Getting Tossed, Taking Stock

On first read, I thought Libby Lyman’s comment about “gauging appropriate pressure for each individual horse” was a no brainer. See her Ask the Expert post here.

not-too-old-to-learn-challenge-213x300 “Doesn’t everyone know that?”  I thought.

But getting a bloody lip whilst coming off my mule has a way of underscoring Lyman’s point and reminding me of how much there is to learn.

The Teaching Moment

We had taken a solo ride of about six miles. I was inserting lots of stops for flexion and backing up since we needed to improve those elements and I wanted to challenge her. I thought I was giving her lots of positive feedback. I thought she was fine with things. In hindsight, it was clear I was pushing too hard and not giving her enough dwell time or relief.

For the last half mile, I asked her to run up a twisty path. I urged her to trot, then urged her some more with my heels. Either she felt I was unfairly goosing her, or the additional push – after so much flexion and backing work – was just too much. She left the trail, bolted through junipers, and got out from under me. As if IMG_8492to emphasize her discontent, she kept right on running after the dumping.

Thankfully, I cut through our pasture while she had to jog around it. I met her on the other side, reclaimed the reins, and rode back to the scene of our mishap. There, we hung out for a minute while I wiped blood from my face and assessed the damage. We caught our breaths and I thanked my helmet for doing its job.

After letting Jolene graze, we headed back up the trail where she had just unloaded me. We tried to trot casually, but I believe we were both faking it, braced for another disconnect.

It was, as it usually is, Operator Error. When I gave her that extra pressure, I’d misjudged her tautness for sluggishness. She wasn’t being a plug; she was being Jolene, the ever-wary mule. “Why all this pressure? Where’s the relief?” I think she was saying.

Sometimes, progress comes with pitfalls.

Read more Not Too Old to Learn posts here.

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