Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Do I expect too much?

It strikes me that I am either incredibly lucky in my horses, or I am just too dumb to know that there are things I shouldn't be doing. Maybe I blindly expect too much - what do you think?
  • There's a dark, scary bridge for a four-lane highway that we have to go under to reach some of the trails we like to ride on. Sure, the first time they went under the bridge, Red was leading and his eyes were on stalks, but every time after? No problem, even when it's almost dark out and you can hear the cars go by overhead. I think it's normal for them to be totally nonchalant about it, but is it?
  • We walk on the road a lot at night these days, because it's too muddy to go anywhere else. There are people with dogs, people with bikes, holiday decorations, and deer by the bucketload. My horses don't spook at any of this stuff, although they gave the mechanized reindeer decorations a few doors down the old hairy eyeball. Is that weird?
  • Sometimes when I walk them at night, I ride Red bareback and pony Saga (and in case you think I'm totally crazy, I wear a helmet, hi-viz vest, and flashing lantern, and have my phone on me). Then we go past the aforementioned skeery stuff. I'm not worried that anything is going to happen, except that the neighbors might laugh at my belly-flop-onto-Red's-back mounting technique. Should I worry more about the multiple ways I could die?
  • We just got 170 MORE bales of hay (pictures to come) and now there is a one-horse-wide walkway in what used to be my barn aisle. I lead the boys through there like it's no big deal... but should it be? Except for the rampant snacking, of course.
I also expect them to stand patiently for baths and shoeing, load in the trailer, stand tied, ride out with the hounds (except Cash), and not freak out in an indoor arena and/or at a horse show, or just about anywhere we might go. We also do truly crazy things with them, like jousting.

I get that some horses don't want to or cannot do some things - for example, Cash cannot go foxhunting. I took him once years ago, knowing it was a bad idea, and boy was I ever right. We spent the entire 3 hours fighting with each other about speed, and it sucked BAD. Of course, he also has always gotten worked up on trail rides, and a foxhunt is just like a large, fast, trail ride, so it makes sense that he would have issues. I also get that every horse has the OMGWTFBBQ! moment about "that corner" of the arena (or the mailbox, or the trash can, or the hose, or the...). My boys do too - in fact, there's a spot on the trail where all of them are consistently weird, and Taran SWEARS that man-hole covers are actually horse-eating black holes. However, I don't go about our rides trying to  guess what they might find odd - maybe because I don't expect a spook, I don't get one? While it's important to be aware of your surroundings (in case that crazy barking dog jumps the fence and comes after you), I try to be pretty relaxed about things, and the boys seem pretty relaxed too.

I must have gotten really, really lucky with my boys, because I just don't even think twice (once maybe, but not twice) about doing half the things I do with them on a day-to-day basis. I'm sure my day will come, but until then... am I just being stupid, or do I expect too much?


  1. I think you're just a good horse mom! You know your boys, you know what to expect from them, and you know which battles to fight. I think expecting them to behave a certain way works in your favor... no doubt they can tell you're not upset or anxious, so they aren't either.

    Lilly has the best ground manners in the world, and I expect nothing less. I actually get annoyed when I have to interact with other people's horses on the ground. I expect those things from her and she knows it. I also know a few things that are off limits for her and I respect that.

    We have a great partnership and it sounds like that's the kind of partnership you have with your boys too. :)

  2. It's because you and all of your critters have some kind of secret zen that only comes with experience. I must acquire said zen... one of these days.

    I wish I could say the same about Greta lol. It's not that I'm always expecting a spook, but I intensify every aid within my know-how to keep her on the straight-and-narrow, because I KNOW she is giving "that corner" of the arena or "that end" of the driveway the hairy eyeball. It is up to me, as alpha mare, to assure her that crazy alpha mare will lead you through scary situation in safety. Can't be tense about it, just reassuring. Alpha mare goooooood.

    At least Greta has good ground manners? She just still has an issue or two loading... details, details.

    My horse is slightly crazy, but I have learned to get over it. It seems to make her less crazy if I don't get crazy about her craziness as well.

  3. You know, I have a theory about this. As we all know, horses read out 'moods'. If you aren't worried about them spooking randomly or doing something potentially dangerous, the actual risk level is lowered because they are picking up on your casual attitude.
    For example, there's a mare at work that kicks whenever you handle her back feet. I went on auto-mode one day and forgot which mare I was handling, picked up her feet and no problem. I think it's because I wasn't expecting anything bad, so I wasn't tense.
    Or you just got lucky:)

  4. in2paints, it's interesting when your expectations match their actions, isn't it?

    LL, I think they do take leadership from us, and if we're confident, we help them be confident. There are times when something has spooked ME while riding, and the boys were all "Um, really Mom?" so I guess it works both ways?

    Dressager, I certainly don't think I have a special Zen thing going on! As for applying every aid you have, what if you take all the aids OFF and relax? Maybe have a friend ride next to you on the inside, relax at the walk, chat, and see what happens? Deep breath - she knows that you're crazy about her craziness, so don't let her know you know that she knows. Or something. ;)

  5. Ha! I think you riding them NOT thinking about all the possible dangers is the key to your success! I too, ride bitless/bareback down the dirt road/on trails, etc however not lately due to his hoof (giving time to heal). Helmet on, cell in pocket and my Chocolate lab w/ us. Crazy, maybe? Enjoyable, hell yes! If it's working for you; enjoy!

  6. Kristen, I'm glad I'm not the only one who does the bareback-in-a-halter-down-the-road thing! And I can't wait till Laz is sound for you to start enjoying that again. :)

  7. Some great comments:-) it's nearly as hippy and chilled at Rockley as at Wyvern Oaks - apart from the 4 lane highway - and I'd agree our expectations and attitude are fundamental when dealing with spooky stuff. Must admit a couple of dudes like Felix and Charlie help a bunch as well :-)