Phebes has been idle for a long time. Almost eighteen months since she's had any "real" riding. The winter will soon be upon us, which means I need something concrete to do. I'm not a good shut-in. Today was one of those crisp Fall days when the sky looks like it is forever, and the air feels sharp and good in your chest. A simplistic way of putting it, is you feel alive. Good.
My agenda for today was to fit Phebes to a headstall, and perhaps try a bit for the very first time. It isn't that I felt she needs a bit necessarily, but rather that she should be well-rounded enough to go bitless or bitted. Since my soujourn with the Speckled Wonder I've come to appreciate the extra communication that happens with a bit. So I bamboozled Phebes into her halter and snapped her onto the trailer with The Clip. Having no idea of what to really expect after a year and half off, I did a little sacking out, touching the "no" places until she was non-reactionary, wiggling the saddle to her general annoyance, same with the breast collar. She fell into some of the nasty biting behaviors over this, that, and whatever. I just persisted at doing the annoying thing, and then stopping when she quit reacting. Pretty soon all was well. Then I put a snaffle with a roller ball and a very short shank in her mouth. Of course this set off all kinds of chomping and chewing. Once that was worked out, I fastened the reins on both sides to the pommel of the saddle so that if she got high headed she would meet resistance. It worked well, so I had her do low energy trotting in circles on a long line attached to her halter/ bridle with me on the ground. We did those for awhile, and then some side-passing from the ground, backing up with light pressure on both reins, yielding her front and hind quarters. When she got moody I just kept doing what I was doing until her face relaxed, and then released. I spent a few minutes putting weight in the stirrups to see if I'd get a nasty reaction, and she was looking kind of snarly faced, so we worked at that in a low-key way. Pressure. Release. Pressure. Release. Her expression softened. There was only one thing left to do, and that was climb aboard. I'd say Phebes is easily 14.3 + and I haven't been swinging myself up that high for awhile. I could have, but I thought again of how to do this in a way to make it less uncomfortable for her in general. I rolled an old tire into the round pen and used it as a mounting block. Foot in, up, over, and gently settled in. The moment of truth. I lifted the rein, and she stepped off. I could feel her energy buzzing beneath me, but she walked calmly, steered light as a feather, backed off of a lifted rein, side passed, and was just beautifully responsive. I leaned back in the saddle, she stopped. It wasn't good, it was darned near perfect. I dismounted. Pressed my face against her neck, and entirely choked up. However Phebes may feel about me, my heart still belongs to her. Everything she did today was a result of many long and sweaty hours of my work with what has been described as an impossible horse. A horse an expert trainer told me "not to turn my back on." Pressed against her neck I told her, "you did a good job", and she lowered her head and sighed. It was a beautiful moment. ~ E.G.
Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Favorite Links for training, gear, and memberships!
- National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering
- HOW TO CMO
- What is CMO?
- Old Dominion Endurance Rides
- Renegade Hoof Boots
- Riding vs. Racing a discussion with the Duck.
- Trumbull Mountain's INTRO TO ENDURANCE RIDING
- Principles of Conditioning
- Conditioning the endurance horse by SERA
- Short Article: Feeding & Training the Endurance Horse
- Feeding the Endurance Horse, Swedish Author
- Preventing Dehydration In the Endurance Horse, Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association
- Jim Holland's fantastic training links here!
- South Eastern Distance Rider's Association