To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Breaking up is hard to do

I didn't visit Bentley on Sunday. Between his bad-boy act of last week and the boatload of responsibilities on my plate, I just wasn't feeling it so I reminded myself that working him isn't an obligation and stayed home.

Rick said I could start hand-walking Lance 15 minutes daily (he got his second shockwave treatment on March 24), so we began that on Monday. Lance, too, was a bit of a brat. Completely understandable, as cooped up and bored as he's been, but still not acceptable. He threw his head around and could NOT keep his lips to himself; he really wanted to bite but was afraid to try (good thing!). As I walked Lance I realized that I wasn't being as firm about boundaries with Bentley. Time to change that.
Okay . . . if I MUST behave . . . .
Tuesday I went to see Bentley. The landscape crew was there mowing and weed-whacking, and Bentley was on high alert, prancing and snorting and ignoring me. So I filled my pocket with cookies and went out into the pasture to share them with Bentley's herd mates, two very old Thoroughbred geldings. After a bit, Bentley wanted in on the cookie party and let me halter him. But as we headed to the barn, he tried a little explosion on the end of the lead. Boundary time! I yelled "NO!" and went after him in 'mad mother mode,' backing him across the pasture. Then we headed for the barn again, stopping and backing several times along the way as a reminder not to forget his manners. He regarded me with some surprise and a little trepidation, and we had no further issues. He wasn't interested in the after-work cookies I put in his feeder, though, instead turning and galloping back to the pasture. That was new.

Wednesday I went to see Bentley again. All three boys came into their stalls and got cookies, but Bentley didn't stick around. No problem; I headed out with a pocketful of cookies and the halter as I had the day before. The old guys followed me around mugging for treats, but Bentley kept his distance. I called; he ignored. I walked towards him; he took off. He certainly was a beautiful brat:

I quickly considered my options. I had no doubt I could catch him with time and persistence, but it would require shutting the old guys in their stalls and keeping Bentley moving until he realized that avoiding me was a lot more work than whatever we might do together. But I didn't have unlimited time, and the footing wasn't totally dry – I didn't want to be responsible for him sustaining an injury while tearing around the pasture.

So I cut bait, knowing when I did so that I was walking away for good. Bentley isn't a casual riding partner to enjoy while Lance recuperates; he needs remedial training and I'm not going to continue to provide it – driving an hour round trip for the privilege – for free. I thought about offering my services for a fee if the owner was willing to move him to my barn, but decided against that, too. Bentley cribs, an equine stereotypy that damages structures and can be learned by other horses; I don't need that on our place. Neither do I need any additional sources of stress in my life right now; my dad went on hospice yesterday and he seems to be declining rapidly.

The good news is that I can exercise my riding muscles on my own horse again starting next week. Rick said that after Lance's third shock-wave treatment, we can do our walking under saddle instead of in-hand. It's not much, but it will be enough for now.


Theresa said...

Oh Michelle, so sorry about your Da. Who knew finding a fill in RIDING partner was going to be so hard but glad you are back up on Lance. Cute pic of him too!

Terry said...

I totally understand. Last Fall I started riding a spectacular warmblood. He needed a lot of calm walking and soft riding to counter his bit-pulling anxiety. He really responded to me, and we got some gorgeous moments in - stuff that my own horse, built the way he is, will never do. But, I always felt like I was on a powder keg. His explosions were sudden - which is the sort of behavior that happens when a horse believes they can't express them themselves and then finally can't contain it anymore. I decided that it wasn't worth the risk. Bentley isn't worth the risk either. But now that you've given yourself permission to ride another horse, go find the right one!

Mary said...

So sorry to hear about your Dad. It is hard to watch someone decline, and even harder to let go with love. I understand what you are saying about Bentley...they really need a paid pro to rehab him if he is so naughty. Beautiful though! Nick had a series of spooks a few weeks ago and I had the chiro guy come out. Problem solved. But I KNOW Nick through and through. Bentley is an unknown and really could benefit from consistent, daily work.

Alanna M said...

Well that's a bummer but it sounds like it was the right decision!