Along for the ride:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Horses Sweat, Men Perspire & Ladies Glow.

Ahh, the mantras of our childhood. I can safely say that I was "glowing" all over the place yesterday, as I tried to persuade my mount, Kassian, to move freely forward.
Kass is a handsome Lipizzaner/Thoroughbred cross, home bred by an owner who is a busy professional and soon-to-be divorced mother. She is looking to share exercise and some expenses of her horse. I was suggested to her by her trainer and went to try out our compatibility.
It's immediately obvious that Kass is a spoiled mama's boy. You can see from his posture and facial expression that he just expects to be served and he's not often disappointed.
At 14:2 hh, (58" or 1m47 at the top of his shoulder/withers) he's not a big horse, but he's well proportioned and has the presence of a much bigger animal. He oozes self-confidence and is the bossy, lead horse in the hierarchy of the paddock he shares; snaking his long, powerful neck and frowning at the others to keep them in their place.
I was told in advance that he's a "Brat" and to expect a buck or two if he didn't like what I was asking of him. With all the build-up, I was expecting to have an exciting ride.
Kass turned out to be really hard work. His walk, which is long, vigorous and ground-covering out on the trail, shortened and slowed the minute we entered the arena. His trot was "do I have to?" and his mind was on the view of the surrounding hills and any comings and goings of horses, cars or people. He wasn't spooking, just more interested in anything that wasn't work.
It turns out that Kassian's owner carries a long dressage whip and wears spurs for arena work. I traded my short crop for the proffered whip from her, but declined the spurs. I prefer to at least try to suffice with my leg power "au naturel" but the result was my being in a bigger sweat than the horse.
I need to ride Kass a few more times to see how we progress together. I was working on getting his attention on me and I did a lot of changes of pace and direction. Halt to trot & walk to trot, a few strides and then starting over. Working on quick (quicker) responses to leg aids and building some curiosity and enthusiasm for what might come next. We ended up with some reasonable canter figure-eights, down to a trot stride and change direction back into canter.
Kass has natural balance and good confirmation. His brain is under-engaged and he's used to taking the lazy way out. He is known to put a new rider to the test.
If he were for sale, I would not be interested in buying him, based on this one trial. I'm keeping an open mind about signing up to share/lease him. One ride does not a decision make. There may be a capitulation on his part, next time he sees me coming, or I may be the one to cry "Uncle". I'll let you know.


  1. It genuinely sounds intriguing - makes me realize what a minutely intimate relationship it is to ride a horse; it's not just a matter of sitting there and holding on while it moves!

  2. Perhaps you can turn him around! Hope so.

  3. Sounds just like a Lippi!! Attitude and then some!

  4. That is one of the things I have learned to appreciate about you; you persevere. I like that you entered into the introduction ride with an open mind and are not quick to give up. I will be looking for the next time you ride Kass.

  5. Steve, there's The Art, The Science and The Passion. Uniting all three, even for a fleeting instant,is The Holy Grail.

    Di, I suspect we are both thinking about one another and how best to proceed.

    Trudi, I've not had personal dealings with a Lippi before. I expected something more like an Arab in sensitivity. Darn those preconceived notions!

    TechnoBabe, People or horses, there's always a deeper meaning worth understanding.

  6. LOL they can be sensitive once you unlock them, otherwise think single minded eastern european person!!

  7. I am agog at all these horsey issues - wouldn't have a clue how to read a horse more than superficially although I think they are the most wonderful animals.

    It's most interesting to learn this stuff, though, ER. I love the look of Lipizzaners and one of my little dreams came true last year when I watched a training session at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Good luck with this one!

  8. You don't make life easy for yourself , do you !
    Though , I must say , at work it's the "interesting" children I really enjoy working with . Making any breakthrough is so much more rewarding .

  9. The stuff I know about horses could be written on the head of a very tiny pin and most comes from decades-ago summer rent-a-horse rides.

    I wandered over here from (? maybe Fridge Soup) because I like the title. Now, I find myself fascinated by what I learn here.

    Probably won't comment much, but I'm enjoying the read. Thanks. and thanks to the commenters, too.

  10. Sounds as if you were on the right track with Kass. Lots of changing of direction and transitions do tend to sharpen a horse up.

    Also, for now, don't be afraid to reenforce your leg aid with the whip--provided it doesn't make him buck. That is the biggest concern right now as a lazy horse often uses the buck to both refuse the aid and intimidate his rider. You need to be able to ride it through and convince him you mean business. If he doesn't show any improvement in a ride or two, he may well not be the horse for you. Riding should have at least some element of fun to it and struggling with a slug is not part of it.

    Is there a place/way to trail ride? If he enjoys that you can work on forward outside--maybe even do some galloping. Sometimes that can carry back into the arena.

    Getting his brain engaged is really a good idea. Are there trotting poles? Cavaletti? Give him puzzles to figure out and, as you have already done, don't just ride around in a circle. And also, if you do an exercise and he does it well change to something else instead of drilling. If he is as bright as I think he is, he will learn to appreciate your respect for his intelligence. And give him lots of praise for any deed well done.

    I'll be interested in reading more about your adventure with this challenging fellow.

  11. Trudi, that was very helpful insight. "Polish Boyfriend Syndrome" clarifies a lot of things and gives me a new angle.

    Deborah, like dogs, proximity helps us learn a lot. This boy isn't white like the Spanish School Horses. He's a dark brown with lighter dapples underneath. He has that crested neck though.

    S & S, so true!

    Kate, please feel free to comment any time. I wish I had more horse moments to recount but there is a lot more general content to this blog. "It is what it is" as they say.

    Jean, I was hoping for your input. I was a bit embarrassed to start out whacking away, although his owner said he would probably need that in our initial test of wills. He lifted his butt to test me but nothing too serious and I pushed him forward. We did some loose cantering which motivated him a bit. This barn is in amongst vineyards and open space preserve so no problem finding trails. I'm told he loves trail riding and jumping. My sense is that his arena work has bored him as he's a bit of a smarty-pants. I just hope I'm smarter.

  12. Guess this may not be the pony you've been waiting for. Can a spoiled horse be un-spoiled ? Did you whisper in his ear... ?

  13. Owen, Spoiled doesn't necessarily mean "spoiled". He's been indulged. We need to work on his expectations in relationship to mine:)

  14. OK, then, here's the rule. Apply your leg at the pressure you want him to respond to. Only do it once and expect him to answer. If he doesn't immediately go to the whip. A sharp rap--don't beat, and make it quick. Hopefully he will move off at that. If he doesn't, hit again.

    You need to repeat this exercise and be quick and determined about it every time. Leg, and if no response, whip. Don't nag with your leg or he will learn to ignore your first request. You ask, he either answers on the first question, or "rap!" The first whip touch is polite, the second one demands.

    Unless he is a real slug, this should sharpen him up. But if this is as much a habit as it sounds, you will have to be diligent and not let me slide back into his old ways ever!

  15. Jean, Thanks. I'll let you know how he responds when I ride next. I watched his mistress on him yesterday. Even after a warm-up cantering him free in the round ring, she still had whip and spurs going without much response. The arena is like an infinity-pool with a view to die for. I might just stick it out, if only for that!

  16. I can't ride a horse, but this post is interesting to read.

    In my recent post, I mentioned you and your blog. See for yourself: