The first trail ride with the mule proceeded after she gave me a few bucks and raced towards trees and our fence. (Thank you, trees and fence for stopping us.)
Read Part I.
Steve and Comet were crucial riding partners. They rode ahead and blocked Jolene from bolting. And they gave her a reason for riding away from home.
I tried to relax, giving Jolene plenty of slack in the rein as we moved down the path. She lowered her head and loosened into our pace (a fast walk with some trotting).
Occasionally, I’d ask her to turn by bumping her with one rein. This made her tense, but she complied.
What I realized immediately was her unwillingness to bend her head and completely stop. Too much rein would speed her up, not slow her down.
All that vital lateral flexion discussed in the Bolting article?
All that ground and round pen work?
Forget about it.
Still, I wasn’t going to get into a big fight or do anything to make this first outing anything but a good time. With this mule, at this stage, a good time was my highest priority. We’d work out kinks on subsequent rides.
Indeed, horsewoman Kyla Pollard provided some excellent pointers for the brace-y horse:
- If you pick up a feel, like the one feel that you would like her to respond to and she doesn’t feel back to you i.e. a brace, hold that brace and bump her lightly, getting more and more annoying. Increase the level of discomfort in phases so she appreciates that first feel you offered her. Be sure NOT to put slack back in the rein when you are bumping. It must be associated with that brace.
- Get way out to the side, turn your thumb down and with the rein in your closed hand. Use your triceps, not your biceps. Think: Out and high to tip that nose.
- Remember: they don’t know how to push, brace, or pull until the human shows them. If she gives to the ‘bumps,’ throw slack into that line so she hunts that soft feel up.
- Think steel hand in velvet glove on that rein. Don’t let it slip out, but, definitely release on the slightest try and throw slack right back at her if she comes off that feel.
- Remember, pick up a feel. If there is a brace, bump, bump, bump until she is so uncomfortable and gets off of it.
Next, ponying gives Jolene an alternative lesson in bending and feel.