I did it. I fell off Cruze last night. And it pissed me the hell off. I haven’t departed from my horse since fall of 2016. I never expected to come off Cruze or at least not while walking.
I suppose I could hide this story and carry on like all is rainbows and sunshine, but that wouldn’t be very real and what is the point of having a blog if I’m just going to lie?
So what happened? I’ve been bringing him back into working three days a week and his last ride was Saturday which went pretty well. I rode him out in the big pasture at the walk mostly but did a few trot sets up the big hill in the back. He asked to canter a couple of times and I got nervous and tense. Don’t worry, I admonished myself telling myself that Cruze is not Gem and I need to “give him permission to do what I am asking” as Trainer puts it.
Last night I was determined to loosen up, trust and let go. If I asked to trot and he cantered instead, my plan was to relax, realize he isn’t going anywhere and ask him to come back to the trot, praise him and carry on.
He started off cranky. He wasn’t in pain as I had watched him canter up to the gate no issues for dinner. He just had no interest in working and instead wanted to yell for his friends back in the barn. That is getting old fast. I mounted in the arena and we headed out to the pasture just like on Saturday.
And just like on Saturday he started off sticky, yelling and getting pissy. Unlike on Saturday he also started coiling his body and snaking his head from side to side while squealing not for his friends but at me in warning. My heart rate shot through the roof but I was determined to stay relaxed and move him forward.
I managed one lap around the perimeter without him doing anything terrifying and decided to work in the one corner that was flatter than the rest mostly to break up the monotony of doing the larger laps. I got started on a serpentine concentrating hard on using my outside aids to turn and keeping my lines straight. We were walking. He knew what I wanted. I was riding just about as perfectly as I can manage at the moment. And he had zero interest in that plan. He began to slow and while I should have kicked him forward back in front of my leg, instead he slowed even more, reared up, landed, bucked and gave me enough time to think quite clearly “this is going to suck” as I launched over his head and landed in a heap in the grass. He stood still and looked at me.
I got up and had a full on tear filled melt down as he stood still and watched me. All I wanted was to purchase a horse that did the basics and was able to be ridden both in and out of the arena without doing stupid stuff like this.
I was pissed at him and I was pissed at myself. Here I purchased this horse who honestly is just about the opposite of everything the seller told me (he doesn’t crib, he could care less about other horses, he just goes along quietly with whatever you ask) and now I’m on the ground when all I wanted was to fucking walk in a pasture he knows well and maybe I should just sell him once his feet are good enough to slap shoes on and….
A deep breath later I moved him over to the downhill side, tightened my girth a notch and put my foot in the stirrup. I hadn’t yelled at him, smacked him or made note of the behavior in any negative way.
Then, as I went to mount, he swung that obnoxious head of his around and tried to bite me. I lost it and smacked that big spotted muzzle hard. No biting. Ever. Personality is one thing. Being an asshole is another all together and it has been near on two months of me politely correcting his biting habit with no progress. He looked like he got the idea after that (I was wrong about that by the way).
I got on and was pissed. I forced myself to remain relaxed and allow him to do what I asked but when I asked I meant it and he had to do it now. Not when he decided to. NOW.
You see, while I have many flaws when it comes to riding, being passive is the worst. It is odd because I am a very assertive person until it comes to horses and then I’m a meek mealworm that lightly suggests things and worries I’ll break the horse and they will hate me forever if I get firm. Ridiculous really and it drives Trainer batty.
When I got back on I meant business and he knew it right away. When I asked for walk, if he trotted he got sat on his butt and made to walk. When I asked to trot, the same thing happened. We managed to finish the serpentine but he was still being sticky and trying to coil up so I marched his butt to the arena where we proceeded to work at the trot in all directions and shapes for a straight 30 minutes until he stopped rooting, breaking to the walk or canter and ignoring my leg.
After that we went back to the pasture for a lap around at the walk wherein I did not allow him to break to the trot under any circumstances. Once that was accomplished we were done. The ride ended up being twice as long and a lot more work than I planned, but he needed the attitude adjustment.
He was sweaty and quiet and stood like and angel to be stripped of his tack. Until I went to take his boot off and he whipped his mouth around to bite my butt. He was pretty shocked when this didn’t reward him with a light tap and a “no bite” from me as it did the other 100 times he has done that and instead his face smacked into the heel of my boot as I brought my foot up when he whipped his head around. Guess who didn’t try that again?
Horses are horses and not every ride is going to be great. I’m a bit miffed that it was this bad and that the horse who was sold as completely beginner safe, no bad habits, easy going etc… has a nasty rear and buck when he decides he doesn’t agree with the work plan. That will get him sold on fast if it isn’t nipped in the bud quickly as I won’t tolerate that. Some bad habits I will but not that.
But… I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and a very long lead rope to hang himself with. I’ve had him for 7 weeks of which 4 he has sat due to being crippled. Of the other 3 I have taken one lesson on the flat and gone xc schooling once. The other times are me riding alone. Only last week did he return to a three day a week work load and this was the second time working in the pasture. I was trying very hard to focus on straight lines and properly asking for bend and I was doing my best to be free with my seat and reins to not restrict him from doing what I asked but I was still being gentle, passive and mealy.
Once I got back on and became firm, direct and took no prisoners in doing what I was telling him to do while still being free with my seat and praising him when he did it right, he went on to do the thing with a lot less attitude. Not perfect but the sass was tucked back away and while I was still pissed in general the ride returned to baseline enjoyable.
We will see. I still like him and I want it to work out. One bad ride doesn’t ruin an entire relationship but it does raise some flags and is something to watch. Unfortunately I can’t ride again until Friday (Wyatt has a swim lesson tonight, I have a lesson on Wonder Pony Wednesday and a work dinner meeting Thursday) so we will see what happens then. A major criteria for me was a horse who could handle chunks of time off without becoming unrideable but…yeah…we will see how it goes.