Jake..::.. Mr. Invicible
15.1 Hand Gelding
Paint / Quarter Horse? Your guess is as good as mine.
Roughly 24 Years Old
8 Years ago my father bought him for $25, with intentions for him to be a police horse
He failed, and became my Gymkhana/Barrel Horse
Now we are attempting to become Jumpers

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stuck in Reverse

When things started getting bad between Jake and I, the first thing I discovered that if Jake found he couldn't go forward he would go backwards. Not just back up a few steps and then be done, he would get under the bit, head between his front legs and run backwards. That horse could move backwards faster than any other horse I have ever been on. I could have loose reins, spurring his sides and clucking to my hearts content and he would only go faster. After he had backed up as far as he desired (typically about 100-200 feet) he would freeze, legs apart, head still down and I could do whatever and he would not move. I soon learned to leave well enough alone because if I started demanding that he move he would explode when he did move.

It was mental shut down at an extreme. Honestly I had no idea how to handle it, or how to prevent it. I know now that I drove him to shutting down. Every time I got frustrated and got rough with him he laid it all out that it was NOT okay. Unfortunately I had people telling me I was wrong, but no one told me how to do it right. People have such a habit of saying when things are wrong, that you're bad and what not. The level of frustration it creates when no one will tell you how to do it right. Obviously there was an issue that started it that needed to be handled, the way I handled it was incorrect and no one seemed to bother telling me that I was wrong. So next time I would try something else to only have everyone again giving me the harsh buzzer signal and "Wrong again!"attitude that would ring in my mind. Nothing worked, and I had little to no help. Any help that people offered either made him pick up NEW bad habits or didn't work in the slightest. I was frustrated, I just wanted to make it work and see progress and all I got was backwards training.

Jake became dangerous with his backing up. He paid no attention to what he was backing into or what he was backing off of. Trail riding became scary, if he got excited I would tighten up on the reins, Jake would only tolerate that for so long before he would be stuck in reverse. Riding near ledges, other horses, pedestrians became scary. It didn't matter if he was in his sliding gag bit, a snaffle or in a halter, he just did it.

Jake coming to a stop at a barrel after I asked for a rate.
Shortly after he backed up halfway across the arena.
It took me probably a year to figure out how to stop the backwards motion. Once again I had to learn that the hard way after another accident. I was at another gymkhana with a mystery event that Jake wasn't familiar with (he likes what he knows) I don't remember the name but there was two barrels about 4 feet apart, you had to go on the outside of both barrels, turn around one (either left or right on your choosing) and go between the two barrels to run home. Well I tried to bring Jake in slow, knowing he would want to go around both barrels and he fought me the whole way down, when I asked him for a rate he threw himself into the bridle (launching forward, throwing his head out), hitting the bit and sliding to a stop. He then balked and wouldn't move. It took me a solid minute (which seemed like an hour) to get him to move, at which case I got him back towards the gate before he started running in reverse. I tried pulling his head up, but he only went faster, then to my fathers horror he was moving faster than his back legs were, lost his balance sat down and then rolled over.

Luckily it was slow enough that I just jumped off and landed on my feet. Also lucky is that he got up this time. Everyone thought I had forced him to backup because I was mad and then pulled him over backwards. I tried to explain a few times that Jake runs backwards on his own accord, everyone was rather closed minded and told me "No horse would back up like that on their own accord". Once again no one wanted to help.

But this became the starting point of retraining. I wasn't going to continue like this, it was dangerous for me, Jake and anyone around us. I finally understood that in its entirety and made the choice to pull back from competing. My trainer (who also saw the incident) was the only person who saw the problem and knew that something had to be done to correct it. She had me start by continuing the show but only at a walk/trot. I continued the showing series for the rest of the year only going at a walk trot to help calm him down.

I found out that turning was the way to get him to stop backing up. Soon as he thought about backing up I would dig an inside heel into his sides and turn his head to disengage his hindquarters, as long as his back legs were crossed he couldn't back up. It took several years to get him to stop thinking about backing up. But the deciding factor came to the point of avoiding frustration. Avoiding the point where he would mentally shut down and back up. That idea came after his backing up turned into rearing, I wish I had figured him out sooner and avoided so much drama. Sadly it took me so long to really understand him.

