As The World Stops Turning

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.

Yee Haw!


14 thoughts on “As The World Stops Turning

  1. Winter

    Mad skillz, Jane. I’ve had my run away moment, but not in an arena. After the clinic I went to I found the steering wheel again. Not so scary to run around like a maniac if you at least have steering.

    So what brand of velcro do you use to stick that stirrup-less ride??

    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      I had total steering, and I had good brakes: I had fear of applying his brakes for speed control – but I had them for stopping. I wasn’t sure he’d come back in speed? He wanted to GALLOP, not canter. I worried (possibly unnecessarily) I wouldn’t be able to get him back to a canter, and trying but not getting him to come back would be a very very bad message to send him. So we were either flat out GO or stop.

      I have no great skills. All I had to do was not fall off. He’s super athletic and balanced. As long as I stayed in his center of gravity we were good. He doesn’t look to me for instructions on how to balance himself, unlike most horses I ride. I’m guessing this has to do with Bella’s training and the cow work, he had to think, judge, and “rate” himself in balance while the rider was busy working? I should ask Bella.

  2. funder

    You rule! Great story. I have SO been there on the unplanned “well you want to canter, fine, WE’LL CANTER” training days. My seat isn’t nearly as good as yours though!

  3. shinyfluff

    wow! awesome story! just found your blog tonight…..I’m afraid of horses who won’t stop after several terrifying runaways but am working on it now…..I know JUST the feeling you get when you suddenly lose the fear and are like WUT WUUUUT

    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      Hey, glad you found us! We’re a pretty relaxed crew over here. I know we have some birthday cake left…(rummaging)

      Out of control horses are scary, especially if they have lousy balance on anything but a straightaway (yes I’m thinking of OTTB’s). That H is superbly balance-trained to move in any direction inside a dead gallop pretty much saves my butt.

      All I have to do is not fall off, and be careful what I ask for. 😉

      I hope you have someone good to work with, it’s difficult to work through willful runaway horses alone!

  4. theliteraryhorse Post author

    Liz – a new bit is definitely in my thought bubble. After talking to Bella (he did the same thing with her) and getting good feedback on how to handle it if wanted to hold off on stepping up the hardware, I’m going to try strength training first, so my core is more useful (along with yanking on the bit if need be.) H has had a really good stop installed from his first memory, unlike 99% of OTTB’s. The above would *never* have worked on my OTTB. He didn’t take a snaffle seriously. I think I need to make my training match H’s, to be fair to him. Bella cracked me up, but it’s also true: if you want to run with the big dogs, you’d better a) be ready to run with the big dogs, and b) train like crazy to do it.

    Jen – I agree. My thing is: I want Hudson. I want him more than I want Dressage. Whatever it takes to find what our “thing” is together is what is going to make me happy. This is a big change for him, and after 20 years, he deserves a lot of consideration in how the change is made. (He sure doesn’t gallop like a 20 year old horse!) I have no idea where we will end up. Only thing I know is it has to light up his control panel, and fire the rockets occasionally, or he won’t be happy.

    Solo’s mom – thank god I’m not alone in my horse crazy talking. I really AM out of shape (I didn’t do this in hunt seat or 2 point!). I basically rode as if we were bareback. It was a kind of Black Stallion with floppy stirrup ride. 😉 But I’m going to boot camp!

    Aarene – Dang dang dang. We are surrounded by huge gorgeous rolling hills we have no access to – all private property. Love the blackberries at the end. Nose first! He wasn’t running away with me? At least, it didn’t feel like that? He was just…ten times more horse than I had been riding, and suddenly highly opinionated about our next moves. I might have been able to ask him to come back as usual, and he might have done it. But he was so much horse I didn’t want to take the chance he might not. We know what a BAD message that would be. Better to let him run it out, push him to make him think it’s my idea, and then “allow” him to come back.

    This is a horse I rode bareback the day before in a halter with one lead, while texting on my cell. I didn’t ask him to do more, and he didn’t. So funny!

