Saturday, June 11, 2011

When Reaction and Rushing Converge, It Hurts

I'm cranked up about some events at the barn, but before I write about it, I have to express my concern for Kate over at A Year With Horses, who fell from one of her horses today. I think of her as the Zen master of horse blogging, and although I know she'll most likely have enlightening things to say about her fall, I'd rather it hadn't happened at all and she'd be perfectly well. I hope she recovers quickly and that whichever horse she was on -- Dawn, Pie or Drift -- is fine.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Things went awry during Tim's lesson this morning. We ended up with a disjointed session broken into two segments. I'd invited K to join us with Scout in the round pen so Tim could spend a little time riding in the company of another horse and rider. I'd planned to take him up to trotting today. Saxony is in heat, so I warmed her up briefly to make sure she'd be steady. She was fine, and Tim was soon up and riding. Mounting has become fluid and natural for him; he settles lightly and quietly into the saddle. We were just walking side by side along the fence, talking through reminders about rein and leg aids, when K brought Scout in. Our barn owner came along and settled herself into a friendly lean against the fence. 

K led Scout to the mounting block. She casually mentioned that she'd hurried Scout into her tack and wasn't happy about how she'd placed the saddle pad. Then she stepped up and swung into the saddle. Scout promptly bucked her off. Walking beside Saxony, I didn't see the full event. K landed unharmed in the soft sand and was up in flash. I had Tim halt Saxony, and we stood by quietly.

K took Scout back to the mounting block, assuming this was an instance of pissiness best met head-on. Scout was high-headed, but stood still. As soon as Katie mounted and stepped off, Scout unloaded her again with a very simple move intended to get rid of the rider. I saw this buck. It was a move of precision and economy, a distinct reaction, not a choice. K felt it coming before it happened and began a voluntary dismount which enabled her to land standing.

Several things happened in rapid succession. First, the barn owner rushed into the round pen and grabbed Scout's reins, saying she needed to be free-longed, "chased around the pen until she's over this shit." My hackles rose instantly, and I stepped between her, K and Scout. My mind was working on what Scout was trying to tell us, but that process was swept aside by my need to immediately shut the barn owner out of the situation. She was releasing a cascade of assumptions about Scout that were piling up around us very fast.

I cut in and took the reins, reminding K that Scout is not a bucker. Like any horse, she can buck, but bucking is not in her personal arsenal as it was for Dar. K replied that Scout bucks all the time, but there was no time to resolve our semantics just then; I had to rush to reclaim my horse from the barn owner. I told K we would longe Scout in her tack, but on a line. She's never been free longed in tack, and this wasn't the moment to teach her.

I worked with Scout on the longe line. She wasn't lame, but she was bracing and tense. She offered no bucks, just inattentiveness and speed. Soon the barn owner lost interest and wandered off. It took 20 minutes to bring Scout down to stretching and blowing, and then she was back. We took a couple of minutes to adjust the saddle. K reset the pad and fastened the girth. I asked her to do what I call "bra stretches," lifting and extending each one of Scout's forelegs to settle the skin along the girth into comfort. In a moment, K was back up on Scout and they were schooling as though nothing were out of the ordinary.

I returned to working with Tim, but I was distracted and ill at ease, not able to focus solely on him because I was turning Scout's bucks over and over in my mind. I cut the lesson short, and I've learned today that I don't want to teach someone to ride if I can't be completely devoted to the task. It's not fair to the student. We rescheduled.

Rushing is an issue I've been struggling with this year. By the time I sent Tim home, I was running way behind and realizing I would have to rush to make up lost time. I'd had to rush to intercede between the barn owner and Scout, then stop time entirely to work with Scout, then rush to back into the lesson with Tim. I rushed through untacking Saxony and then rushed to look at Scout. She has rain rot on the front of her hind legs, something she gets every spring. I grabbed the M.T.G. and massaged it in quickly, and it was then that K and I noticed a saddle sore on Scout's right side, there at the girth line. It was probably a bug bite that had been rubbed raw by the girth. Bingo. I treated it in a flash, but I was seething with rage and upset and rushing to contain my emotions.

It wasn't until I was driving down the freeway, hurrying to meet my brother, that I understood my near hysteria. Because I'd had to rush to get in between the barn owner and Scout, then rush to bring K with me so she didn't drink any bad "training" Kool-Aid, I didn't take the time to listen to my own voice, even as it was insisting that Scout was reacting to something, not being an ass. Anyone who owns a horse knows to look first for a physical explanation for unexpected behavior. I really felt I'd let Scout down, possibly hurt her more by longeing her for 20 minutes, made Tim idle by for nothing, and disrupted the plans I'd made with others. For me, when rushing and reaction converge, it creates this kind of bad, intractable moment. What a lousy feeling.


Deanna said...

Well written. I totally know where you're coming from. And yeah- it is a lousy feeling.

smazourek said...

Yep, it's rather awful. BUT your gut reaction was correct, it wasn't Scout being bad (it never really is, is it?) she had an actual reason for doing what she did. Sounds like your barn owner is a bit stuck in her mindset.

June said...

Well, but it sounds like you did manage to save the situation in time.

I remember Chloe bucking when she had a new saddle. We discovered later that it had rubbed a sore on her back. Being Chloe, she bucked a couple of times, and then just sucked it up and went forward like a soldier. I felt really bad, and she still has a mark on her back. She only ever bucked if something hurt her.

Wolfie said...

Good grief, I could feel my own anger bubbling up reading about the BO jumping to conclusion that Scout needed to be free lunged until she was exhausted. Geez.

Rising Rainbow said...

Unfortunately for the horse there are way too many people who believe if the horse does something unsafe the horse is "just being a jerk." Sounds like your BO is one of those. That kind of thinking drives me crazy and it sure isn't good for the horse. Give yourself credit that you are NOT one of those.

Deanna said...

I so appreciate your post and these comments. This is how I like to approach horses also and I'm often seen as "soft" around my horses and not showing the "who's boss."
Thank you so much for this! And all who commented!

allhorsestuff said...

I am sorry for that sour feeling after the fact..but the neat thing is you REALLY know your horses and YOU were right...even though someting was overlooked( I do that all the time and feel like a crud) .

I have the same PBO mindset run the crapo outa them 'cause theyn have humanised the is doing someting to them in a persaonal way. Funny how someting that is supposed to be Natural horsemanship has become a personal quest to BREAK th horse down into submission..instead of listening/watching/listening and being calm and collected about being the human being with brains to understand and reason!

I commend you for your insight and intervention dear! How is she doing with the girth area now?