Raise your hand if you yell at your horse. Anybody?
A few weeks ago, I would NOT have raised my hand. Instead, I would have even made a snide remark about people losing their temper, yelling at their horse, and thinking that would help their situation when it clearly would make it worse…and I’d finish it off with a big eye roll.
But today is a new day! And, I’m here to tell ya that I yell at my horse. But, don’t worry, it’s completely intentional–completely void of anger. That makes it okay, right??
Let me back-pedal for a second. Kona has been coming along nicely this summer. I was so worried at the beginning of summer that I would have little time to ride, but thankfully I figured out a way to carve-out an hour most mornings after barn chores to ride. Yay!! I’ve been alternating riding Hot Rod and Kona, and during my rides with Kona, I’ve been teaching him the fundamentals he needs to “grow up.” One of those “grow up” lessons is insisting he stay at our current gait for however long I need him to, despite tiredness or boredom or just plain being done.
Kona is a hard stopper. Which is something I love about him, but it’s not such a great quality to utilize in the middle of loping without any heads-up. For some reason, I’m guessing laziness, we’ll be loping along and he’ll stop-HARD-without any warning whatsoever. If you’re not prepared to sit deep in the saddle, you’re likely to shoot over the front of him. He doesn’t seem to take pleasure in scaring humans, but he just seems to want to stop and take a little breaky from loping.
I don’t really blame him, but we’re not doing that anymore.
I’ve grown accustomed to these sporadic stops and I can sense them coming from the first tiny shift in his body. I understand why he wants to stop and take a breather–loping is tiring! I do NOT overwork my horses at all, so I know that’s not the issue. It’s just a fitness issue. But just like when I’m in the gym, I get out-of-breath and feel tired and all I want to do is stop! But the next ten squats after that initial fatigue are the ones that really count. That tough spot, when fatigue starts to set-in, is what takes your fitness to the next level. Otherwise, you always stay the same. Or in this instance, Kona always stays the same. So, the next two times around the arena-after attempting a stop-are exactly what we’re aiming for.
So, when I feel that initial slight slow-down and his head drops half an inch, I yell. A deep, guttural yell. It’s loud, y’all. NNNOOOOOOOOO!!!!! And since I’m normally a very quiet rider, this really piques his interest. The first time I tried it, I swear he craned his neck to stare at me like, “Okay, okay! I get it, I’ll keep going! Sheesh!”
The good news is, since I’ve been riding so early no one is around to hear me or stare wide-eyed at my cowgirl antics. But even if there were other riders around, I’d probably still do it, because it’s worked like a charm. I’ve been able to dial down the decibel level as he’s become more consistent in his gaits. It’s gone from a gorilla-like shout, to a strong “EH.” He gets the point. Keep going.
Today, I was able to sit relaxed in the saddle and just enjoy the ride, rather than being on my guard waiting for him to stop suddenly. He’s gettin’ it, guys! And my baby boy is growin’ up!