    I’m going to be READY(er) the next time I ask him to Bring It On. 😉

    1. lizgoldsmith

      Much of my pre-hunting conditioning work is for me, not for Freedom. I totally agree that you have to be able to keep up with your horse. I do a lot of work in half seat because otherwise I’ll just slide off him from exhaustion. However, the half seat does get you very stable and strong in the saddle. Glad I’ve been practicing because today’s hunt was 2 1/2 hours plus! My knees really, really felt 50 years old by the end.

      I also find that if I bridge my reins (see thread on Equine Ink), your horse then ends up pulling against himself and leaves you out of it.

  5. Judith Tarr

    Love this blog!

    I used to have rides like this regularly on a mare we call The Perpetual-Motion Machine. But SHE would canter and canter (and canter and canter and canter and canter) alllldaylong on a 20m circle and barely break a sweat. On trails, she would walk, or trot, anybody and everybody else into the ground, and go and go and go And Go. You could not two-point her. That was her signal to hit warp speed. Stronger bit? Airs Above the Ground, baby. (She likes caprioles. Levades are good, too. She can do those all day, after she’s done cantering.) The only cure was to develop the ultimate plugged-in seat, and then RIDE it.

    And yet? She could calm down literally ten seconds after a full gallop, and be just as sweet as you please. She’d run the eventers right up the walls of the dry wash (all 14.3 chunky hands of her) and saunter off with a flick of the tail.

    Still does these things actually, at 22. She and Hudson would have a great time swapping stupid-human-but-aren’t-they’cute stories.

  6. AareneX

    Okay, endurance geekoid here, Jane. Y’all need to find yerselves a HILL. Not a bump, not an incline. You’re looking for 6% incline (minimum) and at least 1/4 mile long. A mile would be better. Especially if it dead-ends with an 8′ tall bank of blackberry brambles.

    NOW let’s try that “running away at the gallop” maneuver again. Ready? Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    (Fiddle did this. One. Time. She still claims I cheated, by making her run an addition 1.5 miles at the top of the hill. Because I’m all kinds of stupid that way, and besides, there was nobody else there to trip over, right….?)

    I think you’re awesome, Jane. Next time, try to get somebody to take some pix, okay?

  7. eventer79

    Hahaha, no, I am that crazy on a horse’s back too. But I have mad respect for you for sticking it out for that much gallop. There is no WAY you are as out of shape as you say you are. Solo is learning a similar new world order too — I am the boss and he better step up and meet me where it is now time for him to be. Mostly I just get tired, but we are making progress!

  8. Jen

    I have to admit, I totally miss going full tilt (post muscle disease it is way beyond me for the moment :o) Delighted you are willing to *cough* let Hudson work through the changes in his career. He’ll be a much better horse in the end – maybe even one suited for a princess ;o)

  9. lizgoldsmith

    It only took me a couple of years to get Freedom’s galloping figured out.

    Seriously, the deal changer for us? New bit. In the spring out hunting in his loose ring snaffle, Freedom put his head down and went into sixth gear. As we were approaching 30-odd miles an hour, I had one of those light bulb moments. Perhaps a snaffle isn’t the answer to everything!

    Sure enough, one week and a Kimberwicke later, he was asking me, “how fast would you like to go?” Some how it’s easier to let them go fast if you know you can stop.

    Keep on having fun – Hudson sounds like a blast.

  10. Marissa

    Yes! I love this post! The post in which Jane kicks butt!!! I don’t care who calls Hudson a rock star… YOU are a rock star! So awesome. There comes a day in every rider’s life when she has to stop saying please. I bet Hudson has a lot more respect for you now. He probably likes you a little more too.

    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      Honestly? I was mostly a passenger with the galloping, but a game one!
      The other arena work, I can say I brought myself to the table again, finally. I get ridiculously insecure when I’ve had too much time off real work-riding, and then I ride like that person. Not helpful.

      But yeah! Game changer. It was fun, and I am going to have to do a LOT of sit ups.

      p.s. I think you’re the only one who reads the tags, which cracks me up, no one else notices things like ‘crack house’.


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