Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Horse Stories/ Sonita / Chapter 5

I know, I know, let go of her face.

"Let her go!"
"Loosen your reins!"
Those words drummed through my head. When I rode my other horses at work, while I did my chores, at night in my sleep.
My first lesson with the Big K made it clear Sonita and I weren't going to see a cow anytime soon.
I had been riding with a young trainer who specialized in western pleasure and reining. His philosophy revolved around rigid control, high levels of collection demanded immediately from his young horses, and continual contact with our legs. Every muscle, every step, every thought, was constantly controlled, in both horse and rider.
The Big K soon made it clear that I was going to have to throw it all away if I was going to ride with him.
Not a problem, since I had thrown away everything I thought I knew when I started with the WP guy.
"You ride pretty enough." The Big K told me.
I gave myself an internal pat on the back.
"So that's the first thing that has to go."
Say what?
"You sit too straight, too rigid. You might be in the middle, but you're not really there. Know what I mean?"
No. I didn't.
"Look at me."
I looked at him.
Shoulders curled, back slumped, legs loose and relaxed in surprisingly short stirrups.
It wasn't pretty. It was slouchy and loose.
His rolled shoulders were lined up over his hip bones, which were lined up over his ankle bones.
A perfectly straight, balanced, vertical line from shoulders to boots.
Sally Swift would have been proud.
"You can't ride natural if you're holding yourself so tight."
If you're that tight in the saddle you're going to fight for your balance all the time, I'd want to spend more time paying attention to that horse of yours."
So I made myself relax. I slumped my shoulders, and felt my and lower back loosen.
I shook loose my legs, and they fell naturally into position.
I relaxed my hands, loosened my reins, and Sonita licked her lips.
Then she left.
Sonita didn't exactly bolt. She started out with a big high-headed trot.
"Let her go!" Hollered the Big K. "Just circle her up, one rein at a time. Use about half the arena. Don't pull her up!"
The Big K had an outdoor arena approximately the size of a football field.
My arena at home would have fit in it at least four times.
Sonita was in heaven. By the time we finished our first circle she was going faster than I had ever let her go.
"Don't worry. She'll slow herself down when she get's tired." The Big K assured me as we flew past him the sixth or seventh time.
The Big K didn't know my girl.
She kept picking up speed with each lap.
"Sit back! Relax! Don't lean into your circle!"
We ran 10, 12, 15 circles.
I wanted to curl my knees to my ears, I wanted to pull her with everything I had.
Instead I sat back, relaxed my back and legs, and sank deeper into my seat. I'll be darned. I felt safe, and comfortable.This was getting kind of fun.
The Big K sat in the middle of our circle. I swear, he was laughing.
"She's going to hurt herself before she quits!" I yelled as we whipped past.
"OK. Give her a whoa. Don't pull!"
"Whoaaaaaa." I said , steady and low. I took my legs completely off, settled my weight in the back of my saddle ... and Sonita sped up.
She had finally gotten me the hell off her face, she wasn't going to give it up anytime soon.
Ahh, music to my ears. I grabbed hold of her and planted her red little kiester in the dirt.
Sonita and I stood, wheezing in unison, both of us blinking sweat out of our eyes, noses dripping.
"She hasn't got a lot of rate, does she?" The Big K asked.
"I guess you could say that."
"We've got to get her circling with some sense."
"What do you mean?"
"She needs to be circling with a purpose, not just flying around. It needs to be a job. You've got to get a handle on that."
"You won't let me take hold of her."
"She's never going to listen to you if you keep hanging on her."
"So what do I do?"
"I'd suggest you take her out and lope the other way."
I stared at the Big K.
He looked back at me, a mild look in his eyes, and a smart ass grin on his face.
It would appear the bastard wanted me to think. Fine.
The gloves were off.
I picked up my reins and Sonita eagerly launched into her next set of circles.
"Relax! Let go of her!"


  1. Wow, I can't imagine going that fast in a circle! I would be sick for sure. Although I really do wish I could.

    Keep the stories coming!

  2. I love reading your stories every morning, then I know I am not the only one facing weird problems with my horses. where are you located? did I read somewhere that you are in colorado?

  3. WOW! I've been reading along and am just now posting. What an amazing story, and what an amazing mare! I'm sure you weren't thinking that *exact* thing as you were launched in ever quickening circles, though. lol

  4. I want to ride that mare...
    Your writing skills are amazing. The way you tell the story makes me feel like I'm there sitting on the railing watching. Love it!
    P.S. Best wishes and prayers for your friend.

  5. Wow it's so nice knowing someone else went through the super speed girl problem besides just me!

    My mare was a rescued ex barrel racer with a broken face. She would just loose her mind if you hung on her face (i.e. launch herself up and backwards in hopes to land on her rider). But if you didn't it at first it seemed all she knew how to do was run at mach speed+++. The secrate was leave her face alone, keep your legs the heck out and be quiet & relaxed. Once she would slow (canter instead of flat out full run) we stated giving her a purpose.
    She is now a happy drill team member who the morning of shows still has to show off to all around she can fly in the sky even at 27. She's the best horse in the world for me and i'll never leave her.

    I hope for a full and speedy recovery for you friend Mugwump!

