Tuesday, August 4, 2009

He certainly didn't run away with me

I haven't ridden my husband's horse, Ziggy, for a rather long time because he had a tendency to run away with Foxfire. But recently, Ziggy's been behaving better and Foxfire finally decided that Ziggy was calm enough for me to ride him. So this evening, I mounted up on Ziggy for the first time in quite a while. I had ridden him before, back when he was still recovering from the malnourishment and stomach ulcers that he suffered from when we first got him. As part of his rehabilitation, Foxfire or I would ride him at a walk for no more than 15 minutes. Gradually, we increased the amount of time that we would walk him. Once he'd recovered a bit more we added a few minutes of trot to his riding time and eventually Foxfire started cantering him. However, once Ziggy truly started feeling better, he became a somewhat "hot" horse. Foxfire had trouble keeping him at a trot, and once he started cantering, he was very difficult to slow down or stop. So Foxfire decided that he was too much horse for me to ride until I became a better rider and/or Ziggy became easier to control.

While Ziggy was recovering, I had never really had much trouble riding him. Sometimes, I did have to hold him back a little, but he had always listened to me and never actually went faster than I wanted him to. The only time, anything "bad" happened was one night at the barn when a mare had gotten loose and run around madly, getting all the other horses worked up. That night I did have to work a little harder to keep Ziggy at the walk. And to top it all off, while I was riding, something fell over and made a VERY LOUD BANG. Ziggy spooked and reared, then danced in place for a few moments before calming down. The thing is, it felt like he started to bolt, and I twitched the reins the way that I had been doing to keep him at a walk, and instead of bolting he reared. So... in a way, he was still paying attention to me. He was just too startled not to do anything, so he reared. After the initial fright of,"OMG, he's rearing!", it wasn't really that bad. My body just automatically leaned forward to keep my balance. I managed to keep my hands down and not tug on the reins so that I didn't pull him off balance or anything. And it only took a second or two for him to stop rearing and come back down. When he came back down, I was still leaning forward until Foxfire yelled at me to sit up straight. And Ziggy danced in place for a few more moments while I just tried to relax into his back and calm him down. Once he'd calmed down a bit more, I let him walk around a little to finish letting his nerves out. Once he was completely calm, I dismounted. It was almost time for the end of his ride anyway. Of course, this happened while he was still in recovery. If he'd been fully recovered and full of energy, it might have gone differently.

I rode him several more times after that, up until the time that Foxfire decided that he was getting to be too strong for me to handle. Lately, Foxfire has been working on Ziggy's brakes and our friend, JJ, has been helping. And if you've been reading this blog, you know that I've been taking riding lessons. So tonight, Foxfire decided that it was time for me to try and ride Ziggy again. We saddled him up, and I mounted and sat there very carefully for a few moments taking deep breaths and making sure that I was ready to hold him back if he tried to go faster than I wanted. Then I tapped him very gently with my heels and... nothing happened. I tapped a little harder and Ziggy very slowly began to walk. Veeeeery slooooowly. I tapped him again and he may have moved infinitesimally faster. I finally gave him a solid kick and he began to move about as fast as very fit turtle. The good thing was that he was staying nicely in frame while we moved at these glacial speeds. I tried loosening the reins, tightening the reins, pushing with my legs, my seat... Eventually, I managed to get a decent walk out of him. Not exactly energetic, but decent. So I walked him around for a bit with Foxfire following nervously nearby. Ziggy kept slowing to a meander any time that I stopped pushing him, and I admit, I was getting a little frustrated.

Foxfire said that Ziggy was always a bit slow when he first started riding him, but that once he started trotting, he became more energetic. So I decided to trot him. I was a little nervous, because trotting was usually where the trouble started. Ziggy would stay at a walk really well, but once he started trotting, he generally wanted to start cantering and keep cantering. But I was getting really frustrated going so slowly, and he was paying great attention to me in every other way. All I had to do was think about turning and he turned. And just a little bit of pressure with my inside leg moved him outside. I love a light horse! I just wish that he had been that light with his speed controls. Anyway, I shortened the reins a bit and gave an even firmer kick to get him to trot and he... walked slightly faster. I set myself firmly in the saddle and gave him a strong kick and he... walked slightly faster.

I loosened the reins and let him walk while Foxfire and I tried to figure out why Ziggy wouldn't trot. He didn't feel "off" to me in any way, but I asked Foxfire to watch him closely and see if it looked like Ziggy might be favoring a foot or showing any sign of pain that might make him not want to trot. Foxfire said that he looked fine. So he suggested that I get off and let him in the saddle to see if Ziggy would trot for him. Once Foxfire was in the saddle, Ziggy trotted right off. I watched and he looked perfectly sound and pain free, and Foxfire said that he felt fine, so we switched places again.

I finally managed to get a trot, but it was so slow that I couldn't even post to it and Ziggy fell right back out of it into the walk. I kept at it and got a slightly better trot which he kept up for about 50 feet then fell back into a walk. I eventually managed to get and keep a trot for the length of the field. He again slowed to a walk before I asked him to, so I forced him back into a trot. It was finally getting a little easier to get him to trot, and he was finally doing a nice working trot. But again, he fell back into a walk before I asked him to. I got him to trot again and only went for a little ways before asking him to slow to walk. I didn't go very far at the trot because I didn't want him to slow on his own before I asked him to. Also, it was getting dark and we needed to feed the chickens before they roosted for the night. So I decided to be satisfied that I had at least gotten a trot that lasted until I asked for a walk. I did a very brief cool down. He hadn't exactly gotten hot and sweaty. And that was it.

I don't know why Ziggy behaved so differently for me than he usually does for Foxfire. Of course, the next time I ride him, he may decide to go into race horse mode. Who knows. Foxfire doesn't want me to ride Ziggy unless he's home for a few more times before riding him when I'm alone. Since we're no longer at the barn, and no one else lives here to notice if something bad happens, that seems a reasonable precaution. Hopefully, Ziggy and I will work things out and I'll be able to ride him more regularly. But... he certainly didn't run away with me.

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