Saturday, August 2, 2008
How Many Ways can We Walk Past the Scary Mules
Tonight there was just something in the air - snorty horses with tails flagged all over the ranch. New horse in general pasture - Red wouldn't leave his love's side. He is totally smitten with Coal, a huge black percheron who is boss mare in the herd of now 15 horses. Red had to guard her in case the frightened new horse tries to steal her away. Poor little new gelding. Every time he tries to approach another horse he gets run off. Standing there alone he gave me the most forlorn look - I told him to give it a few days, just mosey alongside the edge of the herd, and soon he'd be part of it.
With all the fussing up and down the lane, I was not too surprised that Lyra was in a hissy mood. We have a lovely arena at Freshwater, the back faces a hillside pasture where the owner keeps his horses and mules. MULES!!!!! You would think Lyra had never seen a mule, unlikely at around 20 years old. As we walked the rail, she saw three pair of gorgeous mule ear attached to their owners' contentedly grazing heads. MULE EARS!!! My usually forward mare slams on the brakes and executes a beautiful rein back . . . and back . . . and back. Sheeeesh.
In my list of "thou shalts" I apply to my horses, thou shalt move out in the direction you are asked to - with no rider endangering tricks. So I send Lyra forward, she refuses, I keep asking, she refuses louder. And when I no longer ask but quietly demand, she comes off her front feet. Was that a rear? Dang, seems like it was. And so I come face to face with one piece of embarrassing 55 year old rider luggage, I don't want to fall. I'm a fair rider, I have a fair seat. pretty balanced. But I am not going to get into this argument with a balking TB mare who is trying to lift her front end into the sky.
Now what? Well, I tried zig zags across the arena - worked fine until we came to the mule half. Then I tried backing - same outcome. Tried coming at it from the another direction and met with another failure. Meanwhile, the mule side of the arena (the part Lyra will NOT set a hoof in) is growing from 25% to 50% to 75% of the arena's total square footage while my leadership status is shrinking in direct proportion.
So now what? How far to push? I am now feeling unsafe. It is time to move on to other strategies. Back on the ground (sigh, relief, solid ground - love it) we retreat to the barn. Lyra walks with a new, self-important strut. She had vanquished the mules and as an added bonus, had her way with me. So she would like to think. I get my carrot stick and attach the short length of line that came with it, pick up a lunge line, and turn my surprised mare back towards mule world.
For the next 20 minutes we do ground work exercises in the mule zone. Disengaging the hind end, lateral flexions, backing, sending away, circling and changing directions. Success, Lyra works for me, holds her focus, and we regain the ground lost. Then I change the rules and march my sensitive, willful, temperamental TB though the gate, past the horse trailers and right up to the fence line where the 3 mules have formed a line, ear antennas bearing down on the sweating mare and her determined leader.
For the next 30 minutes we continued ground work exercises under the noses of our quickly bored mule audience. As they wandered off, Lyra and I returned to the arena, I mounted and we again moved out along the wall. Trotting, one ear is on me, the other toward the doorway . . . ever alert for the mule invasion force, Lyra moves along, steady, doing her job. We found there is more than one way to move past the mules waiting beyond the end of the arena.