An Argument of Sorts

19 12 2012

Obedient, willing, forwards and responsive. All traits I had come to associate with the prettiest princess horse called Tara. This Saturday, she was none of those things… but still great fun to ride.

I had gone down to Nottingham for the weekend as a couple of events were happening, so Damian and I decided to book ourselves on a hack at that nice school down there. On this occasion we failed to persuade any of our other friends to join us, apart from Amy, who rents a horse (a chestnut mare called Nirvana) from the livery stables connected to it, located elsewhere in the country park in which it is situated.

Damian and I had been successful in securing our preferred choices of mounts: Saxon and Tara. I was very excited about seeing Tara again, hoping I’d be a better rider for her after all the additional lessons I’ve had since I last rode her. When we arrived she was out in a teens’ group lesson, and they were jumping! When they’d finished, I waited for the two young girls on smaller ponies either side of her to lead their ponies back into the stables; when they stopped, seemingly unsure as to whether they were to be taken back or not, I decided to just pass them and approach anyway. Before handing her over to me, her previous rider gave her a handful of Polos, saying, ‘Because she’s been a good girl,’ as she did so.

As I mounted her, she was perfectly well-behaved. I took great delight in telling the chap who came to adjust my stirrups and girth that she was going to be my horse for a day at the upcoming Own a Pony Day. In spite of him at first not believing me, this seemed to amuse him. ‘What, with all the other seven-and-eight-year-olds?’ he asked, and laughed at my enthusiasm. Heh.

We were on a hack with others rather than in our own little group this time. As soon as we set off, Tara proved a bit of a handful; no sooner had I been asked by the instructor leading the hack if I was there for a hack (I feel like I’ve typed the word ‘hack’ too many times for this paragraph now), she was off without me doing anything about it. I looked over my shoulder and saw that Damian was still having his stirrups adjusted, and tried to pull her back into the school and stop so we could set off together, but it was obvious that she knew what she was doing and was determined to just get on with it. Eventually I stopped fighting it and let her go (which was a mistake), leaving the others to catch up. We ended up in a row with the instructor on Harvey and a more experienced rider on Barron in the lead, myself behind them, a young girl behind me on a pony I don’t know the name of and then Damian and Amy at the rear.

At first I couldn’t get Tara to listen to me at all. She was too active in her walk to begin with, meaning her nose was right up against Barron’s bum, and then when I finally did get her to slow she wasn’t active enough. The first drama happened when we reached what I can only imagine must ordinarily be a canter path; our instructor called out behind her that we were going to have a trot and then a canter later on, but as soon as we approached the flat ground Tara (and, based on what I heard going on behind me, Saxon) enthusiastically leapt into a canter without my say-so. I pulled her back, and she groaned. We began an active trot, but the younger girl said she didn’t want to trot. She seemed to be an experienced rider – probably well above the level of myself and Damian – so I’m not sure what the reason for her reluctance was, but it may have been that she was nervous at having Saxon just behind her.

So we slowed to a walk. At this point – it was suggested to me fairly recently that horses are telepathic, and the more time I spend around them the more I could believe it – Tara and I seemed to enter into an unspoken dialogue. I started trying to push her on with my leg and trying to dictate which side of the path she should be walking on. She refused at first (and it definitely felt like a refusal to listen as opposed to wilful ignorance), and at a couple of junctions she tried to take a different turn to the rest of the group, really testing my control as I battled to keep her in line with the other horses. Eventually we reached the canter path; the more experienced rider in the group cantered on along this path ahead of us, but before she even set off Tara had started a canter herself. I pulled her back, trying to get her to stop behind the others, but she resisted me strongly; realising I wouldn’t be able to bring her to a stop, I pulled her head out to one side so she had nowhere to go. Upon realising what I’d done (and now standing at 90 degrees to the rest of the group), she growled back at me aggressively, and although she had no space to move into in front over her kept shifting on her hooves until the rest of the party walked on, at which point she fell back in line with them and walked on, obviously disgruntled. It was as though in my mind I was willing her to do as she was told, and she was transmitting the message back to me, Look, I know these woods better than you do. I know what we’re meant to do here and you’re doing this all wrong. Shut up and let me drive.

