dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, December 20, 2015

In Which I Come Off Carmen for the First Time

*****Spoiler Alert*******
No one was injured or died from the following incident

Saturday was sunny but very windy day. I was not sure that I even wanted to ride with the cold wind. But I realized that I won't have too many more riding days in this winter and that I would regret not riding. So after waiting in the futile hope that the wind would go away I bundled up and brought the horses in.

Carmen was looking a bit worried in the cross ties but I told that we would just see how everything went. We carried on and she followed me up to the ring and went to work willingly enough. I was pleased with how well she was handling the blowing grass and trees. She was looking but not freaking out. What she didn't like was when the wind gusted so hard that it was blowing the lunge line around. It was making it rattle the bit which she didn't appreciate. I did my best to keep it tense enough to stop that from happening but was not terribly successful. As a result I kept the work on the lunge a bit short.

She was perfect when I mounted and waited for me to indicate that it was time to walk off. Her walk was a bit tense so I worked on getting her to stretch out over her back and relax. It would come and go. We headed up the long side towards R. She ducked away from the rail- not quickly like a spook, she kept her walk pace but moved off. I circled her around and keeping my inside leg on and giving her room with the reins asked her to walk up the long side.

Suddenly we were launched sideways. Remember this photo:
Like that- only add the 90 degree spin in first. When we landed I was behind the motion, had only the buckle of the reins and lost my right stirrup.  It was the landing that did me in. I pulled to the right to stop her from bolting on but that was all I could do. My thoughts were like this:
I think I can stick this
I can't stick this
So I didn't fight the coming off. I landed on my feet holding the rein (I still don't know how I do that but I'm grateful).  As I landed Carmen tried to take off again and stepped on my foot before dragging me with her. I held on and tried to get in front (at this point I was at her haunches). I believe that for a second she went to kick at what was stopping her but realized it was me. She spun around to face me and started backing and I kept up with her until she stopped.
I spoke soothingly as I approached and gently touched her neck. She was breathing hard and wide eyed. I still had no idea what had caused this but I led her back to where the lunging equipment was and hooked it back up. I asked to go forward and she did until she hit R again at which point she freaked out and tried to take off.
honey you're going to hurt yourself I said and I just stood there quietly and she stopped. I turned and walked up the side looking carefully (which is what I should have done in the first place) and spied the danger.

Every so many posts in my ring is set in concrete in a sonotube. These are made of paper and slowly disintegrate over time. A large piece of the paper had come loose and was flapping in the tall grass.

I picked it up.
Carmen snorted and backed up. I stood quietly. She then watched in horror as I shook it and it fell completely apart into small bits of confetti.  I think she now sees me as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (best.show.ever).

We lunged a bit more and then I got back on. This time I kept a bit more of a hold on the reins so that she could feel the contact. She decked a couple times but I was able to stop it quickly. I rode her until she relaxed and was blowing in the work. I then called it a day.

I could see the foot prints of the launch- and if I read them right she turned left at R and landed at I (in the middle of the ring). My mistake was that I didn't realize that she was as tense as she was because a) I was still on the high from the last 3 rides and b) her base level of tenseness is so much less that's it not as alerting as it was.  I should have a shorter contact so that she had my support. But the truth is I will occasionally get it wrong (probably more than 'on occasion'). What was interesting was that I was completely not afraid through this whole thing. I had an adrenaline rush when I landed of course but I was not upset, angry, frightened or frustrated. I was simply calm and wanting to help her find her calm. Which we did. After the ride she was happy in the cross ties and hung out with me in the barn while I did my chores. So she was okay as well.

I think this winter I will work on the flapping bag/paper thing. I have temp fence posts and I'm thinking I may attach plastic bags and stick them out in the field. What do you think?


  1. My gelding used to have a thing about plastic bags in trees - never threw me over it but there was a lot of balking & angst & prancing & gnashing of the bit. Fair to say that it caused him a lot of worry.
    We have a couple of areas that we use temporary fence part of the year so to make sure they notice when the fence goes up, I tied plastic bags on the wire every 5'. Then, just for good measure, I went & tied some more into the trees where the horse like to stand & keep an eye on the feeders.
    Didn't take long before a flapping plastic bag didn't even raise an eyebrow.

  2. That cartoon is perfect. Brett waves empty feed bags at the horses all the time so they are all good about a human holding a bag. Tying some to a fence isn't a bad idea; she can get used to flapping bags not attached to a human.

  3. Good job landing on your feet. I'd totally tie some plastic bags around if she's that concerned by them.

  4. I'm glad that you're both okay! You handled it well by not making a big deal out of it, so good for you. The last time I fell off was in the wind. Wind is the worst! Extra bonus points for getting out and riding in it though.

  5. Glad you weren't hurt (even more glad that you're Buffy the vampire slayer!). Well done keeping a calm attitude too :)

  6. It sounds like you handled it very well. I had a horse go down on his front knees once and it propelled me off. I landed on my feet with the reins still in my hands, too, but that was about 7 years ago, and I was younger. You should pat yourself on the back for that one! I'm so glad you got back on, because it sounds like it scared her more than you.


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