I had a bad day so I decided to go for a ride. (Bad Decision #1 Approaching training from a place of frustration, thinking interacting with a 900 lb opinionated mare would make it all better.) It was hot out and I wasn’t feeling motivated so I went for a trail ride. (Bad decision #2 Thinking that taking a horse for a ride that has only been lead on the roads a few times this year would be the path of least resistance. Note: She is not an experienced trail horse.) Halfway through the ride I remembered that it’s only her 4th time with the bitless bridle and those rides were very short. (Bad Decision #3 Increasing the level of difficulty with new tack that my horse wasn’t familiar with).
Extra wasn’t too keen on leaving home. I felt we could work through this little hiccup and we did. I figured I would lead until we reached the trail and then I’d get on from there. I planned to use the concrete blocks at the road block for mounting. (Bad Decision #4 Using an obstacle that my horse is frightened of for mounting purposes.)
My horse is an angel for mounting at home and even parks at the block without any tack and lets me mount bareback and bridless. On the trail I put my foot in the stirrup and she charged into some bushes. (Bad Decision #5 Expecting good manners at home to transfer directly to a situation with increased excitement.)
I extracted my foot and proceded to try again. And again. And again. I managed to get her to stand still and mount safely. (Bad Decision #6 Mounting a horse that has demonstrated repeatedly that her head isn’t in the game.)
We proceeded to walk down the trail and stop to look. Frequently. Lots of stops actually. I stayed calm at first. After a while I agreed with Extra that the pile of rocks in the woods did look like a shallow grave. And yes, the peacock wail did sound a little like children being murdered in the distance. Maybe the woods aren’t safe? (Bad Decision #7 letting my horse’s nervous energy transfer to me, instead of my calm leadership transferring to her.)
Mosquitoes started to swarm around Extra and I like teenaged girls around Justin Beiber. I slapped at my arms and face and scratched. Extra shook her head.
Extra decided to go home. I felt that my leadership was being questioned and that we could improve without too much stress (Bad Decision #8 Ignoring the mosquitoes factor). We did improve with some schooling and we walked back and forth along the trail a few times without me pressuring her to go further from home. Quickly she gained confidence and impulsion away from home. I started to feel proud and confident too. This ride was getting better. We were doing just fine with a bit of practice.
But we also started gathering speed every time on the way back. Extra started to ignore my half halts. (Bad Decision #9 Continuing on when my horse was clearly ignoring the most basic of signals. Did I mention she’s not familiar with the bitless bridle?) In a rather sudden surge Extra, with her short powerful neck, burst forward into a gorgeous road hack winning trot. I wanted to walk and realized that she was ignoring all of my signals. At this point I was pulling with all my strength on the left rein in the Pony club style emergency halt. (Just imagine starting up a lawn mower to understand the move.) She trotted on like a freight train, mildly perturbed by my interference. (Bad Decision #9 Briefly imagining my Kentucky derby winning trip home.)
I croc wrestled Extra into some nearby shrubbery before she could pick up a canter. Then we circled for a bit while I tried to get my bearings. I was trying to determine if I should dismount or keep on trying to ride. (Good decision #1 I dismounted.)
We had a perfectly sane walk home.
We all do silly things sometimes. Horses have opinions and feelings. They have a right to make them known. We need to listen. That ride could have gone a whole lot better if I had done my preparation and paid more attention. It also could have gone a whole lot worse if I had just let one more thing slide or had slightly less skill.
Pay attention out there and happy horsing around! Do you have a story where things got a bit out of hand, but you recovered? Share them in the comments.