It became the starting point of me understanding that there was an importance and different between the running balls to the wall crazy, and actually building up to it through training.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The End of the Rope

I don't think, when I was younger, I understood the fear that most people have with horses. Being on horseback from the time I was 6, and with almost no dramatic incidents left me relatively fearless. Sure I had taken a few tumbles. I had never really been hurt. Before Jake I had only fallen off a handful of times. The first time I fell off of a horse I had to of been 4 or 5 years old. I was being led around on a young reining horse when it spooked and bolted. I lasted maybe 8 seconds before I hit the dirt. I remember getting dirt in my eyes and being so mad at the horse that my fear was pushed aside. Just to say that horse got not pets or carrots from me when I was passing them out a few hours later.  After that I tumbled off once while riding bareback when I was 7ish, and once when I lost my stirrups at a gymkhana when I was 8.  Both were on dead calm lesson horses and I was unhurt after both. Then we had Sebastian when I was 12, he managed to buck me off once, and then another time he spooked while I was running home from practicing barrels, he went left I kept going straight. Those falls were scarier then the rest but I was still unhurt. Then I got Jake, and I never really fell off. I was crazy, riding bareback galloping and jumping logs out on trail, but Jake was so honest that he did anything that would make me fall.

The first time Jake really scared me I was about 16 years old. I had owned him for about three years then and we both were a little over out head with the barrel racing. We had been making a little improvement in our times but we were heading down hill with Jake's gate issue. It became all too clear at one show.

I had been begging my mom for years to come and watch me compete. Ever since she had seen me fall in my first show when I was 8, she had been hesitant to come and watch. Finally I convinced her to fly up to my dad's house. She also brought along her two sisters to watch me come and ride. I was ecstatic to have them watch me compete. My mom hadn't seen me ride much at all as I had done most of my riding at my dads. I wanted to show her what a good rider I was.

Well as expectations often go, I was so nervous that Jake and I were not doing so good. I wasn't focusing, he was bonkers and all in all it wasn't doing well. We had three events underway when I was about to go into the arena for the forth event, the previous rider was exiting the ring and I was heading for the gate when the gate person didn't notice me and swung the gate shut. Jake had already been cantering in place, tight as a spring when the gate him him in the face. Not only was the gate all of a sudden closed, it had hit him.  Jake lunged forward, and I immediately pulled his head over into a one rein stop. He kept spinning as fast as he could trying to run somewhere.

Right behind the gate is a huge hedge with a barbwire fence running through it. Jake had gotten his hoof caught in the wire once before and has pulled a shoe so I didn't want him anywhere near it. He spun right up next to it so I released him out of the one rein stop to try and get him away from it. All he saw was a gap in the hedge that he could fit through into a nice big open field. I was staring at the barbwire fence in the middle. Jake took the bit, locked up his neck and charged into the fence. There was nothing I could do as he felt the fence with his chest, recognized it was a barrier and used all of his power to try and jump over it. His front legs got caught in the wire and he flipped over.

Somehow the momentum through me hard enough that I landed a good 10 feet away from where he landed. I instantly had the wind knocked out of me and I saw stars. I instantly started crawling away from the direction I knew Jake was in. I didn't know how close he was and I didn't want to be close when he tried to get up. I stopped and turning around, Jake was on his stomach, still laying down. He was frozen like that before he slowly laid down on his side and stopped moving. I crawled as fast as I could (unable to breath) over to his side, he didn't even move when I touched his side, his eyes were rolled back into his head.

It was then that I could hear the shouting, people were climbing over the fence trying to get to us. My dad was frantically bellowing my name. I managed to cough out an "I'm fine." Though I could say as much about Jake. Even with the people climbing their way through the bush and running around, Jake hadn't moved a muscle. If I had been able to catch my breath I'm pretty sure I would have started crying. Someone told me to hold him down, so I moved to his head and put a knee on his neck. He still had his eyes rolled back, he was breathing heavily, that was the only thing that let me know he was alive.

Someone started checking him over, pulling the barb wire off his legs. They then told me to try and get him up. Everyone stood back as I stood up and clucked, when I got no response I pulled on his tie down to try and tell him to get up. He was a dead weight in my hands. Someone came over and gave him a huge slap to his belly. Jake still didn't move. So everyone started checking him over again, finding more blood on the ground someone said that he might have impaled himself with a rod. My heart dropped, at this point I could get enough breath to start crying. I was thinking, 'this is it....I've killed him.....he is going to die right here in front of me'.

