Bonnie has a spook.
Not a terrible spook, at least not for me. I used to have to cope with a spook-panic-buck and a ruined ride from my other mare, Nacho. Bonnie scoots and maybe bolts a few strides. Sometimes sideways, always unexpectedly.
Bonnie doesn’t cruise around the ring looking for Horse-Eating Zombies; she will be working hard, on the aids, and a fire-breathing horse-devouring beast will leap out of the arena sand and snap at her legs, so she’ll fling her head up, spaz for a second, then go back to work, realizing that it was just a harmless shadow. The whole process takes only a couple of seconds, and usually occurs only once or twice per ride, if at all.
Generally, I can hack out Bonnie on a totally loose rein, even bareback, and not worry about getting dumped. In fact, the mare has never spooked bad enough to dump me, but if I do ANYTHING well, it’s sticking out a spook . Anyway, I digress…
So, I have been riding the Red Mare a lot lately. Since she recovered from the splint thing, the cold, and the diarrhea, I have been extremely consistent with our rides. She is ridden at least four days a week, often five or six. Overall, her progress has been spectacular. We are now doing decent leg yields, both along the wall and from the quarter lines. Her canter departs have dramatically improved, and she is really getting consistent with the contact…until she spooks.
On Monday, I was riding in the dressage ring after Bonnie had the whole weekend off. We have a gazebo at C, which is meant to imitate a judge’s booth, but also serves as a place for people to watch lessons in the shade. I was cantering Bonnie in a 20-meter circle at C, and we’d gone around several times. Then, the Horse-Eating Invisible Werewolf appeared in the gazebo, fangs and claws bared. Bonnie swung to face the gazebo and bolted sideways and backwards at the same time. I have been taught not to pull or overreact when a horse spooks, so I sat calmly, steadily in the tack, simply trying to direct her back to the track.
We did make it back to the track… and right past it – into the bushes that border our dressage ring. In the bushes, some acid-spitting snakes snapped at Bonnie’s fetlocks. She whirled around, her nostrils flared, eyes rolling, and bolted across the arena. Three of four strides later, she put her head back down, remembered what a half-halt is, and forgot about the hell-beasts. We carried on with the circle.
Ten minutes later, when people were actually watching, we had our best canter depart EVER, balanced, supple, relaxed and not rushed…and people were watching. “Wow, looks like you are having a great ride!” someone said.
I just smiled.
The Red Mare Diaries are written by Katherine Abel. Visit her blog, The Perpetual Working Student, for more about Bonnie, Nacho, and all the other horses in her life!