Sunday, March 16, 2014

Decision time

I headed to the Texas Trail Challenge Friday as a judge so that Maggie could compete on her mare, Dixie.  Dixie is older than we had originally thought she was (This seems to happen to Maggie a lot, as her first pony was supposed to have been 15 and was 25) and she is suffering from ulcers, so we have decided to give her a break.  Maggie has decided to compete in TTC this year instead of NATRC, which is longer and faster and harder on Dixie at this stage of her life.  To this particular ride I had to bring a horse to get to my judging spots and I chose Fiera for this activity because I figured that she would stand quieter and be better riding out alone. Liberty will ride out alone, but if Dixie is there he wants to be with her and Dixie isn't as good either. Dixie is a siren to our other horses. 

To back up a moment, I rode Fiera in her first NATRC ride last weekend. While we placed last (which I had assumed would be the case) She behaved very well and did a good job for a baby on her first outing. She even handled being left behind when he buddy had to leave her beautifully. I have often been told I should ride her alone more and after my success last weekend felt comfortable doing so. 

I headed out of camp with minimal difficulty. Fiera didn't want to leave her friends but she did it anyway with only a few discussion. we had trouble getting through the gate, but it's a bad gate, so I wasn't all that worried.  We rode out with some other people and then rode on. We passed several people on the way out to wear we were supposed to be and she was relaxed and happy. I was singing You are my Sunshine and All Creatures of our God and King....and then it happened.  She "spooked" and the next thing I know was running off to the right...without me. I landed hard and she was running fast.  Several people came back on the scene quickly. I lay still for a long time because I hurt so bad. I wasn't sure I was going to be able get back to camp on my own, walking, but I did. Fiera made it back to the fence where Maggie was riding around. She brought her back to me and we walked back together. I then tied her up and promptly ignored her the rest of the weekend. Of course, I fed and watered her, but no love, no pats, no affection. I was pretty pissed and not sure I wasn't done (still not sure).

So, the contemplation began...

Her mother used to do this to me. She'd be solid as a rock and then she would spook and run away for no apparent reason.  But, Fiera is just a young horse, not even six, perhaps she really was afraid...but it felt like she "upped her game" on me. We had a series of smaller things we'd been working through and I was finally over being afraid of that stuff and we were becoming a good working pair. then, when something scared her, she totally forgot I existed and ran off, as I feared. I have Liberty to compare her to and he doesn't run off even when I fall, so she has a lot to live up to. 

What have I done wrong in the relationship? I can really think of anything, though I have always felt a lack of connection to her.  I try to work with her, but have the distinct impression that is in it "for herself"  She makes no effort to take care of her rider in any way. It's all about her. No one matters to her when she is afraid or angry. Maybe I have pushed her too fast. One friend says that maybe I'm expecting too much too soon. She's an Arab and they don't mature quickly. She's not yet six. Maybe mentally she's not ready.  Maybe I need more training on her? I can't really afford this.

Could a better ride have stuck it? Maybe, but she was really scared (apparently) and/or really determined to run away. If I had stuck it out, would I have come off worse later in a worse spot. I was lucky I fell out in the open instead of in the woods or up against a fence or something. I have ridden out a runaway and it's so not fun.

A couple of friends say to ride alone more. One has given me a good, safe way to ride "alone" mostly meaning to not take any of her buddies with me. Not so much that I ride alone with no one there, but to ride alone with none of her stablemates for her to lean on or run back to, making me her herd.  Another friend says I just need to go and ride alone. But I now don't feel safe riding alone. I have the big what if I had been riding alone...really alone...and this had happened.  I would have been horseless and alone and that's not a great plan. I see the positives in riding alone and I can't say I'm actually afraid the riding. It's the falling off that hurts.

Another good friend knows these horses really well and suggests that I give her more time because she is young and that she will likely mature into a really nice horse if I give her a couple more years.  My thinking on this is twofold.  My friend is probably right and she probably will become a solid citizen in the next couple years...but it's going to take a lot of work.  I'm not sure I have it in me to do this for another 2 years.  I will be on guard every time I ride. Of course, that may be what I need to do. People had suggested that I was spooking her because I was tense. I think I can lay that to rest now. I was calm and cool and not at all worried.  I actually suspect that she spooked because I wasn't as "on" as I should be.  So, in the future I have to stay more "on" and less relaxed which makes her more relaxed and makes no sense to me.

So, Maggie was going to ride her in the clinic in the hill country next weekend, but then changed her mind. I was able to talk her into it with a couple of modifications. We are going to take only Fiera, no friends for her, just Fiera. And if she does anything stupid in the next 6 months like she did to me, I agreed to list her for sale.  I think that we will take it one ride at a time and start to build on the relationship.  I also think that she will be a fantastic horse for someone, though maybe not for us.  I may list her for sale for a decent price and see what happens. She is good, just young and inexperienced.  In the mean time, Dixie can rest and I can ride Liberty, who is my first love.  I also find myself thinking about something Dave Ramsey tells people when making money decisions. If you didn't own it, would you buy it. I can't say I'd buy her if I hadn't bred her.  But I also know that because I bred her I have responsibility to do by her the best I can.

We will see what  the next week brings. And hope for the best.

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