Yesterday (Sunday) I finished four straight days going out to the barn to be with Buckshot! Wonderful! I took last Thursday and Friday off of work. Each day had lovely weather – sunny and in the high 50’s. Here are some highlights…. On Thursday I checked the new English bridle’s fit more carefully. The browband seemed a bit snug to me, but I decided to use it one last time. During our ride, I looked down at the bridle straps and had to laugh – they were each buckled at the very end (by handmade holes) which didn’t reach the other side of the buckle, much less the keeper! It looked terrible to me! I realized that I have some vanity about how Buckshot looks in his tack. Between the browband being too tight and the ridiculous tiny strap ends poking out at odd angles, I decided that that bridle was history!
On Friday, I went to our local tack shop and ask to see some bridles. I thought I’d look into a western bridle, without the noseband. I’d asked the BO what the purpose of nosebands was, and whether she thought Buckshot really needed one, and she said he didn’t really need one. So with the help of the tack shop staff, I chose a lovely dark red/brown headstall (as western bridles are called) with silver studs on it. I thought it would match his saddle. (Pictures of browband and saddle above.) Once at the barn, before taking the tags off of it, I walked out to Buckshot’s pasture and tried it on him to make sure the browband fit him. It seemed to fit him well, and he was cute about it, giving me a few headshakes and funny looks. No doubt he was thinking, not another weird thing to put on my head!
Back at the barn I attached the bit and adjusted the length to what seemed the right length. When I later groomed him and put the new headstall on him, the bit was way too low, so I moved it up a hole and Buckshot seemed okay with it. I planned to watch him closely to see if I had gotten it adjusted correctly to him. Our ride was great – and Buckshot did great! So, now (after several rides) he has a new western headstall to match his saddle and does he look handsome in it! We got several compliments on it so I hope he felt sort of proud to be wearing nice tack. Hope he doesn’t notice I’m using my braided English reins with it! LOL! Maybe someday we’ll go to split reins or to real western reins, but for the time being, I like one piece reins and it saves money to use my existing reins.
On Saturday, I got him tacked up (in his spiffy new headstall!) and we went to the round pen to ride as the main arena had a large class in it. We began with what I call Phase One, our 20 minute walking. Buckshot has not been too good at staying on the rail in the round pen, so I decided to try a technique I had learned from the reining trainer several weeks ago. This technique worked like a charm and I had Buckshot staying on the rail perfectly! I was elated! Here is the technique: while walking to the left, when Buckshot starts to fall inside, I raise the inside rein (left rein) about 6-8 inches straight up, and tap with my inside heel (left heel) behind the girth. Tap, tap, tap, and he moves back to the right where the rail is. This seems a bit counter intuitive, as I want to tap my outside heel. But the inside heel is what worked for us. We switched directions, going to the right, and when he fell into the circle, instead of staying on the rail, I did the same thing: raised the inside rein, and tapped with my inside heel. To remember it, I told myself: inside(rein), inside (heel). It was wonderful, how great it worked! I am looking forward to practicing with this in the other arena as well.
Sunday was an even more significant day for us. It was to be the second time ever I had trailered him somewhere for an outside lesson (e.g., a reining clinic). The first time we did this, about two weeks ago, he had been anxious when we arrived and it had been a struggle to get him semi-calm, tacked up, into the trainer’s arena, mounted and riding. That day, he had finally calmed down when we did our walking warm up.
So, this time, yesterday, I was nervous about how he would be. I had to calm my nerves, and give myself a pep talk and do all the things we do when we are worried about something unknown with our horses, something that elicits fear and worry in the back of our minds, that slowly creeps up to the front of our minds, despite our attempts to manage our fears. Yes, I have to confess, that’s where my head was- worried, and fearful. I thought of Winter and her second Conception ride and how she felt worried, understandably so, after the difficult first ride. See her great blog: Horsecentric (see blog roll on the right).
To walk Buckshot to the barn on Sunday morning, to groom him, we had to walk behind the trailer that sat not far from the main barn. Just walking behind it, Buckshot started blowing with his nose. Hmmm, I thought. We got to the stall where I groom him, and went in. He immediately ate the tiny bit of sweet feed I put in the feeder, and then, instead of munching the hay, as is his usual behavior, he started walking around the stall, anxiously. He stopped to put his head over the door. The barn was silent. A nearby barn had other horses being groomed but you couldn’t hear them. Perhaps Buckshot couldn’t hear any other horses. I talked to him and brushed him, and after a few minutes, he started picking at the hay. Hmmm, I thought again. I hope this isn’t a precursor of things to come, oh, no, just think pleasant thoughts, he is fine, he isn’t agitated, and he is finally eating hay. Then the BO came to tell me it was time to load the horses (we were taking four horses). I led Buckshot to the now-open trailer, and he started blowing harder, and pulling on the lead line. A gunshot went off in the far distance. When Buckshot pulls, or gets headstrong, he is very, very strong. I have to be totally focused. So I let him eat some grass and then led him to the ramp, where I handed off the lead to the BO husband. Buckshot walked onto the ramp and stopped. We gave him a moment, and then – phew!- he walked right on. I went around to his window and secured the tie and patted his head. Good boy! (And phew!) The other horses were loaded and we hopped in and left for the reining trainer’s farm, about an hour drive.
I was pretty quiet on the drive, managing my fears, because the fearful time I was dreading would occur, if at all, at the other farm. We chatted some, and I made myself think of other things. As we neared the farm, I made an all out effort to boost my confidence – I have many tools that I can use to help calm him down and to keep his mind busy, I can handle this whatever happens, I am much more prepared than I think, this will be fine because I have several things to do, and the BO and her husband are expert horse people and will help me with whatever happens, and I think things will go well because I am more competent than I have ever been, and I will be able to handle Buckshot with whatever he does. I felt better as we pulled into the drive of the farm. But still I put on gloves in case holding his lead line became a struggle (I’ve had a lead line burn on my hands before and it is serious).
I hopped out when we got parked and we opened the ramp and started unloading the horses. The first horse out crow hopped backward off the ramp, but he was fine. Second horse out backed out neatly. Buckshot was next. BO husband went into the trailer and here came Buckshot, head first. He gave me the lead line, and Buckshot was: pretty calm! As we walked a few steps on the grass, he didn’t get anxious, or worried. He dropped his head to eat grass almost immediately! Phew! I felt huge relief! He was much more calm than the last time. Oh, my gosh, I thought, this is the high point of my day – a fairly calm horse. Anything else that went well, would just be icing on the cake. Do you know that feeling?
I felt glad that I had boosted my confidence, and felt that I was prepared for anything, but even more glad that I wouldn’t have to deal with anything difficult. Phew! The BO, kind person that she is, helped me tack up Buckshot, and we went to the arena, and I mounted my calm horse! (Big smile here) We had a great session. We didn’t do too well with our cantering (we haven’t done a lot of cantering lately anyway), but the trainer let us do the exercises at the trot, and we even got some nice compliments from him. After the clinic, we loaded up our tired horses, got them safely back to the farm, unloaded and I walked Buckshot back to his pasture.
I was so proud of him! He did so well, all things considered. I was also a bit proud of myself – of my working to manage my fears and remind myself that I can handle some of the unknowns of having a horse. For me, this is a big part of being a leader to Buckshot- handling the difficult things. I haven't always done so well. And usually the fears and worries of the unknown are the biggest challenges I face. So working through one yesterday felt like a good accomplishment for me!
So today it is back to work for me and Buckshot can have a much needed break from his “person!” I hope he has lots to tell his pasturemate about his many weekend adventures!