I haven’t ridden much this year. Basically, not at all. Today, while I was waiting for my “hay-guy” to show up, I accidentally spotted my saddle. I never used saddles much, and at the moment, the only saddle I have hung on to, is Saleem’s Ideal Hunter, because it was hell finding a saddle that would fit him and this one actually fits both of us.
It was turning green with mold though, not having been used for a year. So, with nothing better to do, (we have a storm coming on, so I wasn’t going to start riding again today,) I picked up my saddle and cleaned it. While I did so, Saleem showed up in the house and I could not help but wonder.
Would he still fit that saddle?
I have been riding Saleem for years, and try as I might, I was unable to build the proper topline on him. I would have a few moments, where he would relax and carry himself right, like these ones;
But mostly, he would shake his head rather violently and unbalance himself, using all the wrong muscles;
On a daily basis, he would even trip himself, while playing, or while wearing a rider, that’s how unbalanced he would get.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Removing his shoes, has been the best thing I have ever done. And figuring out to not only let go of the nose band, but the bridle as well.
But the shoes made a huge difference for Saleem, on a daily basis, which is why he is now, building all the right muscles, without me riding him. No amount of training could make up for having a well balanced horse that simply uses his body correctly while walking on the pasture.
The shoes threw him. Every time he fell, it turns out, the shoe tripped him. He never learned that it was there. A lot of the time where he would headshake, it was in frustration. Removing his shoes, turned him from a violent headshaker and into an almost ordinary, happy, young horse. Building his topline, all by himself.
I have loved taking this year off with him, watching him reset in every possible way. He hardly ever shakes his head anymore. He is happy, he is in charge of the others on the pasture, (something shy, nervous, little headshaking Saleem could have never been,) and he plays with Apocalipse with out getting bullied for the first time ever.
So, I had to try my saddle on him, just to see if his topline had out grown it by now. The road work by our pasture has come to an end, and I was wondering if Saleem and I should start going back on the road this month. I will say though, the saddle still fits, but he can’t grow much stronger before I will have to let it go.
I did notice that Apocalipse was spooking when I tried the saddle on Saleem. Apocalipse has a very spooky period at the moment, being extremely touchy and jumpy. He always had those times, but this year, I haven’t really called him on it, and it turns out, that I might have to, after all. I mean, spooking because Saleem tried on a saddle? Come on.
Rather than risking my saddle, I decided to pick up a saddlepad and play, “who can wear it,” with my horses. We haven’t used rugs for two years now, Ablaze and Marble have never worn a rider. I have ridden Apocalipse a little, (very, very little, last year,) and Tardis is sort of broken in. So, that should be interesting, right?
Saleem, I have to say, was tense. He never was a huge fan of anything touching him, just like his son, Apocalipse. But Saleem is brave, and never complains, he just suffers through it. I get now, though, how he became so easily frustrated while being ridden, back then. How easy it is for me to ignore all the little sings he shows; the instantly tense neckline, the frozen lower lip… All in all, I don’t think Saleem and I will start riding again this year, after all. Not when he becomes tense to wear a saddlepad. I should be able to do better than that, with making him comfortable, before I climb up there again.
Marble didn’t flinch once. She couldn’t care less what I put on her back. Tardis thought it was a little spooky, but she is always up for new things and she quickly relaxed. Ablaze thought it was awesome and that saddlepad could, not just lay on him, but I could drag it all over his body, even cover his face in it, (my perfect little boy,) and as long as he got to bite at it, we were totally cool.
So far, so good. Apocalipse though, said “hell no!” and walked away.
I don’t want to use halters or ropes to tie my horses down anymore, especially not in a situation when the horse is genuinely uncomfortable, or downright scared. I want to be able to count on Apocalipse’s curiosity and his fundamental willingness to work with me.
It took a while. Half an hour, maybe, before that saddlepad was on his back. I even made a mistake, accidentally touching him with the pad, on the lower part of his belly. That is no go, I should have known that. That sent us right back to where we started, me having just proved to him, that he couldn’t trust me, so I had to apologize and start again, with proving my trustworthiness.
In the end though, I was allowed to place the pad on him, and touch him in the forbidden area, with my hands… That was a good enough compromise for me to accept and add to that, Apocalipse was losing interest.
He is so hard to work with. One second he is kicking and screaming, the next he just goes “okay, this isn’t interesting anymore, if you want it, you can do it, just move it along. I am bored now, and I won’t learn anything from now on, unless you add something new to the game…”
It is like flicking a switch with him. just like it was with his mother. Either or. Wild and untamed, or unimpressed and so safe you could light fireworks right beside him and he wouldn’t flinch. The worst part is, that either way, he isn’t really learning anything. When he is in his “you can’t touch me,” mode, his brain is basically just going “no, no, no,” on a loop, and when he is in his “okay, whatever,” mode, his brain is taking a break, and I swear, he is only hearing white noise.
To find that narrow path where this horse actually pays attention to me, and learns something, truly is a challenge.
But it’s possible. I just have to get back in the game with this one.
Clearly, Saleem has enjoyed his time off. Apocalipse on the other hand, isn’t growing on his own. I’ll have to keep up with his special mind, if I ever want to ride him. Or make him feel safe on a daily basis.
I love it how different they are. How they never fail to surprise and impress me, and make me wonder if I am on the right path. I am pretty sure that Saleem and I are getting there.
But I will have to find a way to reach Tardis and Apocalipse. They are very alike. Tardis is more open minded when it comes to new things, but she can hold a grudge longer, if she decides that the new is dangerous. And she does have Apocalipse’s tendency to either blow up, or shut down.
Only, when she shuts down, she doesn’t comply like Apocalipse. She stops learning, sure, but she just stops everything and says “no.”
I guess that what I realized today, while kindly asking Apocalipse to be allowed to place that pad on his back, is that I am finally getting ready to get back in the game, and start working with them again, mainly focusing on Apocalipse and Tarids for now.
Once the storm settles, of course. But I actually miss teaching them things. As much as I have loved, not asking anything of them for a year, I do think that Apocalipse and Tardis are young, intelligent horses, with a need to learn new things once in a while. I better get back on the horse, so to speak…
Marble still requires time. Her legs are still acting up in the periods when she is growing a lot. And her education isn’t deteriorating, like Apocalipse and Tardis’, when I don’t work with her. Much like Saleem, she is doing good, if I work with her, or if I don’t. She is turning five next year. But she is no older than Ablaze, if you look at her mindset.
And I am not ready to have Ablaze grow up yet. He is so pure.
I want to keep him that way, forever.