To our luck someone said that they found both rods and that he couldn't have been impaled. The next decision people made was to untack him, we managed to get the saddle and bridle off so he was just in the leg wraps and tie down. After he still hadn't moved, Brie looked him over and noted that his eyes were no longer rolled back, but he still was moving. Then four men (including my father) mover to Jake's back. Brie folded Jake's legs up, the men were going to try and roll Jake onto his stomach and get him up.  Brie and I both grabbed Jake's tie down and as the men rolled Jake onto his stomach Brie and I pulled on his head, while another person smacked Jake's hindquarters with a crop. The combination of everything seemed to bring Jake back to and he jumped to his feet.

Everyone began clapping and I gave him a big hug. Brie looked him over and were found several cuts along his legs and chest, but nothing that was serious enough for him to need stitches. Walking him out he had a noticeable limp on one of his back legs but no swelling or injuries were noted. We ended up having to wander around the property to find the gate to find a way out. My family were all horrified fussing over me but I just wanted to make sure that Jake was okay. We spent a good hour letting him relax at the trailer and dressing his wounds. His back leg ended up cramping and he kept kicking out. We ended up massaging his hindquarters, which stopped the problem. Luckily the vet was also showing that day and said that he would just need time off. So after he was relaxed and not in as much pain we went home, got him some bute and that was it. He ended up being 100% sound again a few days later.

I ended up having a hard time breathing for a few months, but no damage was found at the doctors. That was the first time a little bit of fear was started with horses.  Having watch me fall off 2 out of 2 times  at shows, my mom didn't really watch me ride again for a very long time. I was learning just a little of the world that truly these are large animals that we barely get to control. I also learned that Jake was just at the point where he was out of control and something needed to be done.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Then the Fight Began

Honestly, it doesn't take long to turn a horse into a hot mess. It was probably the end of my first gymkhana series that Jake knew what was going on. He knew that in the morning we would get to the show grounds, enter the arena for a warm up, then any time entering the arena after that would be gallop time. He did get a better understanding of what he was doing in the arena, but we still lacked any sense of finesse to do a good job.

So it started to happen that soon as we would start to walk to the gate after warming up, Jake would shorten his strides, raise his head and fight the bit. He would also flag his tail and lift his knees high and snort. Many non-horsey people would get a kick out of it saying that I looked like I had a parade horse. While horse people just knew to stay out of my way, possibly knowing that I was creating my own time bomb.

With the high level of energy and the lack of a real control, events turned into battles. I would demand control and Jake would be so high on his own need to gallop that our frustrations and fights really started to come into play. I would enter the arena and he would go crazy, trying to bolt, prancing, turning when I was trying to keep him straight, running sideways, tossing his head and over all just barely in control. I would spend the first 20-40 seconds in the arena doing circles trying to get him to listen and calm down. Then the run would begin and I would try to rate around turns, but everything was ignored and our runs were sloppy.

I practiced at home as much as I could (which was once a month), and Jake was improving. He was understanding rating, and really digging in to the turning. He started getting his flying lead changes and really focusing. Yet somehow that never translated into the shows, I was nervous, he was nervous and the shows never yielded better results. The time passed and I grew angry. Angry that I wasn't getting better, angry that Jake would do great at home and would be out of his mind at the shows, angry that everything was a fight. So I started getting rough, jerking on the reins when he didn't want to listen. I didn't know what else to do anymore. I grew up in a place that it was discouraged, but seen at shows. To yank on a horse's mouth when they misbehave. Though as everyone knows, it never helps, and always makes the situation worse. Though luckily most shows have a sportsmanship clause and people get kicked out for rough behavior. I got warned a few times and did my best to kick the habit.

Yet Jake kept getting worse and worse. Soon he would start through temper tantrums, refusing to move, bouncing up and down, running out on the bit. It wasn't a pretty picture.

