I’ve been enjoying the dialog that’s been ongoing since Tuesday, following my post on the importance of verbal rewards.
On that same Tuesday, one of my fellow bloggers, who lives in the French Midi-Pyrenees (I am squelching envy, I am, I am) had an adventure on her horse which was suitable for the cinema, which she wrote about, and which you can read about here.
I hope I’m not spoiling anything by saying that both she and her horse survived the ordeal unscathed. But in reflecting on what she did, and what else she might have done, she decided to ask me if I had any tips.
Reading her blog, I’m guessing that, like me, she asked because she wants to hear new ideas and to learn new things, and you never know where those will come from.
It was fun for me to compile a list of tips for riders who find themselves in a potentially explosive situation while on a horse. They’re readily available to readers who choose to wade through the thread of comments following Tuesday’s post and actually make it to comment #9.
Which is why I thought it might be useful to reprint them, in a new post. You’ll note that these suggestions are particularly applicable to those potentially explosive escapades that involve loose horses in addition to the one you’re riding:
1. Remember to breathe. That will help calm you and your horse.
2. Sit deeply and try to envelop your saddle but don’t grip with legs or hands.
3. If your horse responds to a calming, focusing word and you can speak it with a calm tone of voice, do so. I use a drawn-out “easy,” on the lunge and “you’re fine,” to reassure, but use whatever words work for you and your horse.
4. Francisco de Braganza taught me this trick with his Lusitano stallions in Portugal — put a hand half-way up the crest of the neck (I’ve seen Bettina Drummond do this as well). Press lightly, wait for a response, then release. [Note that the response is a perceptible calming but not necessarily a drop of the head.]
5. If you know how to do a proper one-rein stop, it’s a nice thing to have in your toolbox (see this post).
6. Pretend the other horse is not there and keep your horse focused on you by making requests and keeping him busy. Lateral work is great for this as are figures.
7. Depending on your “read” of the other horse, it might be helpful simply to pretend that you’re ponying him, even if he’s not attached to you!
8. When things are dangerous or might get dangerous, some people are more comfortable on the ground; others in the saddle. Know that you have a choice.
I’d love to lengthen the list. Any additional thoughts or suggestions? They do not have to involve horses on the loose, but it helps if they are applicable to situations that would be suitable for a scene card in a film treatment, even if it doesn’t take place in the Midi-Pyrenees.
Elaine Lang said:
Thanks for the story. I love to read about other riders, in any venue. One summer day my hunt pace partner and I were riding the North Salem, NY bridle trails and we came across an entire herd of black cattle blocking the trail. There must have been a good dozen or so head. The trails run behind lots of gorgeous, private farms. Luckily our horses, being hunt horses, were used to all manner of beasts and the cattle were very mellow. We wondered if anyone knew their cattle were loose? Unfortunately, we didn’t meet up with anyone to alert them of the situation. When fox hunting or pacing, I always carried an Easy Boot attached to my saddle and an extra stirrup leather placed around Brigand’s neck. Since completing the course was our only worry we really didn’t need anything else. But when trail riding I carried: water, a hoof pick, a pair of wire cutters, a length of soft cotton rope for an impromptu halter (far less bulky than a regular halter) and horse treats. If the loose horse appears to be tractable, you could dismount, tie your horse to a tree (it helps to have a halter/bridle combo) lead the renegade back into his pasture with the cotton halter (here is where the horse treats come in) and tie him to a tree while you repair the wire fence. No, I’m not a cowgirl from out West, but we New England Yankees have learned to do what has to be done!
Thanks Elaine. I love to hear your tales. And I love the Yankee cowgirl suggestions.