Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oh my god. OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod!!

The title is simply what a fellow boarder said this morning. It precisely describes how I felt for a few seconds.

Everything started out normally. I got Izzy ready, trying to keep in mind some of the concepts discussed in "The Horse Behavior Problem Solver" by Jessica Jahiel. It's a new book I'm reading through. Izzy did just fine on the lunge line; just went along like she was supposed to. She was a little lazy, but that's normal for her.

She's been a little fussy about standing by the mounting block lately. She would walk up to within a few feet of it, then just stop. I wrote it off to her knowing that she was supposed to stop somewhere and just wanting to stop on her terms. It's something we've been working on. So when she was fussy today, I didn't think any more of it than I usually do. She doesn't like to line up right, then doesn't want to step over. As usual, I just made a mental note that we need to continue working on ground work to get her to listen to my aids more.

When I mounted, she immediately tried to walk forward. I stopped her, albeit more with rein than with my seat. I was a bit annoyed. She knows to stand, but she's rather pushy, due to being spoiled by her previous owner. As I fumbled for my right stirrup, she flipped her head once, something she does usually when I've stymied her attempt to get away with something. Before my foot was even fully in the right stirrup, Izzy's barrel rose under me. This is where I insert the "Oh my god. OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod!!"

My initial reaction lasted about .1 seconds. It's the same feeling as when I know I've done something wrong and I'm falling. There is a brief moment of terror, and then I try to figure out what to do. I've been reading a little bit about rearing lately, but I've never, ever been on a rearing horse before. I knew immediately that the worst possible thing Izzy could do would be fall over back wards with me. She landed her first rear, then immediately when up again.

For some reason, I didn't have a hold of the reins to turn her and send her forward. I don't remember dropping them, but I must have. I think it's better that way. I hadn't mentally prepared for a situation like this, and I might have pulled back, even though I know that's the worst possible thing to do. As she went up for the second time, I noticed that I had a strangle hold on the neckstrap that I've put on her every single time I've ridden her. Thank God.

She went up a second time, then a third time. The rears didn't seem incredibly high to me, but it was kind of hard to judge from my angle. It was enough that I had absolutely no control. As she went up the fourth time, I realized that my left foot was quite steadily in my stirrup. Without further ado, I demonstrated an emergency dismount to make the ex-pony-clubber in me proud. I nearly landed on my feet, too. That would have been incredible.

As I collapsed in a heap near the rail, Izzy turned and trotted off to visit the horse on the far side of the arena. My first thought was, "Oh crap, I hope she doesn't break the reins," as she lowered her head to snatch some of his hay. I wasn't even really shook up, and I doubt I'll be sore tomorrow.

Cathy (my trainer) was in the arena and witnessed most of this. As I led Izzy back from the other horse and his hay, we consulted. She is a hard horse to rattle. Aside from the occasional spook, she's really not too bothered. Clearly, she wasn't overly bothered by this, either. That's a little unfortunate, as it means she might try again. We think the reason was actually from yesterday; while at our "show" we sat on our horses and judged each other for 25-30 minutes. That's not an extraordinary amount of time, but Izzy's back is probably a little bit sore because she's not used to having me just sit on her. Our theory is a combination of back pain and attitude.

As such, I lunged her again for 20 minutes or so, dealing with the attitude problems that came up by continuing to send her forward instead of letting her let me know when she wanted to be done. I then had Cathy stand by while I mounted Izzy from a block in the middle of the arena. I wanted her right there to yell at me if something went wrong, and she thought it would be best if Izzy was not restrained. I also didn't want the option of landing on the fence, as last time we were perilously close to it.

I understand that it's not a good idea to mount a horse with a sore back. If she were Cassie, or another older, seasoned horse, then I wouldn't even have attempted it. I would simply have listened to what they were trying to tell me and put them away with a nice scoop of grain mixed with anti-inflammatory and some rest. Because Izzy is still early in her education, however, and because she's used to being able to push people around, I thought it was important to make sure she understood that rearing is not acceptable. I stood on the block and rubbed her hips and shoulders just like I was mounting a baby for the first time. She was quiet, so I got on. When I had both stirrups, we walked off. We did a 10m circle each way, and then I got off. I immediately pulled her saddle off. Cathy checked her and said her back was a little sore, but nothing that should have prompted so dramatic a response.

She has tomorrow off. I'm going out Thursday, but I think I'll just do groundwork and some lunging. After that, we'll see about it. I have a friend who used to be a horse masseuse, so maybe I'll see if she'll work on Izzy a little. I have a lot to think about, though. I guess I have to wait and see if her back feeling better will clear up the problem or if she's now learned a cool trick that makes riding not happen. I sure hope not. :-/


  1. Usually rearing is a sign of something really being wrong - rearing is a big effort for a horse, and also scary for them - so they don't do it unless they absolutely have to - try to figure out what's up - good luck!

  2. I'm glad that you didn't get hurt. I hope you figure out what was wrong and that she doesn't do it anymore. But it's good that you got back on to make sure she doesn't learn that it keeps you off. Best of luck to you.

  3. That is definitely an OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG!!!! moment. Good job working with her, and I hope her back feels better soon!

  4. I'm with you OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG. I'm gload to hear you are both ok. Sam has reared on me twice and I didn't enjoy the experience at all! Hope you figure out what the problem was.


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