Though not all of it was bad. Sometimes we would have our moments of brilliance and somehow have a great show where my training at home would really pay off. Jake was fast, and if he turned, well then we would do good with our placing. Though half the time we blew any chances with a temper tantrum or a disqualification. I lived for those moments where we could pull something off. Those people that I talked  to regularly (who probably though was as much of a nutter as my horse) were surprised to figure out that I only got to ride once a month and that Jake only got out when I rode him. It became something I looked up to, that despite the odds we accomplished  something. Though despite that Jake acting up in the arena was going to be the least of our worries.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rainy Days Mirrored in Me

It pored today. My ride and day had been canceled from the moment I stirred from my sleep to hear the drip drop of rain falling from my windowsill. The sound of the wind crashing its way through the trees and rattling my windows only made me pull the covers up tighter and wish for sleep. The bed was so warm and comforting I stayed there for hours, drifting in and out of that half sleep of la la land. Mornings are hard enough for me to get out of bed for work or any thing else. Yet it was 10:30 (when I had woke up at 8:00) and I still couldn't pull myself up out of bed. I thought to my day a head, look for my missing wallet that I had already turned my house and car upside down looking for...Then, if I failed, go to my bank to try and cancel my card and order a new one....then try and somehow get money out of my account with no ID...then stop by the DMV to start the horrible process of getting a new ID. The whole task seemed so daunting that I refused to get out of bed.

 It was then I started to consider if there was something wrong with me. The sadness and frustration with a mix of lack of motivation for much of anything. Jake still needed to get out, it wasn't raining hard enough to really stop me. (It very rarely rains hard enough to stop me from going out to the stables) Even that couldn't pull me out of bed. I started considering my rather mood over the past year and something my father had said to me. We don't see each other much anymore, I do not have the time or the job flexibility to travel all the way up to visit him. So we keep in contact over the phone every couple of weeks. At the end of our conversation last night my father had asked, "Honey are you okay? You haven't been yourself the past couple of times I've talked to you...is everything alright? You seem so down." He went on to explain that I could tell him anything and I needed someone to talk to. He asked if I was getting out with my friends enough, if I was having fun...I didn't have the heart to tell him the truth so instead I told him I was just stressed and tired.

Truth is, I'm starting to wonder if I'm depressed. I had always thought that people who were truly depressed just had a form of PTSD, or were having mental issues like bipolar disorder. I never looked into it, never sought to understand. I just saw commercials and some people who said they were struggling with it. The other alternative was that people like to think they are depressed and use it as an excuse to be unmotivated in their lives. Then the medications would hopefully have a placebo effect. The more research I do, the more I find out how wrong I was. The more I find out how I fit in the categories.

My life has not been close to bad, I have never been beat or abused. I have two parents and three siblings that love me. I have a group of friends that have been with me through thick and thin that I can always rely on. I have a good job, am lucky enough to own a horse and get the privilege to go to a good university. Now why am I so down on life? I don't know. I know how lucky I am, how privileged, and how good of a life I live. Still I can't seem to pull myself up out of bed in the mornings.

My life has not been all sunshine and roses either. My parents divorced when I was one, my mom remarried when I was three, my dad when I was nine. Then my mom divorced again when I was 14, remarried when I was 18. I get along decently with my mom's third husband (J), didn't get along with her second (S) and my step mother (K) and I avoid each other when possible.  I have been in a way 'homeless' and on the edge of loosing everything. I have helped raised and cared for my three step siblings (Two Sisters : 5 and 4 Years younger than me, one brother 10 years younger than me).

Ever since my mothers second divorce from 'S' I have been the emotional caretaker. My family and I managed to live in a few family friends houses. All 5 of us would squeeze into one bedroom to live in. We did that for three months before my mother found a house for us to rent. The divorce from my father had been smooth, with them agreeing that separate would be better. The divorce between S and my mom was a brutal fight for everything. I knew of everything that went on, I saw the tears my mom shed wondering how we were going to buy clothes for school that year when S kept dragging my mom to court for every little thing, racking up the lawyer fees.

From there on I learned to be strong, if I was upset my mom would become more distraught that I knew how bad things were. So I learned to hide my own fears, and act as the strong support. I held my mom as she cried more times than I can ever count. My siblings were always easily upset when my mom is, so I had to be strong for them too. So they could see that someone had faith that we would pull through. I have stayed this person for years and years. I was my mother's personal consult, she came to me with her problems and I would listen.

