Friday, October 30, 2009
The Early Days
My new horse was delivered on a Thursday. I gave her a couple of days to settle in, and then I went out to ride. I was excited and anxious. I had no idea if she had ever been ridden in an arena, and I'd heard horror stories of people buying endurance or trail horses, attempting to ride them in indoor arenas, and being run away with. But she'd been turned out in the arena, and she wasn't really spooky. She was just...kind of insane.
We brought her into the barn and tied her in a stall so we could groom and saddle her. She found it very difficult to stand still, and constantly stared at everything. Not spooky, but very, very anxious. Sofie is a small mare, around 14.2 hands, but back then she carried her head very high, and when she tensed up, she got BIG. Somehow we got her saddled, and led her to the arena. She was "rarin' to go", but not in a good, enthusiastic way. I know now that she was anticipating pain, but I didn't know that at the time.
I was scared. I didn't want to have to deal with this horse on the ground, or get on her back and ride her. Based on her behavior that day, if she'd been a horse I'd been trying out, I would have said "no thanks". But I kind of had to get on and ride her, because she was my horse. So I did.
Ever seen how jockeys mount Thoroughbreds before a race? That's kind of how our early rides started. Sofie would take off at a fast trot as soon as I settled into the saddle. She wasn't bolting, bucking or doing anything horrendous, but she was anything but calm.
She basically flew around that little arena, totally inverted and tense. As you can see by the picture below, her neck really wasn't all that bad. The muscling was all wrong, but her neck was actually pretty long and elegant on the rare occasions when she relaxed.
Her walk was very good, even back then. I think this picture was from our second ride, and already she's reaching for the contact a bit at the walk. But there was a limit to what soft hands and good intentions could do. I had a lot to learn before I would be able to really help her.