Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Several people have reminded me recently how far I have already come with my little mare, and it has gotten me thinking. Last night I started really tracing things back to the very beginning. I already described my first encounter with Delilah, and how she would barely let me touch her. Now let me paint of picture of where we started out.

Needless to say, even though I had never had issues with fear around horses before, when Delilah came along they began to surface in a very big way. There was a stigma in my head about "green" horses - a stigma that in many ways, I am still trying to break. I came from a pony club background, where the wildest thing I ever rode was a mildly fussy Thoroughbred. I have never ridden anything "green" or "unsafe" for that matter. So I vividly recall the first time we decided to put Delilah in the crossties and start working on standing patiently. We had two washstalls in the interior of our barn, and my trainer hooked the crossties up to her halter and we all stepped back to observe. With in seconds, she started fidgeting from side to side. Next came a toss of the head, followed by a more forceful throw of the head. Then, before I could blink, she violently tore herself from the crossties and came stampeding towards me to get to the exit of the barn. I remember being so petrified, I literally dove AWAY from the horse as she galloped to what she surely felt was safety.

So that was my first experience in working with my mare. I think it set the groundwork for the next two years, which as a whole were wildly unproductive. I think the wild-eyed stampeding mare who exploded violently was always in the back of my mind, tempering my reactions and limiting my course of action.

That day was the fall of 2008. Flash forward to early Winter 2011, and the ride I had last night. Delilah still tosses her head. We have come to the consensus that it is part of her expressive nature. There are no medical issues, bit or tack issues - we have literally run the gamut of investigations to eliminate any possible issues. We have concluded that she is a little mare that has a LOT to say. So when we start out trotting, she tosses her head - sometimes mildly, sometimes rather violently. Until not too long ago, I would handle it as long as I could, then give up out of intimidation and go back to a walk. So she still uses it as an attempt to get out of work, only now I ride through it and ignore it. We made it through the initial headtossing phase last night and started into some real dressage work. My trainer, Renie, was back and forth throwing hay to the pastures, and tossed out a few tips as she crossed the arena. Before I knew it we were trotting along beautifully - except for the corner of the arena. I couldn't figure out why she kept spooking! She is normally a very sane horse who doesn't look at anything. She kept shying away from one corner of the arena, and finally gave a fairly big spook and scooted away. I finally figured out that the litter of barn kittens were hopping on the tarpoulin roof of the hay shed. Needless to say, that probably looks a little scary in the dark to a horse. :-)
Who would ever think these guys could be terrifying?

We ended the night doing figure eights at a sitting trot, and finished with a perfect trot to halt transition. I am falling in LOVE with my mare!!!

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