Eventually I went away to college, where I became so stress out I developed IBS, I started failing classes, I couldn't concentrate, I studied and was still struggling. The more I stressed the worse my condition got...I started missing classes, missing finals because I wouldn't be able to get to school. So I learned to to turn it off, just like before. I learned to not care, soon as I stopped caring about finals and grades my IBS disappeared. Though my grades continued to stay down. So my mother pulled me back home. I was brought back into my moms shaky world with J, who had bad marriages before and was in the rut with his own kids and old wives of shouting and verbally abusing each other equally....then forgetting it the next day. My family has never worked like that, we never treat each other poorly, we very rarely yell, and we never insult or cuss at each other. We take words as they're said, and don't forget easily. It does not get washed away with a casual "I'm sorry" the next morning. J keeps trying to fight with us, my mom intervenes and so he turns on her.

Today makes the third time that my mom has given the "We might have to leave" speech to me in the past 3 years. The other two times, the kids were at S's house and I was left to pick up the pieces of my mother's broken heart. This time the kids were here, got to hear the yelling and my mom's sobs. Only this time its worse, we can't go anywhere. My mom just had a hysterectomy to remove cancerous cells from her body. She's weak and in a lot of pain. What was this fight over? The water ran cold in J's shower, he was about to go on a search to find out who was responsible for it. Our water heater sucks, everyone has to deal with cold water spots, but god forbid if you take a shower when J wants to, or turn on the washer machine, or the dishwasher....or flush a toilet. My mom managed to drag herself out of bed to stop him and to ask him to calm down and forget about it.

It ended in a huge fight, with my mom crying (she started because she was mad, the continued because she was in so much pain) I wanted to intervene to get him to leave her alone. Yet I couldn't pull myself out the door and down the stairs to confront him. I'm so afraid of making it worse for her in the end. I don't want to make it so bad that we have to leave with the condition my mom is in. I can't stand to see her so hurt, so tonight I cried with her. J left so I had to help her upstairs, give her the medication and tuck her into bed.

I can't detach myself from this...I am having trouble staying strong. Thats who I am for my family if anything, I stay strong for them. I hate myself for many reasons, I'm emotionally weak. I'm socially weak. I can't stand up to anyone, I can't ever say no, I can't put myself first. I work 37 hours a week, go to school roughly 6 hours a week, drive my siblings to school in the morning, somehow fit in taking care of Jake, then rarely get to see my friends. Next semester I will be going to school full time and commuting and hour to get there three days a week. I don't know how I'm going to organize everything.

Sorry dad, I won't be making new friends. No, I still do not have a boyfriend, or anyone asking me out on dates, no I don't go out to parties, no I don't do anything that is fun. I cry half the time when I ride, from all my frustrations, and I don't feel like I belong anywhere. I wish I had a sense of identity instead of molding to what everyone needs me to be. Who am I? I don't know, just a spineless blob of play-doh that every gets to mold as they wish.

I am so blessed, with food on the table, a roof over head and love from friends and family. I still can't get out of bed in the mornings...I'm still so tired all the time...I feel like I don't even want to see my friends anymore...Jake is the only thing that gets me out of bed by choice...not even that worked today.

I'm thirsty anyways, so bring on the rain.

Monday, December 12, 2011

3 Barrels 2 Hearts....and my dream.

I grew up with horses in an old western town. Well at least old as in the mindset of the people. The nearest walmart is 35 minutes away...the nearest mall is over an hour. Everyone knows each other, and its all a country life style. You have only a few suburb type communities that had gone up over the last two decades. The public park has a lions club, a playground, and a rodeo arena. The rodeo arena gets the most activity. Out there I always saw just as many cows, horses and deer than I saw of people.

So when I wanted to show, there was only one thing that went on that all the girls that rode did. The one thing that was held once a month, and I looked forward to every summer for years.

Barrel Racing.

