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We Are Flying Solo

March 15, 2013

The Becky Diaries: Day 4: Cross Country

You FB peeps already guessed who this snoozer is!
It was Pi Day!  But I forgot to get pie to celebrate, sigh.

The days seem too short, even as they technically get longer!  Although I am determined to catch more morning schools now, to heck with real world duties!

Today was a mini XC school -- we've gone through the three disciplines I think so Becky can get a feel for Encore and where he is and how he ticks.  Simple exercises to establish and focus on the basics.

It all began well enough, with Encore cruising in a lovely, round rhythm through yesterday's cavaletti bounce.  I could feel he had definitely used some energy in the past two days (haven't we both!?) but I'd stretched him in warmup and he still felt solid.

It was a short loveliness.

I felt his body stiffen as we paused to listen to Becky and his head whipped towards the barn up the hill.  It was the "OMG WARNING DANGER CONCERN!" body language and his ears (and brain) trained like a laser away from me to whatever silent menace he perceived.

I moved on to a simple jump series of BN bench/cabin-types, then added a N table.  He jumped but his focus remained elsewhere.  We were a hot mess the first time through and required some putting back together.

Two mares at the same time!  Lesson in leg yield.
Normally, it is not difficult to keep him up and in front of my leg as long as I concentrate, but now, I was riding Solo -- pushing him up into the contact and having to work for it.  No fair spoiling me then taking it away, horse!

We moved down to a wide ditch, but at this point, his brain had hit rolling boil and it appeared we were being stalked by a saber-toothed tiger.  He probably did not appreciate us laughing at him, but sorry buddy, work trumps invisible tigers.

So it took some coaxing to cross the ditch, but cross he did, although by braille a few times.  We continued to walk across it until he jumped it with some semblence of order.  Since he remained intent on his perceived predator, I had to compete hard for his attention to bring him back to walk each time.  It was extremely helpful when Becky had me lower my "whoa" hands from my shoulders (I know I'm not the only one whose hands come up when trying to stop the mildly desperate horse) to Encore's withers.  It helped lower his energy as well and bring him down more quietly as I kept my hands low and quiet and he finally began to relax a little.

A few exercises through the water and surrounding mounds and cavaletti followed, all very easy for Encore, but my job was to keep my position solid and still and my hands low over the rolling mounds and jumps.

We've all enjoyed this streak of Carolina blue skies!
Whatever it was he saw, he remained certain of its need for attention the entire time, so the lesson itself did not involve as much complexity as I might have thought.  However, it was a VERY valuable opportunity to have Becky there on a rare occassion when he does mentally vacate (I can probably count the times he has done this on my hands), as she was able to tweak my body language through my hands and core to help quiet him instead of ending up in a fight with him.  Because he is not trying to avoid work and he is a very honest tryer in all things; he simply got sucked into the horse parallel mental universe where invisible monsters live.

And now I am laughing because I bet to any horse owner, that insane-sounding place description elicits a completely blase, "Oh yeah, I totally know that universe."

Next on the syllabus:  long lining - the magical Holder way.


  1. I did! I immediately thought: I know that place! It's some magical place where, instead of going on a trail ride, the pasturemate has been sucked into a mythical battle for his life and only my horse's screams will guide that other horse safely home. Yeah. I get that.
    Your trip sounds amazing! I love the daily updates. :)

  2. Heehee, LOVE the parallel universe concept! I think you may have hit on something there.

    While it's nice when your horse is good for a lesson/clinic, I always get so much more out of it when they aren't perfect. It sounds like you've gotten some valuable tools to help deal with any future problems. Yay!

  3. I'm very familiar with that universe. I swear my girl has been living there the past week or so :)
    Loving your Becky clinic recaps - she's one of my favorite riders.

  4. Handsome snoozer! The blue skies have been splendid - so glad you've had great weather for the clinic.

    Good job keeping the pony on task. Will be taking the lowering your "oh sh*t" hands advice to heart. The horse's energy + the rider's energy should add up to ten... ;D

  5. Fun, fun, fun! Just got caught up on your Camp Holder Extravaganza, and of course I'm not surprised that you're getting so much great advice/instruction/epiphanies from Becky. Keep up the posts so we poor schmucks can live vicariously through you! :-D And when you're all gathered around the campfire at night ingesting libations and spirits, please make sure you do the whole "one for me [gulp] and one for my homies [dumps some alcohol on the ground]" thing in our memory!

  6. Ha, I, too, am guilty of the "oh sh*t" hands as CFS so succinctly put it, LOL.

    Regarding Encore's alternative horse universe, I know what he saw. It was Harvey, the 6-foot invisible rabbit who eats horses for a crunchy snack ;)

  7. OMG, I love "oh shit hands." I am totally using that, hahahahha! And Beka, I almost died of choking on beef jerky when I read your comment.

    jenj, I agree -- Solo was a complete devil horse when we cliniced with Jimmy. I was furious, but I sure learned a lot!

    HP, she is my favourite too, an amazing person who really and truly loves her horses the way I do.

    Frizz, I'm not sure I can commit such a party foul, gasp! But I would do it in salute to the homies.

    Blue, I really don't remember the part of the movie when Harvey was flossing his teeth with tail hair?