I set out to do a couple of fast hours today, but it ended up being two and a half hours of less mileage than I planned on. Still, the main goal was to sit on Dixie in the new saddle for several hours and see how well we fared, so I’ll call it a success.
Today, everything was utterly terrifying. I’d barely made it a mile from the barn when Dixie saw a jacket on a trail signpost (and heard the trail cleaning crew just out of sight around the corner) and went on high alert. She backed up about twenty feet, snorting and trying to spin and run, and I was like, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.”
So we worked on bravely walking past the other trail traffic. And there was a lot of it – I must’ve seen thirty people. Tons of dogs, a few bikers, one treacherous baby stroller. When we got to the far side of the park, we finally found a few pockets of solitude and got a little trotting in, but mostly we walked. Mostly straight ahead, but sometimes we walked sideways or backwards. :rolleyes:
The saddle seems to suit her. Dixie had nice even sweat marks and no tenderness, and she only thrashed her head around when we hit a section of trail with flies. (She spent the whole 35 miles at ROM flinging her head, which was the big blinking CLUE sign for me that she really wasn’t happy.)
I think it suits me, too. It’s a wider twist than I’m used to, but my ligaments will stretch out and get used to it – plus it’s good incentive to do yoga! The seat is kind to my ladybits, but rubs my butt just a little – either I’ll get used to that or I’ll slather on the Butt Butt’r more regularly. I can’t keep my feet in the right spot in the stirrups, so I’m going to order caged stirrups. Partly it’s the twist making it hard for me to keep my heels down, but it’s also the floppy English leathers that let the stirrups bounce more than I’m used to. I think I’ll buy some fleece and velcro and make covers for the leathers, too – if I like it, I’ll get sheepskin covers at some point, but DIY fake fleece will do for now.
I thought I’d give yall the history of the bucking too, while I’m posting.
The arena at this barn is kind of scary. One long side has trees and a cliff that drops down to the road below, where cars and bikers whizz by. The other long side has the cliff going up, and about 20′ above the arena is a small trail, where hikers sneak by on their way to whatever nefarious purposes hikers are up to. A lot of the horses at the barn are reactive in the arena. (In its favor, though, the footing is lovely sand, dragged every day by the amazing barn guys.)
Back in January and February, when it was raining all the time, I would ride once a week or so in the arena. Dixie would spook every so often but she wasn’t terrible. Sometimes she’d crow hop but I’d yell and yank her head around and she’d knock it off.
One day in early March, we went out to the arena. There was a kid on a lesson horse with the instructor and we shared the arena very nicely. Then this cowboy came out with his wild-ass palomino. The horse was wound way too tight, and when he put his foot in the stirrup it went sideways across half the arena with him hopping alongside, as one does. Dixie lost her mind at that and hopped a few times. I got her to stand and jumped off. I didn’t want to make the situation worse – that dude was not defusing things, and the poor kid was just trying to walk-trot, so we left.
Then yesterday I fiddled around with the saddle, rode her up and down the driveway hopping off and on and fussing with it, then went in the arena and she for-reals BUCKED. I am a chicken, I admit, but I didn’t feel confident riding it out in a new saddle with floppy stirrups blah blah blah, so we left again. I’m sure it just cemented this notion that if she bucks in the arena she doesn’t have to stay in the arena. Sigh.
So my plan is to stay out of the arena for a while. After I’m more comfortable in the saddle, and we do a longer ride, I’ll peek in the arena when we get back. If it’s empty, I’ll go Confront the Problem. But I’m not willing to set off a chain reaction of horses spooking at other horses spooking and bucking, and I’m certainly not ballsy enough to have that fight with a fresh, fit Dixie. It’s always something…
And one last thing – this repost by ~C is well worth a read, especially for my maybe-durance friends! Endurance riding is not for all horses. There’s no shame in giving up on endurance if your horse hates it or can’t do it. All the unlikely success stories are just meant to inspire you to try it. Give it 100% for a year or two, and if you can’t get your horse through a 50, no big deal. Get a different horse or a different sport!
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I want to move up with Dixie: not ride faster, but ride multidays or longer distances. One day I want to do The Big July/August California Mountain Ride, and I don’t know if she’s the horse that’ll take me to Auburn. If Dixie says no to 100s, I’ll be disappointed, sure. But I won’t know until we try to go further!