Spooking from Gunshots and Dodging Raindrops

Spooking from Gunshots and Dodging Raindrops

After two weeks of not riding due to the freezing temperatures or rain I was very glad to get a lesson on Wednesday. The two weeks of not getting out much resulted in my body becoming a LOT weaker! Debbie and I have decided that if I use the Equicube for a few minutes at the beginning of my lesson my back straightens up nicely and the improvement lasts the whole ride.

Of course first we have to FIND the Equicube, which can be challenging because it is the same color as her fence posts. This week it only took a minute to find it sitting on top of one of the fence posts where it blended in perfectly as far as color was concerned. I suggested to Debbie that she finds some tape of a fluorescent color to wrap around on of the handles, just so we could see it against the fence posts.

After a minute of holding the Equicube my lower back started hurting, then after a minute more my arms just gave out. I find it a bit more challenging to steer Bingo while holding the Equicube, I cannot use an opening rein and my hands feel so darn clumsy when I hold it. Bingo indicated that he still was not ready to keep contact while I hold it so I find it hard to be really subtle with my aids. Luckily I've trained Bingo to also listen to my seat, thighs and lower legs, or I would be helpless while carrying it.

Bingo was FULL of impulse when we started out, he wanted to start accelerating immediately and then to continue accelerating. Soon we found out that Bingo had a reason for his sudden desire to go, go, go, two foxes were running around the horses' paddocks and then into the cow fields next door. Debbie sent her husband out to get a gun, she was worried because the foxes were not acting normally and she wanted to get them away from the stable. I was not too worried, hey Bingo is in his twenties, surely someone had gotten Bingo used to gunshots!

Not so.

CRACK, Bingo shied (just two steps) and then he came back to my aids. CRACK, Bingo shied yet again. Bingo shied each of the three remaining times Debbie's husband shot at the foxes, which then ran off and out of sight. ALL the horses reacted to the gunshots, the pastured horses, already spooked by the foxes running around, started galloping around their paddocks explosively. I could tell that Bingo wanted to join them, but he was a good boy and he did what I told him to do, stay at a walk and stay calm.

After everything calmed down I suggested that if Debbie ever sells Bingo to a trail riding home that she train him to stay calm when rifles are fired. Since there are so many hunters around here it just makes sense to prepare the trail horses to stay calm when someone nearby fires a rifle. I guess I was just lucky, all my horses got used to gunshots, especially since our neighbor used to let dove hunters hunt on his land during dove season. After a while my horses learned to ignore the gunshots.

Except for shying at the gunshots Bingo was a good boy, responsive, obedient, and willing to move out without a lot of leg. All through our ride he was always willing to go faster, Faster, FASTER, but he listened to my hands and turned his excitement into slightly more “expressive” movement. The reason he was willing to listen to my hand aids when he was excited was that I never take a hard hold with the reins when I am on an excited horse, my first horse taught me that one time when he ran away with me. I keep my fingers relaxed and “give and take”, and I never harden my hands and set them in one place. I have a feeling that if I ever set my hands hard on Bingo he would prove to me that he is a Quarter Horse by going much, much faster than I wanted.

When Friday dawned it was SIXTY FIVE DEGREES F, when I opened the front door I changed my wardrobe plans from dressing up to go out into Arctic conditions to putting on just enough clothes for decency. I did put on a hoodie just in case, but when I got to the stable I took it off and just rode in my long sleeve shirt. The clouds were threatening and rain was predicted for Friday, and when we got Mia in it started raining. Well, it had been three weeks since I had groomed Mia, so we went ahead and gave her a good grooming. The rain stopped while we groomed, but started up again when we started tacking her up. I gave up, went into the feed room to give her a little food, then the rain stopped again. Darryl looked at the radar on his phone and told me I might get some riding in. So I gave Mia a handful of grain (she KNOWS grain comes from the feed room), we tacked her up and we went out to the ring.

Since I was still weak from the two weeks of inactivity I decided that I should carry the Equicube again. I started searching for it and finally noticed a florescent green towel at the base of one of the jump standards, and the Equicube was there! I could not carry it for long, but Mia reacted well. Mia has the most sensitive mouth of any horse I've ever ridden, so I was really surprised when she reached out for contact and kept contact for a while. When my hands got unsteady she would drop contact, but when my hands got stable again she re-established contact of her own free will. I had used the Equicube once on Mia when I first got it, and all through that ride she would not establish contact, so my arms must be getting stronger! Mia is a picky mare, she prefers perfection from me and gets irritated when I am not perfect. So I trust her to be correct when she says my hands are improving while carrying the Equicube.

After 12 minutes it started sprinkling again, and then the rain got harder and harder. After a minute of that I figured that I was TIRED (from carrying the Equicube, several “rider's push-ups, several posting trots and lots of two-point) and that it would not do me any good to get soaked and chilled. I had some problems dismounting, since I have been really good about soaping my saddle after riding I found out that when the saddle got wet it also got super slippery. That was irritating until I realized that the built up saddle soap was protecting the leather of my saddle from the rain. I finally used my R-Stor as a stable point for my right hand so I could dismount since my right hand kept on slipping off the right knee roll, my usual stable point for my right hand when I get off the horse.

Of course after we were back in the barn for a few minutes it stopped raining again, for a little while. Sam had a private lesson to teach after my ride, and I do not know if the little girl got to ride because it was off and on rain the rest of the morning.

At least I got to ride this week! Next week does not look promising at all, with lows in the teens and low twenties at dawn. Maybe it will be warm enough for me to ride tomorrow (25° F at dawn I hope), and I will get to dress up like I am going to the Arctic, again.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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