Endurance Riding

Jan 28 2011

Discouraged

Published by under Endurance Riding

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Today was an insanely frustrating day of training. I almost ended up in tears. I don’t know what happened or what went wrong because Asali was fine when we started out – although she was willing to go out, she was quiet and mellow. Seemed like a day I could almost ride her bridle-less.

But after we played in the water at the creek, she became a handful. It was all I could do to hold her back from running away with me. She galloped off once, but I was able to get her back. She threatened to buck a few times, which surprised me because she is not normally a “bucky” horse.

We were riding with one other person and another mare. Asali is often difficult if she starts competing with another mare, but today she was unusually hard to handle. The other mare we were with was bucking and rearing – she’s a young horse still in training. But even so, that shouldn’t be an excuse for Asali to go crazy, right?

I didn’t know what to do. Should I have just let her run? I am afraid to do too much speed work with her because an article I read said, “Frequent speed work can be very destructive. Not only is it risky from the point of view of soundness, it can produce an over-anxious, tense horse that is difficult to control.” Plus, it’s one thing to canter out on the trail. It’s another to let her completely run away with me.

I finally ended up dismounting. Asali became too head strong for me and was not respecting my leadership. I decided it was better to just get off and walk. I also decided to get off because I was getting too upset. Asali and I have an incredible bond and I was hurt that she wasn’t listening to me (or that I wasn’t able to communicate to her). I used to just ride her in a rope halter and I still can, although I usually use a bitless bridle now because it offers better communication. I had all these thoughts… What are we going to do at a competition if she sees another horse acting out of sorts? What if I lose control of her at a ride? What if I can’t deal with her when she’s acting this “hot”? What if we lose communication? What if all this endurance training is making her too high strung?

I am thrilled that she is so competitive and that she always wants to vie for the front, but I still need to maintain my communication with her. I can’t just be a passenger and let her run full out all the time. The idea is to keep a steady, even pace. I’ve noticed, however, that since we’ve started endurance training, I’m having a hard time getting her to walk at all on the trail. Maybe it’s the training, maybe it’s all the extra grain I’ve been feeding her. I don’t know!

I walked all the way home on foot, tailing Asali up on the narrow hills. That was the only good thing about our training session today – Asali tailed up. So, at least we ended on a good note. But I’m still feeling incredibly discouraged.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Discouraged”

  1. Donnaon 29 Jan 2011 at 10:58 am

    There is nothing like working with animals to give a person a whopping dose of humility. It happens to all of us.

    The best thing you can do is to try to find some nugget of understanding that you can take away from the experience, even if it’s only an understanding of how to manage your negative emotions in the moment.

    There are so many things that can cause a horse to act out. Too much grain, a change in the weather, coming into season, or being in the company of a more volatile horse, are just a few possibilities that can cause behavior issues. These things will not always be within your control and the horse’s reaction to these things does not necessarily indicate a problem in your relationship with the horse.

    IMO, letting her run it off is the worst choice you could make on the trail. Speed increases the risk of injury to both of you. And you already have one family member on the disabled list. You showed great wisdom in dismounting and choosing the safer option. You prevented her from being able to practice misbehavior, a key strategy in making sure that behavior does not escalate.

    Perhaps a change of plans was warranted when the problems first started. Heading for home to do some lunge for work in familiar surroundings, might have been a good way to defuse the situation.

    Follow that with a cup of tea, a discussion with your fellow rider, and maybe a simplified plan for riding both horses together. Then, try again….even if your plan is only a *very* short ride to see if you can finish the day on a positive note.

    Safety is always the top priority!

    d.

  2. JayaMaeon 29 Jan 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Donna,

    Thank you for your well thought out response. I appreciate the advice. Thank you for acknowledging what I did right, because often times, dismounting feels like giving up or admitting defeat.

    After the ride, I turned Asali out in the arena with Forest and Beauty. All three horses were playing together – rolling, bucking, rearing, galloping. I sat down in the arena and when the horses settled down, they came over to me. Beauty was the first – her warm breath behind me tickled my neck. Then Forest came over, then Asali. They were all huddled around me. I stayed sitting in the sand and decided to just let them smell me and investigate me. I learned from this experience how very overrated words are. Horses force us to be reflective, to think deeper, to be truly honest. We cannot hide with them. We must acknowledge our own feelings before we can move forward with them. Today, in response to my email, my trainer said, “From the breakdown comes the breakthrough.”

    Now… I think you’re right, Donna, it’s time for that cup of tea!

    Love,
    Jaya

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