Middletown Days 2005
Taking my need for speed...with horses and putting it into an event. It was my kind of gig. Plus it was what I had been taking lessons for for many years before I got Jake. It was just natural that I wanted to go into it. At my dad's property I had one old oil drum that I found and began practicing turning around it. I also begged my dad to hook up the trailer and drag me to my trainers for lessons. We weren't good, Jake was hard to work with and I just wanted to go go go. It didn't help that I was the only one that rodeo Jake, and I could only ride Jake when I visited my father, which was a friday through sunday every three weeks. After my parents moved to southern california, I became more than a frequent flyer. Every three weeks I was on an airplane up to northern california, then back down three days later. Within the 8 years that I did this I probably flew well over 500 flights. This traveling was part of who I was. I know my way around an airport, know the protocals, and could even recite the "In the case of an emergency landing there are six exits......" Not many people know that the water that you order comes in an aluminum can. ;) Anyhow, this meant that Jake's training was very very slow and would take months. I never know how he learned anything with three days training and somehow rememeber some of it a month later.
Speed Barrels 2005

It took me a while to convince my father to let me compete in the yearly rodeo, Middletown Days Rodeo and Gymkhana. It was some glorious moment when my father agreed to let me compete in 2005. I was 14 and ready to go. I wish I remembered more of my first few shows. I don't, all I remember was going fast and not doing much turning. He was quick, but we didn't have the foundations down. I didn't care too much I got my adrenaline fix and though that over time we would get it down. I couldn't get through a pole course, Jake overshot everything and I would end up having to trot the course.

I came home with a few ribbons and was so proud of myself and Jake. I had gotten compliments from people around me on my first real show. I didn't care that we weren't doing it perfect or right, I was just happy to be doing it.

Cloverleaf Barrels 2005
The mistake that a fellow participant made was to bring to light that once a month there was a gymkhana at the rodeo grounds for anyone who wanted to come. It was there it started and I turned to my dad with every hope that I could compete every time I visit my father. Truthfully my dream was heading down the dark path of little training, a need for speed and a hot horse. The horse that was still prancing from the high of a gallop out of the arena, the head tossing and the fight for turns were all precursors of what was to come.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hide the Booze and Run! Its Officer Jake!

My father riding Oliver (Dun/Another Officers horse) on the Left
My father was not only my hero, but one for the city he worked in as well. He became an officer before I was born, and I have several pictures of me riding my fathers work bike or with him in uniform. So after I started getting into horses he started entertaining the idea of becoming part of the city's mounted police unit.   My dad had gotten Sebastian first, as he fit the bill of what the unit was looking for physically, a dark colored, tall, gelding. Sebastian failed the mental part horribly, it was during a training (well they hadn't even gotten into the arena with the items for desensitizing) when he reared up and flipped over on top of my dad. So with Sebastian a no, Jake became the next potential police horse.

He did everything that Sebastian wouldn't, he didn't spook, he would walk through/by anything and never said no. My dad said he was always surprised at the stuff that wouldn't send Jake running for the hills. I have to say they do some intense stuff with those horses. One example is they have to light a fire cracker from horseback, drop it into a barrel and have the horse stand by as the fire cracker went off. Jake would jump but would still stand in place on a loose rein. 

Another exercise was for crowd control. This was always my favorite story. The local swat team would come out, lock arms and get told to do everything they could to not let the horses pass through their line. My dad had laughed while explaining the smug look on their faces, that they had no grasp of the concept that a 1200lb animal was about to come push them out of the way like they were no more then blades of grass. Some horses balked at the line, not wanting to push through the shouting and waving arms of the swat team. My dad he pointed Jake towards the line and gave him his head and Jake plowed through the line like it was nothing. The swat team was knocked off their feet, on guy had the guts to try and grab the reins, and my dad told Jake to turn into the guy and Jake knocked the guy flat on his back. 

Jake did anything and everything. Kids could hang off his ears, he would push through anything, and wouldn't spook. Yet he still failed, why? Even if Jake can hold still for days without fidgeting his hot nature while moving was dangerous. If agitated he would sidestep into a crowd of innocent people and knock them over like the swat team. He could not be trusted to calmly walk forward because he just wanted to run. 

