when I foolishly published a post titled “This is How You Kill Fear”? And remember when I used that one GIF of Rags going crazy on the lunge line in a post about preparing to canter him and I was all like, “I would NOT like to be on him when he does this”? Well sit back and hold on tight (literally, ha ha ha), because the alternate title for this post is
This is How You Tell Fear to Go Suck It
This was not the post that was supposed to come out this morning (you’ll get that cute piece on Saturday instead, you lucky dogs). I spent last night typing this up while gulping down extra strength Advil tablets vis-à-vis an adult beverage and halfway listening to Pretty Little Liars play in the background (don’t judge)—all with my back jammed up against a recently purchased heating pad, of course.
Anyways, here’s the story of my first (and definitely not last) fall off of Raglan:
On Monday Raglan was feeling a little sluggish, so I decided to give him a day off on Tuesday. He came back out yesterday with a lot more energy, but when I popped him on the lunge line before my ride it all seemed to be pointed in a positive direction. We had one small kick out on the lunge line, but otherwise his transitions into the canter were quiet and he looked like he was spicy, but focused.
I hopped on and immediately put him to work. We got a lot of really great trot in—nice and balanced with his neck stretched out with minimal micromanaging on my end, plus he was doing really well coming back down into a slower almost-jog whenever I said “easy”. There was one other rider in the arena (ScoobyO on her mother’s cute palomino mare). We picked up the canter and did a few circles (probably our third time cantering with someone else in the arena). He did super well. Like SO WELL.
We were about done with our ride and I was doing one last left lead canter set when the “incident” happened. We came out of a corner and suddenly he just locked on to the other horse in the arena (who was cantering a circle down the way from us). His whole butt suddenly tucked and his hind legs came completely underneath himself and he exploded forward like he’d just been let out of the start gate at Emerald Downs. I had about two strides to marvel at the sheer horsepower in that gallop and then my reflexes kicked in and I tried to pull him up.
Except instead of slowing down he threw me a back-cracker of a buck.
I got launched off (mid-air thought for this fall: “well, I guess I get to find out how it feels to fall off of 16.3 hands earlier rather than later, that’s kind of a relief”) and came down mostly on my lower back and then rolled. I got back to my knees in time to watch Rags have the realization that he’d lost his rider, at which point he immediately took a U-turn and came loping back over to me. 😂
BarnOwnerK came running out into the arena to make sure I was okay and after spending thirty seconds to catch my breath (it was one of those falls where my body was like, “you should NOT get on your feet right away”) I was up. I got back into the saddle right away, before anything more than an inkling of fear could set in. Rags was pretty bunched up and nervous by that point (he was probably feeding off of my energy), so I pushed him into the trot and put my leg on until we’d both settled down.
My back was starting to get tight by then, but I knew what had to be done: I had to canter the horse again.
So I dismounted and popped Raglan back on the lunge line. We went back to the scene of the crime and the first thing we practiced was halting off of the “whoa” command. Any time he seemed like he was going to run through me I just stepped sideways until his choice was to halt or hit the wall. He figured out quickly that he really did have to stop when I asked him to. Then we focused on the idea of keeping his cool when I asked for horsepower. I’d cue him to really bring his hind legs underneath himself and push forward in the canter (AKA setting him back up for the same situation where he bucked me off) and then get him in trouble if he threw a fit about it. He got to keep pushing back and forth between the canter and the gallop until he stopped bucking/kicking every time. After that I let him canter until his head dropped and he flattened out a little bit—concrete signs of a very tired pony.
From there I mounted back up, did a lap of trot, and then pushed him right into the canter. I could tell there wasn’t a lot of juice left. He did a few circles in a very quiet canter and then I let him be done. Altogether he probably worked for about 50 minutes total—a little longer than we usually go for, but not by much.
And then, to add insult to injury, I had to spend like forty minutes hand walking him/standing with him in the cross ties while the cooler did its duty before I could put him away.
First off, I’m super proud of how I handled this situation. Rags threw me for a loop and my response was to calm him down, sort things on the lunge, and then ask him to go back to the original task and do it nicely. A couple of months ago a fall like this would have been a major setback for me. I’ve made huge imrpovements to my confidence and, from a training standpoint, I think I used the tools available to me as a non-professional rider to resolve what could have been a damaging experience in the best way possible.
And one last side note to wrap this whole thing up: hot damn am I excited for the day when I get to coil up all of that horsepower underneath me and then harness it for my own purposes. 😍