Things They Don’t Tell You: Issue 1

Guess who got to ride Sonny again last niiiight! That’s right! I did!

I mustered a smidgen of attempted enthusiasm but it was hard to keep the “I just got coal on Christmas morning” expression from hitting my face like a ton of bricks. Attitude is so important for things like this. I’ve heard the theories that people can hear it in your voice when you are smiling and that the power of positive thinking can sometimes move mountains but I also know that horses can smell and sense the chemical and physical changes that occur in the human body whether I pretend or not. So we really are dealing with a very different beast here.

Why all the touchy-feely discussion, you ask? Because your’s truly had a very bottom of the barrel riding lesson on Wednesday due, very much in part, to a very naughty horse. Sonny was in a terrible mood all evening. My instructor chalked it up to the fact that he had thrown a shoe a few days prior and had been sidelined to his stall until his farrier could come out to the barn. The guy had brand-spanking new shoes and was still a jerk…unbelievable. At one point in the lesson he took the bit in his mouth and as we crossed letter “C”, took it upon himself to push past my instructor and exit the arena. Now, I wasn’t just an oblivious passenger, while he was sidestepping my reins and ignoring my kicks I did try in vain to pull him around and get him back into the arena at which point he promptly picked up an unbalance canter for a few steps and tried to head into the pasture. I kicked, I urged, I expressed that it was “my way or the highway”, but ultimately I was pretty soft with him. And here in lies my issue: How do you correctly discipline a horse?

This is one secret horse people never seem to let you in on. I don’t know if that is because  everyone does it differently or because they forget it is a useful tool to mention? Either way the novice could use some direction. In my case, I don’t know Sonny very well yet. What does he do when he gets really angry? Does he bite? Kick? Buck? Rear? All of the above? Nothing?

I am a very non-violent, slow to anger, patient kind of person and even though most of those sound like pretty good traits to have, it can manifest in me being taken advantage of, pushed around, and ignored. I get a little lost when it comes to situations where being sharply and swiftly corrective might actually save my life. I certainly didn’t sense mortal danger here but I was being tested and I’m not sure I passed…

I am, however, pleased as punch that my trainer could sense my disappointment and frustration and made a note to switch my horse for next week’s lesson!



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