YOU NEVER KNOW UNTIL YOU TRY
I think Butch is beginning to trust us some. He is not as flighty about being caught, he settles quicker in the barn and is looking relaxed by the time he is pre-ride walked. He is now walking off with the riders, coming down from the trot to the walk quickly and relaxing in the trot as well as offering a much softer trot (so I am told). I haven’t tried him. To this point, he has only had adults on him with very similar energy and skills.
Recently a rider (adult) asked if she could ride Butch bareback. As we talked, the conditions were supportive of trying; the weather was a little cool but reasonably calm. Of course, by the time we got to the arena, it changed. It got so bad it looked like a lengthy sand storm was going to ensue. No one had gotten on yet so I sent them back to the barn. Within about two minutes, it all subsided – no sand on the horizon. The riders agreed that they were here, ready to go and willing to try.
We did experience some pretty nasty times in the arena due to heavy gusts of wind which picked up dirt and dropping temperatures. (This was the Sunday just prior to the snowstorm coming in.) Butch was willing to put some trust in the rider. I didn’t see him grab and jump one time with her. All they did was walk but he was willing to keep walking and every time I looked, he appeared relaxed. I am so proud of my rider. She still gets a bit anxious but is getting herself under control so the horse can be comfortable. I love it.
A week later I decided to try one of my kids on Butch. This boy has his energy in the right place and is following instructions. It was a cool morning but nice. My rider did everything he was supposed to and was talking to Butch as I wanted him to. He was a little slower than the others in prepping so was the last one to the arena. After giving my rider the list of dos and don’ts he mounted. He started off fairly well. In a little bit Butch began trotting with him when he wasn’t asked so we worked on shutting him down.
As my rider came through the instructor’s corner (also known as the quit corner), both his mom and another parent yelled at him about keeping his legs off the horse. I saw him raise both his legs straight out to the side. When he did this, I think Butch thought he was going to wham him with the legs so he bolted to the trot. Of course this made the rider bounce which didn’t help Butch’s frame of mind. It finally got to the point that Butch wouldn’t walk. I crossed the arena and was able to intercept them and get Butch to focus on me and my body language message and we got him stopped.
As antsy as he was, I had to be careful since I was on his right side (he is still much more reactive on this side). I carefully walked to the left and got a hand on the reins then talked to my rider. Bless him, he was in tears. I talked him through and told him I was not at all disappointed in him. Their energies just weren’t meshing today not his fault and not Butch’s fault. I led them to the quit corner and had the rider dismount and we talked some more.
When we went into the barn, my rider started humming to Butch and both of them got to a relaxed state. When he was brushing him out on the right side I was looking elsewhere. All of a sudden, I became aware of Butch jumping to t he side. My rider was on the floor in tears saying’ “It was an accident”. I asked if he was okay and then what happened. Apparently when he went to step down off the stool he stepped wrong and fell. That spooked Butch and my rider both. I told him everything was all right and he finished putting him up.
As he was putting his things away he commented that he had a rough morning. I agreed.
When we talked about his ride he made a very insightful comment about Butch, which was that he didn’t think Butch could help the way he was acting. I agree – the sensory stimulus was more than Butch could overcome and my rider wasn’t able to be the leader he needed.
My take away on Butch was that, although he is coming along, he couldn’t handle the sensation of someone bouncing in the saddle. His rider needs to be able to sit quietly down in the saddle for him to feel confident. The good news is that he didn’t take off trotting as vigorously as he did when he first arrived and I saw him looking for leadership. He is still a rough ride although the regular riders say he is getting better. The roughness will make it tougher for the kids though.
This is on the same day. A week earlier another rider and I had talked about riding Butch this week for her first time. After the early ride, my thought process bounced back and forth between ‘should I let her ride him or not’. This was to be her first ride on him and there have been confidence issues with this person. I decided there was enough break between this morning and her ride for Butch to totally reset his mind. We gave it a go and she did really well on him – Butch walked and trotted at her request.
She came in to have me check the saddle and I found the cinch about an inch and a half loose. She had been trotting and done just fine. Obviously her balance is getting good. I also believe it is easier for a rider with some weight on the bones to keep their rear end in the saddle where the kids are light weight and sometimes tend to become a little air borne.