After this exchange – towards the end of the hack – she started to respond to my asks and I finally remembered to relax in my saddle. Tara became more manageable after this, and I had a sneaky trot without stirrups as we neared the school again. I gave her a long rein at the first opportunity, just because I could tell she was wound up and wanted to show her I wasn’t unsympathetic. We spent some time munching shrubs at the side of the bridlepath before being let back into the school to dismount, whereupon she tried to return herself to the stables before I’d finished putting her stirrups up. I later learned that this was because it was feeding time.

I was not the only person to experience difficulties on this hack, however. Our instructor carried a whip with her (unusually for a hack) and used it several times on Harvey. Amy reported that Saxon had bucked with Damian on his back (although Damian apparently didn’t realise what a big buck this had been, and remained calmly in the saddle). The experienced rider on Barron had difficulty at one junction getting him to go the right way, and at another (where she had ended up in the lead) she was told to go right and called out in response, ‘It doesn’t matter, he’s going that way anyway!’ It was as though the youngest member of the group was the only one who didn’t have any trouble with her mount, in spite of her concerns. I saw none of dramas involving Saxon, but was greatly amused to hear him making adorably grumbly noises. Heh.

After the hack we hung out for a short while with our respective horses. I was honoured to find that Saxon remembered me, in spite of not having seen me for nearly two months, and was affectionate towards both myself and Damian. While I was stood fussing Saxon, however, Tara was back in her stall, craning her neck around the corner and looking forlornly at me, so I returned to her stall to make a last fuss of her before I departed.

Saxon, here looking like a baby horse.

Saxon, here looking like a baby horse.

She’s a funny one. When I got back to her stall she didn’t show the slightest bit of notice to my attempts to fuss her, and was looking past me to where the feed bucket – approaching from the opposite end of the stable – was. It was as though she felt better for me being stood there, but she didn’t want me to do anything. The chap who’d been amused by my glee at telling him I was coming to the Own a Pony Day came and untacked and started grooming her, and I chatted to him about what a funny horse she is. Eventually the food arrived, and after some standing with her front hooves on a ledge just inside her stall and bracing her knees against the stall wall as though to try and climb out to where the food was, she settled with her muzzle in the feed. She started waving her foreleg as she was eating. I asked the man grooming her if she always did that when she was excited; he said that some horses do it when they’re enjoying their food, but that in that instance he couldn’t tell whether she was doing that or threatening to kick him because she wanted to be left alone to eat. The whole time she was stuffing her face, she kept one eye on me, until we left to meet Amy and walk her back to the livery stables where Nirvana is boarded.

Myself laughing on as Tara attempts to climb out of her stall to get to the food before it gets to her.

Myself laughing on as Tara attempts to climb out of her stall to get to the food before it gets to her.

When we reached the stables (it was strange walking on foot back through the woods in the dark), we (well, mostly Damian because he hasn’t had many opportunities to do that sort of thing) assisted Amy in untacking, grooming and dressing Nirvana up in her rug. Nirvana looked very confused when at one point I leaned against her and rested my head on her back to inhale her lovely, horsey scent, but this was a lovely way to round off what had turned out to be quite the eventful outing.

Inhaling Nirvana's lovely horsey smell.

Inhaling Nirvana’s lovely horsey smell.

Many thanks to Damian for the loan of these images, which were all significantly better than the ones I managed to obtain using my own camera. Heh.

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3 responses

20 12 2012
mellchan

Yay, photos! So, as I was reading this I noticed you mentioned something about your friend leasing a horse at the horse park?! What is this? Large horse properties and trails with many barns?
Sounds like Tara was feeling frisky! I think as you get more experienced horses can sense it and they “test” you more lol.

20 12 2012
onahorse

It’s like a large country park with bridle paths through the woods and two stables within it; one has the school attached to it, the other is a livery stables. They are both owned by the same woman as far as I know, but apparently she only recently acquired the riding school as well.

I’m quite enjoying having horses who ‘fight back’ now. I didn’t before as I found it demotivating, but now I have a better idea of what I can do about it… 😉

20 12 2012
gsug

Hurrah for Damien and his photos!

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