A Truly Horrible Noise

At least Cider thought so.

Last Sunday I had my usual ride on Cider, and as usual lately Cider was not too eager to move—at all. Shannon told me that Cider had her hooves trimmed a few days before which probably explained a good bit of it, changing hoof angles can magnify pain until everything settles down after the horse moves around enough so that some of the hoof can be worn down. All Cider wanted to do was stay at the halt, and I had to use my collecting leg aids to get any type of speed at the walk, as in 2 MPH instead of 1 ½ MPH. Getting the horse to carry some of its weight on the hind legs does help some with painful forelegs, the old-time dressage riders were right about that.

Then Nancy, Shannon's mother, started working behind a nearby small building. Cider was interested about who was making the noises, but she was not scared. The vegetation was rustling so Cider knew something was there and she was waiting to find out what or who was making the noise before deciding whether or not to be scared.

Then the truly horrible noise started. It was not loud exactly, but it sounded like a whole hive of very angry bees. Cider lost it. She whirled, did nice side-passes, head up, tense, and very scared. Nothing I did calmed her down, the noise stopped, Cider relaxed, and when the noise started up again and Cider lost it all over again. All Cider wanted to do was get as far away from than absolutely horrible noise as she could.

The noise came from an electric weed-eater. It was not very loud but that seemed to make it worse for Cider. She acted like a whole hive of super-sized horse eating bees was coming to get her, sting her to death, and carry her carcass off to be eaten, a true nightmare. Shannon told me that Cider did not get scared of the gas powered weed-eaters which are a good bit louder.

Shannon called out to her mother to turn the weed-eater off and to come around the building so Cider could see her. Cider was still upset but calmed down a little bit. I worked her a little bit more and then got off since it was rapidly getting hotter.

Afterwards I started wondering if I had not been using my collecting leg aids if Cider would have exploded so quickly. Usually when a horse gets startled the horse has to use a split second to get its hind legs under itself in preparation for a quick get-away, and this gives the rider a tiny bit of time for preparation. However Cider already had her weight more on her hind legs and I did not have that split second to start reassuring her that whatever was making the noise was not out to kill her. She was already in position to make a quick getaway and it took all my persuasive powers to keep her on that side of the ring.

At least with my Rider Grips and silicon full seat tights my seat did not move much in the saddle as she twirled around desperately searching for a way out of there.

The moral of the story is that electric weed-eaters can sound super scary to a horse, especially if the horse cannot see it. Just one more thing we have to get horses used to so we can have a safe ride.

I had my lesson on MJ on Wednesday. It was already hot and muggy when we left our house and on the way to the stable we started running into puddles—it had rained the night before. When we got to the stable the humidity was horrible, the weather report said we were at 97% humidity, but in the sopping wet riding ring I think the humidity was even worse. I told Debbie I would just be walking which was fine with her since then she could go around and open up some of the drainage channels out of the ring. Luckily MJ is not too weirded out by puddles unlike some of the other horses I've ridden at Debbie's place, and he will go through them after checking with me to make SURE that I want him to walk through the puddle.

In spite of the horrible heat and humidity MJ did show some progress. Backing up gets better every ride, I can get a full six steps back without him trying a turn on the forehand though I can tell that he thinks that is a valid alternative to my backing up aids. He backs up nicely, even steps, no hurrying, and he keeps his mouth loose and responsive.

Then I worked some on the three speeds of the walk. MJ was all for the super slow walk, he gets the idea immediately and seems to think that the super slow walk is the proper speed for a walk in the riding ring. The first time I asked him to extend his stride I made sure to do it heading toward the gate since I had to work so hard every other time when I started off heading away from the gate. That worked fine, he cheerfully extended his stride. We slowed down into a regular walk as we made a large turn away from the gate, and I asked him to extend his walk again. This time he responded promptly and I hardly had to use my legs to keep him in the extended walk going away from the gate. Debbie was quite pleased with this, and I was pleased with it too.

MJ is turning into a really nice riding horse. I will be so glad when it finally gets cooler and I can do more in the ring than melting into a puddle in the saddle. Then I can start working on his trot.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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