Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Second Attempt in the Arena

Second Attempt in the Arena

A few days later, I was out at the barn in the evening.  Originally, I planned to give Cole the day off, but there was nobody there.  Even Kevin wasn’t with me.  Such quiet nights at the barn are rare, so I decided to ride Cole, after all.  I set my goal at only 20 minutes.  I would do 5 laps each direction at a walk.  

The first lap was the worst, of course.  When I got to the far end, Cole raised his head.  Did he hear something I didn’t hear?  Or was he sensing that I was nervous?  On the second lap, he did it again and this time, I couldn’t take it.  I asked him to stop for a few moments so we could both relax.  It worked.  We proceeded without incident.

He lifted his head up on the next lap, too, but I just vibrated one rein; which is his cue to lower his head.  It worked.  I started to feel so much better.

The next lap, the same thing happened.  My confidence started to soar.  This wasn’t going to be bad, after all.

On my fifth and final lap, I could hear that the neighbor on that side had her dogs turned out, and they were barking, as always.  I gave myself a mental pat on the back.  Neither one of us were bothered by the dogs.

And then, it happened.  He bolted at the beginning of the short end of the arena, and he had no intention of stopping.  I bent his head to the inside, and I got no response.  He just kept going like I wasn’t even there.  I then bent his head to the outside, and he fought the bit, but I felt him slow down, a little.  By the time we got to the next corner, he was back to a walk.

The first words out of my mouth were, “Thanks, Cole.  That is just what I needed.”

That meant we had to redo that lap from the beginning.  As we walked around the arena, I played the incident over in my head, and realized that this time, his “bolting” was about 5 huge, out-of-control trott steps, and I was able to get him to stop before he ran off towards his barn door.  He may have been bad, but I handled it--as I should be able to after all these years riding.  Cole isn’t near as bad as Cruiser was in his youth.  The only difference is that Cruiser would spook in all places of the arena.  There was no safe side to retreat.  I just had to deal with it.

That made me feel better.  I then walked the other 5 laps in the opposite direction without any incident at all.  That brought me to about 15 minutes.  There was still some time to do a little trotting.  As in the past, we began by walking through the bad end and then trotting along the wall once I felt safe.  I was clicking him for good transitions in the beginning, and then I started clicking him for maintaining his rhythm.  Finally, I did some clicks for stopping from a trot.  If never did trot the full arena, but did practice some good circles on the safe side.  We quit at 25 minutes.

If things work out the way I want them to, I will be still riding in the arena only sporadically.  That doesn’t help one bit with the confidence, but I don’t want to miss any of the last good trail rides of the year.  At least I know that I am on my way to regaining my arena confidence.

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