Monday, March 30, 2009

Bolting at Horse Shows

I just read this post on the Fugly blog and was horrified by the youtube video of a driving class gone wrong. This was really one of the most upsetting things I've seen in a while and I hope all people and horses are okay, though it's impossible to tell from the video. Besides the obvious -- the guys running around trying to stop the horses and inadvertently herding them into other horses, carts, and people -- I couldn't understand why one woman was still sitting in her cart. If it was me, I'd have jumped out once my horse was stopped and being held by someone else. Of course, within seconds after I thought that, a runaway horse knocked in the cart and tipped the woman and her horse over. What a pathetic mess!

Anyway, this video and Fugly's post made me think of Marve. The barn manager assumed I was riding him in the next show, which is coming up soon, and I shocked both her and maybe even myself by saying no. I want to sit this one out. She seemed almost disappointed in me, but the bottom line is I'm afraid something might happen. Marve came kind of close to bolting/freaking out at the last show we were in. Granted, there were no disasters, and everything was okay, but since then his bolting tendencies have gotten a bit worse, and especially in two particular ways: when we canter large, or when we end up riding fairly close behind other horses. And in this horse show, which would consist mostly of flat classes, where we're only going large and following closely to other horses, I didn't want to deal with the stress. And if I'm worried that he will get nervous and bolt, then he'd probably feel the tension and, well, bolt.

Maybe I'm being over cautious. It's definitely disappointing for me because I feel that Marve is easily capable of being in one of these shows, and being okay. If he had a stronger or better or more relaxed rider, maybe this wouldn't even be an issue. But the fact is that he bolts roughly every third or fourth time I ride him. Sometimes they are little bolts, but sometimes they are big and freaking terrifying and I cannot imagine how bad it would be if he did that in the show.

I am not too upset about skipping the show, at least not as much as I thought I'd be. What bothers me is I feel I'm moving backwards. After our last show, I assumed if I kept up the lease, we'd be in a much better place for this show and I'd feel more confident and prepared. So it's like I'm chickening out or something.

But after watching that driving class video, I'm reminded that safety always comes first. I do believe there is the potential for Marve to set off a similar situation in the show ring with things as they are, and I don't want that to happen.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I want a pony.

Some things never change. I will always want a pony. And judging by some horsey message boards I was on, it looks like this is a desire shared by other adult women, too.

True story: When I was about 5, I asked for a pony in my Christmas letter to Santa. Mind you that my mother had recently purchased her Arab mare so we already had an equine in our family. But this was not a horse I could ride or that was child-sized. And most importantly, she wasn't a pony. (Still, was I a brat or what?)

Good lord ponies are cute.

The smaller, the fuzzier, the better. I was looking at some of the ponies at the barn this weekend and was just overcome with pony ownership desire. The fact that I'm a tall adult might diminish my joy a bit since I couldn't ride said pony, but I still want a pony.

I know I will totally own a pony someday. Somehow, and perhaps not for logical reasons, that goal seems more attainable than owning a full-sized horse. I mean, I know ponies are a little cheaper to feed but other than that you're talking similar expenses. But still. Pony pony pony.

My dream is to have a nice big drafty or draft-cross as my riding horse. And then also a pony. Maybe I will rescue an older pony who can't be ridden anymore and who exists only to eat grass in my field. Oh, yeah, I have my own field in this dream, too. A small barn, a couple of pastures, an old farm house. And a pony. Works for me!

Yes, I've been thinking again about how I'd like my own horse. But now is definitely not the time, what with the economy and my job looking not entirely certain these days. I just have to remind myself that it can happen, and it will....some day.

As long as that "some day" also includes a pony at some point, I'm golden. :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Horse-Human Bond

A few months ago I ended up on some horse-related message board that appeared to be a big draw for young girls. The hottest topic for 11-13 year old equestrians? Bonding with your horse. Some girls were very anxious about how they could bond with a horse they ride once a week in lessons, especially considering that other kids rode this same schoolie as well. So how could they create the biggest, strongest bond with this horse? And what was the quickest way to do it? And how could they prove their bond was stronger than anyone else's?

I'll hazard to say that the bonding they were talking about is the romanticized, unrealistic type you see in movies, usually where a kid who knows nothing about horses magically tames some wild, unbroken stallion within 4 days simply by staring deeply into his eyes and stroking his muzzle to earn his trust. Obviously that is ridiculous, but I find it interesting that these kids are so into the concept of creating the mystical bond with a horse. Even more than that, they view it as sort of a competition or as bragging rights.

I guess I was thinking about all this and thinking of Marve. Obviously, relationships develop between humans and horses. Every now and then I'll think back to the Arabian mare I had as a child and get teary-eyed because I miss her so much. She was soulful and kind and gentle and intelligent. I loved her and I know she loved me.

But when I think over all the horses horses I've ridden or cared for, I don't think of the B-word. And that includes, to some extent, Mae and Marve.

It could be a simple time issue. I only had about 4 months with Mae, and I definitely felt more strongly connected to her by the end of the lease. And I'd wager that Marve and I definitely have more of a relationship now, about 7 months in. But I also don't feel particularly connected to Marve, and I guess that makes me feel guilty, and as if I should be working harder on it. (Hm, do they do couples counseling for people and their horses? Also, could this post get any weirder?)

Could part of it be that I'm still occasionally afraid of him? Or the fact that he doesn't have the best ground manners and isn't always the most pleasant horse to be around? Don't get me wrong, he definitely has a funny personality, and he likes to play and be goofy. But while sometimes I do feel like he is "my" horse, I don't always feel super attached to him.

Maybe that's because in some ways, I'm not entirely different from those girls on the message board: Maybe I am idealizing my former horse-human relationship with my Arab mare in the past, and I can't imagine having that bond again with another horse.

Or maybe it's because Marve is a 17-hand spooky TB who once bit me on the stomach for no apparent reason. Could that be it? :)