Dad riding Oliver again, Dun, second from left
Several trails were a hassle as Jake carelessly would sidestep off a ledge, prance down sand dune (which caused a fall onto his side) and trip over pebbles. Most horses if you give them a hard enough terrain will focus on their feet and slow down. Not Jake, he keeps doing what ever he wants to do and goes in the direction where he wants to go with no concern towards his own health. How would that horse manage to handle curbs, stairs and concrete? Not well. So Jake flunked out of officers training. It was a short lived dream, but by that time I had enough of a grip on him that I made sure my father would never sell him. In 2006 we got Jessie, a calm foundation quarter horse that managed to work out perfectly for the mounted unit and my father was able to be a part of the unit. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Wanted to be Free

Novels played a big part in my dreams. The books of my childhood were that of adventures with horses (surprise, surprise). Some of my favorites was Pony Pals, The Black Stallion Series, and others I can't remember the name of. I always imagined being able to swing up on my nobel steed with no tack and gallop into the sunset. This notion was one that never really left me and got me into some trouble and had my poor father worriedly watching my progress. I always wanted to go faster, more reckless...I wanted to tame the wild beast and be one.

The first step in this process was to get rid of the saddle. Bareback was first on my list. So to properly concern my father, not only did I want to ride farther and farther away from his view on our property, I wanted to take the saddle off as well. So I put Jake in a bridle, climbed onto the fence and hopped on. I started slow. It was such a relief that Jake was round compared to the old, sway-backed ponies I had rode with my instructor. Jake was nice and round...and easy to slide off of. So I took it slow, I would spend laps doing circles around the pasture. I soon learned how to balance without touching Jake with my lower legs, as any contact meant for him to speed up. He was sensitive enough that any slight movement from me would send him off. I learned to be calm with my seat and my legs, to control them by keeping them off his sides while staying balanced.

Though I did progress slow, I never stopped progressing. Soon I started trotting bareback (though I'm 70% sure I skipped to cantering first, Jake was bouncy as heck) then moved up faster and more technical. Soon I found myself lazy and not even wanting to pull out the saddle, so riding bareback became my style. I would trail ride, gallop, and train bareback. I developed a good seat, anything I could do with a saddle I could do without. It came from balance, as I couldn't really grip with my legs.

I recently went to a trainer to work on my own equitation for english and the trainer surprised me by saying that she thought I had a very faulty sense of balance and that if the horse did anything by surprise I would fall off, all because I didn't use my calves when I rode. She said the horse would crow hop and I would be a goner. I didn't say anything but laughed in my head. I have been through some crazy stuff bareback and have never fallen off. I guess thats one thing I have to give credit to Jake, he gave me the confidence to ride bareback and in that I was able to establish a balance not depending on how hard I can grip with my legs. Not that it does any good for my eq, I have many years of removing the habit so I can stop gripping with my knees.

Anyhow, after some time I got tired of hopping on a fence to get on Jake bareback. He learned quick that if he sidestepped away from it I couldn't get on. Doesn't matter what I did he would sidestep two steps with his hindquarters. No amount of gentle reprimands, tough love, and working got him to stop...He would just as calmly move over anyways. Even if I stood with a lunge whip on his opposite side and smacked him till no end to move over. He would look at me in the eye and say "Nope". So I had a change of plans. I had to learn to mount from the ground, like the cowboys just run...and swing up!

So I grabbed a fistful of mane would take a few running steps and LEAP...and then crash into the side of Jake. I spent hours trying hard as I could...days went by and I kept getting closer and closer. Jake was amazing, every day he would stand there as I pretty much ran into his side repeatedly. Though even he couldn't cope with my nonsense forever. I had to of been my 400th try on the third day when I managed to swing one leg over, and was trying to pull myself up when Jake swung his head around and bit me right on my butt. It wasn't hard, didn't even leave a sore spot. But I was so surprised I fell right into the dirt at his feet. He was staring down at me sheepishly, I could just imagine him thinking, "I can't take it anymore sorry." That was the only time Jake ever thought/attempted to bite me. He hasn't made any move since then to even indicate that he was thinking about it. I guess he had enough. (I know I would have too!) Shortly after that I mastered the swing up. It comes in very handy and is a nice way to impress other people. ;-)

I always smile when I think back to all the times I would ride around with no saddle, I went through many pairs of jeans because the dirt would lighten the color of my jeans and wear them down faster. My mother started giving me 'no bareback' pants when we would go shopping for school. I never seemed to mind the dirt butt back then either, walking around stained all down my legs. Yet that is how I grew up running wild and crazy with my wild and crazy horse.