Did you feel it? About 4 pm Pacific Standard Time? Sorry. You might want to check your watches for accuracy.
I’ve been mostly noodling around on Hudson (read: being a passenger not a rider) while working out, getting my seat back, and remembering how to use my body correctly.
Yesterday I thought, “Jane, you need to stop being a passenger, and take charge. If you are going to ask him to really come up under himself, get on the bit, lift his back, and use his butt, you have to ride it. Not fair to be a passenger with that kind of work going on.
Something shocking happened. I answered myself.
Jane 2: But I can’t! If I pick him up, I have to follow through! I don’t know what I’m doing yet. I can’t ride for real!
Jane 1: Stop whining. You can ride. So RIDE the dang horse. Pick him up, and ride like you’re in training.
Jane 2: You’re so mean. What if I can’t?
Jane 1: Losing temper. Ride. The. Horse.
Jane 2: What if I do the wrong thing and hurt him?
Jane 1: Human: 100-something pounds. Horse: 1150 pounds. You’re using a bit that whispers “Please? If you don’t mind?” Without a caveson. Sure. I can see you hurting him. RIDE. If we don’t try, we don’t get better. Make mistakes. I don’t care. Just ride.
Jane 2: Fine. Just remember I told you so, if we ride badly.
I rolled my eyes at myself. Is anyone else out there this nuts on the back of a horse?
Hudson was slugging along. I haven’t asked him to do much. I put him gently on the bit and asked him to trot. I got a dragged out western jog. Okay, this is my fault. I send a telegram: Change plan. We’re riding-riding today. Use butt. Give energy.
His doorbell rings, the telegram is delivered, he reads it, and then tosses it on the pile of junk mail in the hall, while thinking about what it said. I give him a minute to absorb the message. He flicks his ears back and forth: “????”
I use the flat of my calves to say “bring yourself to the table”.
He brings a good chunk of himself. We’re in a sitting trot with huge lift, suspension, drive, mostly on the bit, and zero relaxation.
That’s our challenge. His whole life, bringing himself to the table meant “Rock and Roll, baby”. One of the trainer’s husband, an ex-roper, calls Hudson “The Rock Star”. His tension isn’t going to change overnight. In the meantime, he’s having fun. We look darn good. I’m directing, he’s responding. Oooo he’s comfy!
He has a muscle spasm in his shoulder. It wouldn’t release before tacking up. I want him to stretch it out. Canter circles, so he has to turn and stretch it.
Every rotation is a key-turn in his wind-up mechanism. He’s becoming a LOT of horse fast. He’s amped.
Great. I use a bit on him that whispers “please?”. He’s got rock music going on in his head. He can’t hear it. Pretty much I have to use my seat and weight to keep him on the circle and under 60 mph.
I have to bring my A game. Um. Do I have an A game in there?
Jane 2: Told you so.
Oh yeah? Challenge me, baby. I’m bringing it.
Hudson feels the change instantly. I’m rock solid. We’re still circling at 20 M. He throws his head up coming out of the corner, braces against the (worthless) bit, and hits the gas. We scare the barn owner, who is in with us riding a reining horse. I half-halt, lock him out with my outside leg, and manage to keep him on the circle. Barely.
All the lights on his control panel lit up. We are not going to be relaxing any time soon. I call on his roping training, hope his reaction will be ingrained, and yell “whoa”. We stop so fast I bounce in the saddle. I pat him before he can think about why we stopped, and get off. We’re going up to the big (empty) arena, and he’s going to gallop until I tell him to stop.
Inside the big arena, he wants his speed fix so badly that he’s managing to trot and canter at the same time. Feels weird, but kinda cool too. We’re sort of leaping off his butt in a canter stride, both front legs in the air, and landing in a trot that turns into a canter leap.
We start out counter clock wise, the harder direction. I figure it will tire him out easier. I’m nervous about asking for a gallop when I’ve been off for so long. (See Liz’ wonderful article at Equine Ink.)
I don’t have to cue him to canter. I loosen my seat, we bolt forward, ears pinned, nose out, huge butt muscling himself off the footing like a bat out of HELL. I half-halt. Nothing. Okay, dressage-wanna-be princess. Hang on. Make the gallop YOURS. I pick him up, push him to brace against the bit for balance, and ask him for more.
(Yes, while internally screaming AHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh I’m gonna die!)
He. Is. Sonic.
I stupidly did not shorten my dressage stirrups. I have no 2-point to help myself out. I lose the inside stirrup on the 2nd pass. Oh well. Bye! I can’t grope around for it, or he’ll think I’m kicking him. Stirrup banging is understood, groping for stirrup is not. Holy CRAP he can run.
The Earth slows.
With every stride, he pulls against its revolution. He’s having a blast.
I see his eye glimmer, and his neck ducks infinitesimally. I pop him in the mouth before he can buck. We’re on round 9 or 10. He can’t keep this up, right? Quarter horse? Quarter mile?
He can. I lose count at about round 19.
The Earth starts turning backwards. My past is flashing by me with every rail post, faster and faster.
Okay okay, let’s at least go the other way for a while? (I’m not all that fond of my past.)
I ask him in all the right ways to come back, slow down, let me have some say in the proceedings. Thank God Bella can train a horse. He comes back, grudgingly, annoyed, on the bit equivalent of a flaccid carrot in his mouth. I actually get him to walk. Wow. He’s slick with sweat, but not breathing heavily. Crap. He’s that fit?
I turn him around. (Big mistake) Plan to walk the other way for a while before insisting (because he’ll be tired, right?) he canter.
Hudson’s ears: New direction?!?
Jane: Walk, please.
Hudson: jig jig jig jig pull jig
Jane: (thinking to self: you are an idiot, you know that?) Circle, please.
We’re not going to canter until I say so. Hard to canter on an 8 M circle.
I ask him to canter coming out of it, before he can think it’s his idea.
The world speeds up again. He wasn’t even winded.
The next ten minutes: rail rail rail rail rail rail rail rail gate rail rail rail rail rail rail rail rail gate rail rail rail rail rail rail rail rail gate rail rail rail rail rail rail rail rail gate rail rail rail rail rail rail rail rail gate…
Finally, almost imperceptibly, I feel him hesitate in speed. Good. I push him to pick it back up. His ears flick in surprise. He goes. But it’s not as much fun anymore. He’s working. He tries to slow again. Nope. Haven’t even hit the gate. I push him. We go.
Finally, while were still going flat-out, I ask him to come back, and he does, gratefully, like I’m doing him a favor. We finish collected, round and on the bit. Take home message: my rules, Hudson.
It wasn’t pretty, and I was still a passenger a lot of the time, but I was able to bring as much A game as I have.