Exuberance is the buzz word that is often used in describing the first few outdoor rides each spring! Someone should come up with an appropriate phrase to adequately describe the physical/psychological change that occurs in almost every horse’s brain during the initial phases of their outdoor excursions. It baffles my mind that so many beasties are completely undone when asked to preform the exact same maneuvers outside that they have perfected inside throughout the winter months. We know they can do it, they know they can do it, and yet here I stand every spring, in the middle of my lovely large ring, trying to convince a multitude of horses and riders that all is not lost and sanity will be restored…It just might take a few rides.
You’d think that living outside would be enough to prepare these beasties for being ridden in the great outdoors, but that’s not always the case. I may be wrong, but my horses seem to be of the opinion that they shouldn’t have to work if everyone else on the property is having fun enjoying the sun and playing in their paddocks, so I’ve had to spend the majority of the week reminding everyone that good manners are NOT optional.
Proper equine etiquette dictates that when asked to open up the stride a little that is not a signal to bolt off around the ring like your butt is on fire! Also, there seems to have been a great deal of confusion about the correct method of being ridden down a line of fences. Popular opinion saw many of the horses taking the less traditional, but much more exciting, path of least resistance. They had no problem jumping the first fence looking all steady and quiet, but the approach to fence number two was a much more exciting affair. There seemed to be some confusion about what was required and many horses felt it was an optional element, mostly due to the terrifying flowers that decorate our fences. Of course, it didn’t help that the riders were, for the most part, making matters worse as they struggled with their own attention deficit problems.
In an effort to minimize risk I figured I’d dumb it down and stick to the much less exciting, but much safer option of flatting. It definitely improved the odds for keeping riders in the irons, but like all exercises involving creative and intelligent animals, they still managed to get one over on the riders. Apparently the horses thought that the ring was much too big and they spent the entire time focused on lessening the distance they had to travel by cutting every corner with masterful precision. No amount of direction from me about the benefits and general importance of the inside rein and leg as an aid in pushing the horse out could keep these guys on the rail. Crafty buggers!
I guess the most important information that most riders took away from their lessons this week was the realization that sometimes, no matter how skilled the rider, and how well trained the horse, things don’t always go according to plan. It’s important to remember that for the most part riders are a resilient dedicated bunch, who crave adventure, which is why they took to riding in the first place. As for the horses, it doesn’t take them long to figure out that all that deeking and diving requires way more effort on their part than quietly going along and before you know it they’re back on track, quite literally of course!