Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Problem Solving

I am in the middle of solving a horse problem, so here we go.

Warning: Horse-related discussion below!

You'll hear horse people talk about how precious their little Sugar is and how much Sugar loves 'mummy'.   

Forget it.  Horses don't have the capacity for love or humor or any of the other emotions that makes us humans so, well, Special.  Most likely, if horses were driving the buses, we'd all be sitting way in the back, by the way.  A personality for a horse is pretty much black or white.  In the horse’s mind, either the horse comes first or the rider comes first.

This weekend, my horse, Sam, launched me.  It wasn't just a quick 'get off me because I don't want you around'.  This was a full-fledged space shuttle to the moon shot.  I was in the air long enough to realize that the clouds looked really fluffy and cute and that I might be able to touch one if I could just reach up a little higher.

After re-entry and recovery, I got up, assessed the personal damage, grabbed the end of the rein and worked Sam in a big circle, back and forth, as fast as he could move.  Then I remounted, rode him out of the pasture we were using and carefully dismounted.  I even got his tack all put away before collapsing in pain.  Adrenaline is a really good friend at times.

 The thing is, I was not angry.  I was troubled.  The next day, armed with ibuprofen and a longe line, Sam and I went to the arena and worked from the ground.  He seemed fine.  The incident, for him, was forgotten as though it had never happened.

It bothered me a lot, though.  Sam doesn’t buck like that unless he is frightened.  I don’t frighten him.  I reviewed our ride, what I saw when I took off his tack, what he’d been like prior to the actual incident.  I realized that he is very touchy down at his right rear leg and that when something touches him there, he twitches.  I noticed that the pair of saddle bags was off center and hanging down right over that area.

My horse wasn’t being mean, he was trying to get away from something that bothered him.  For my part, I just had not paid attention when he first started twitching.  He was being a horse and it was my fault for not taking his warnings seriously.

There are two lessons here.  First, with a horse, if there is a buck when you try to get him to canter or move, your response is normally to ride through it.  The horse will eventually figure out that kicking out is too much work and will get on with the task at hand.  I’d better add that the bucking will stop if the rider survives and remains on the horse.

If this is a continuing problem and you want it to be solved permanently, though, you have to look at the cause and then figure out what is needed to correct it.  In this case, I have to go back and work on desensitizing his hindquarters a whole lot.  I’ll do a lot of patting, a lot of rubbing and hang his saddle bags on him a lot in order to get them comfortable.

The second lesson is that I now know that Sam is not going to give me a lot of chances to listen to him.  If something is wrong, I’d better be a whole lot faster at recognizing it.  Otherwise, he will solve it himself and we’ll just have to hope that my protective gear works.  He’s pretty sure that he always comes first. 

The interesting thing is that both of these ideas are applicable to people.  No, we don’t ride people through a buck.  We do tend to push hard when they’re resisting, though.  It is in our nature.  And yes, people do tend to place self-preservation above the survival of, say, their company. 

I’m fairly recovered now.  Thanks for worrying.  I’ve been working with him for some time each day and will be riding him by Thursday evening. 

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