60 Days Of Rain
What do you do with an inverted horse? What do you do with a 12 year old inverted horse that works? And by ‘works’ I mean is considerably talented and reliable in what she is used for. Of course on occasion there are the normal side effects of prancing, and flightiness of a regular inverted horse. This also is in relation to the expertise of the rider in control.
My first introduction of Rain, she was running full tilt around the area with a novice rider. It wasn’t the lack of control that didn’t intrigue me to ride her… It was the stiff inverted movements. She moved like a cat keeping her feet under herself beautifully. However she moved stiffly and abruptly from one turn into the next. Almost pausing in the air each time as her legs moved forwards and her neck and back braced.
All the stories of Rain the magnificent horse became to come out. The amount of go, heart, and interest she put into her rider. I was convinced to ride her. She was a lot different from my first impression. She felt soft and fluent to ride. I felt her become stiff and brace as I asked her to slow. I quickly worked out the best way to slow her was to slow your own pace, slow your heart rate and her feet would slow with you.
I’ve had some amazing rides on Rain as have lots of other people. One of my first cattle ’round’ ups was on her. One of the cows we were driving pulled away and before I could ask her Rain was on it! She galloped flat out across the field to move them back into the heard. As we got close I thought I’d better start pulling her up now… before the thought had transferred into my aids, Rain who had been reading the cows slammed on the breaks (sliding me into the front of the saddle ) and spun around moving them right into the herd and out the gate!! Realizing I was just a passenger in her greater plan to take care of the situation (and do it well!!) I loosened off the reins and praised her allowing her to get the job done.
That’s just one of the stories of an inverted horse. It’s possible to have a number of wonderful rides. And then suddenly had a day where prancing is the only option. This is my challenge with Rain 60 days to see what change you can make in an older inverted horse.
I’ve always felt when a horse suddenly raises it’s head or carries it quiet high there is a feeling a panic in the air. Until this point I have known with my young horses when that moment arises keep calm and try to re-connect with the horse. Draw their focus back to you instead of the issue causing them to raise their head. With an older horse it’s almost a muscle memory. Once the head goes up their spine pinches, sending adrenalin to the brain. Which is ideal in the wild. A high headed horse in the wild is one suspecting danger, adrenalin will give them that extra push to get out of it. Not something that is ideal for a riding horse. There are different degrees that will effect the horses. Some will become high headed and completely lose control and focus. Fortunately, Rain is not one of these extreme cases. She is one however that deserves to feel how she allows us to feel watching her free in the fields or on her back.
I recently asked the question how do you know when a horse is too far gone to come back. A trainer I highly respect answered ‘Never.’ It’s been years since I came across the horse that made me ask that question. However the answer opened me up to think do old habits die hard in older horses. So here it is my 60 day challenge with Rain begins. In just 60 days can this inverted horse become supple and free flowing?
I brought Rain in today. She was slightly reluctant to come in. I was working a few horses so she and another enjoyed a mouthful of grain while I groomed and tacked up the two of them. Rain tends to stand quietly and still. However she will often bend her face and eyes away from you. I encouraged her to bend around me and stay focused while I tacked her up by lightly massaging or ticking her girth area. When you’re leading her, Rain will politely follow when you move forward. If you turn and ask her to move her hips over she’s slow and relaxed needing some extra encouragement to move them over.
I started today with some free lounging in the round pen to take on overall look. I allowed her to pick the pace within reason. I encouraged her respect my space by bending her to the inside and making such she didn’t cock a hip at me. She started off the a short stepping pace, high headed. It surprised me within seconds she relaxed her neck and dropped her head. She consistently questioned my attention moving her shoulder and hips into my space. But, would then softly move back out and relax. She was very in tuned to trying to guess my very movement before they would happen. At one point she guessed wrong, panicked turned her hind quarters in then directly went into an inverted canter bracing herself with each step. I stayed relaxed and consistent asking her again to bend around me. She worked her self out of it flexed down and began shaking off the stress, licking and chewing. Once she seemed consistent in her frame of mind I asked her to slow, and praised her. During the session each time she flexed or relaxed I would use the same praise word. When a horse stretches their neck down endorphins flow to their brain allowing them to feel good. Hopefully if I praise her when she feels this, that word of praise will also eventually be associated and make her feel good.
I then rode her for a good 15-20 min. Keeping a fluent forward motion. Focusing on balance and relaxation. When I asked for a halt I could feel her tense and begin to raise her head. Instead I tightened my seat and allowed her to slow over a longer period. Once she slowed I praised her and jumped off.
Again untacking her I kept her focus. One of my principals with my horses is they always come when they see me, and will wait at the gate until I’ve fully walked away from them when we are done our ride. This is all in their own free will. It tells me if I’ve done my job. If the stay they are content with our lesson and would rather stay with me over the herd. If they run they are either unhappy with the session or prefer the company of their herd mates. Day one… Rain ran for the hills! But, I’m not discouraged. There was parts of stress in our session where she did invert. And the parts she relaxed aren’t fully engrained in her muscle memory so that was also hard on her. Something that’s been ingrained in her for years will take time to change. And it may take a few days for her to accept it’s for the greater good.