  6. I had the same problem. Riding pretty. I was constantly told, sit back (even though everything was in a nice line because of my English lessons. he told me sit on my butt, not my crotch(I sat up too tall and my back would arch), I died laughing), let up on the reins, circles circles circles. over and over.

    I read a story once about a little girl on an uncontrollable horse that would just totally relax when the little girl bumped along like a sack of potatoes, but when someone who knew what they were doing was trying to ride it, it was a monster.

    I love your stories. Can't wait to hear more. I hope things are holding steady with Sharion as well.

  7. Hahah this reminds me of the time I am having.

    I find when I ride english (learned to ride bareback/western) I catch myself sitting too strait. I was riding a young very promising 3 year old english today and I still get that stiff strait as a board feeling from english saddles. After I was done with her I hopped on my good mare Indigo and we went for a bareback trail ride. I found myself so more relaxed and like Jello bareback. I didn't sit so rigid I just well...jelloed. Both horses also do a lot better when on a loose rein.
    I say horses have to be responsible for their own gait. I say trot you trot until I say otherwise ETC.

  8. Sydney said: I say horses have to be responsible for their own gait. I say trot you trot until I say otherwise ETC.

    No fair! How did you know what today's ride was going to be about? My horse's favorite gait is "whoa," and I am tired of having to constantly bump, bump, bump to keep a steady jog. Today I am planning to let him cruise, and if he breaks, discipline him, he is broke (and trained) enough, this is just lazy.

    Wish me luck!


    lol. Yes, that's going to be the theme of my comments until the enitre story has been told. :)

    Awesome writer mugs, you definately have more than one gift.

  10. kaptkaos-Thanks! I'm in Calhan CO.
    lady andais-Sonita didn't have an excuse, she was just a loon.
    char-It's going to be a while, I had her a long time, and I owe her a lot.
    To all- Sharion is hanging in there, keep those good thoughts and prayers coming,it's going to be a long haul...

  11. I love how you write, I'll definitely buy your book if you write one! And I will give it to all of my friends for Christmas.

    I'm starting to check your blog as often as I do fugly's, hoping you've written something new... love reading your stories about horses you've trained.

  12. I love the comments about limited "training" was (a) first horse..ex-barrel racer, age unknown, speed fast forward and me, green rider...learned to just hang on (b) aged fox hunter...learned to jump by pointing her at the jump on the trails and two-pointing over...loved that btw! (c) recent WP trainig...was told same thing and felt like I was balanced on a moving balance-beam. Now I have her home, I am relaxing, sitting deep (love that bareback riding) and probably not too pretty...but we are having fun! I still plan on some lessons, but with someone who teaches "action riding" instead!

    Glad your friend is improving!

  13. The bad thing that is happening now is a lot of riding schools (in Canada anyways) can't get insurance in as large a volume as they need unless the horse has a saddle on. The best way to learn how to ride is bareback but insurance companies (probably never went through learning how to ride :C)just see it as a safety risk.
    This safety risk= riders that look pretty on a horse, not ride.

  14. mugwump..Im from the springs, we moved to arkansas =(. I had my horses out in calhan for a while over off of soapweed road. What a small world. If I was still there would LOVE to send you my appy, he has NO motor, at all.

  15. Mugwump, you are such a talented writer. I find myself revisiting your stories later in the day, savoring them like a good book. If you ever do go to print, you'll be a smashing success, I'm sure. In the meantime, I cannot wait for the next installment!

  16. Mugs:
    Yes my horse did have a very good reason for being mental. Sonita from the sounds of it did not. But both of them taught us the meaning of gentle quiet riding. If i had been too physical with my ques my horse would have just clear lost her mind.

    Please post more of your story with Sonita. I love your writing and check the blog almost daily.

    I'm glad to hear Sharion is hanging in there. I will continue sending healing energies her way.

  17. i god, I wish I could train with you for just 30 days. Well 90 would be better, but still. yeah.

    I love your writing. You do have a gift. I would buy your book if you chose to write one. (hint hint)

  18. I have this in my head all the time when I ride...

    Let go. Let go. Let go.

    Don't worry about how fast they go. They will slow down. You just turn the circle and let them figure it out.

    It's the only way I've ever found to slow down an OTTB. You just let them work on a long rein, no matter the temptation to grab them together...because if you grab, they lock and fight and you could be a mosquito up there. Or like my old mare Lacy, they leap. Lock your hands up on Lacy, and she was a kangaroo.

    They have to figure out how to slow down without you messing with them. The problem is, it gets harder and harder to trust them as you get older and more breakable!

    P.S. Method does not work with small mustang-cross ponies that buck. Small mustang-cross ponies will next be ridden on a long rein sometime around the 7th of Never. LOL.

  19. Fugs- I have had those quick little suckers I just could not let go of...they turned out fine.
    And I lived. You gotta ride with your gut.

  20. LMFAO

    I once did 30 circles with a mare, at a lope. It was a test on me more than the mare. Boss kept expecting the mare to blow up (which she did with everyone but him) I kept saying "is that enough??" He kept saying "nope a couple more"

    I couldnt walk by the end of the night but I learned that you don't question the boss, he'll tell you when to quit.