I was so driven forward by who knows what on Sunday, that I didn't even ask anyone to take my picture for my first ride on Beautiful. I remedied that immediately on ride 2 with a selfie! Then I asked my sweet daughter, Shiloh, to come out and snap a few shots. In all honesty, I shouldn't even be riding her without someone there to help, in case of an emergency. It's just hard for me to be dependent on others. I'd never get any training done.
I'm going to share the photos as I write about my primary concern with Bee--bucking. Although, I should say, right off the bat, she did not buck me off, and NONE of these photos have anything to do with bucking.
She looks so short her, my feet almost touch the ground. Why should I fear bucking? ....Kidding!
First, it's a sign of an athletic horse. But that's about the only good thing I can say about it.
If you want to know my philosophy about training without any bucking---this article, by trainer Dan Keen, sums it up very well, "The Buck Stops Here." (Horse and Rider)
I didn't know Bee was a bucker until I saw her buck my trainer off on her 4th ride. Since she did, I learned it is in her repertoire. Before that, she had never bucked in fear or evasion. Her go-to move had always been backing up.
But since she did unseat my trainer--even though my trainer got back on--which was ESSENTIAL--it did open a door for her to try it again in the future.
I had to ask myself why my horse bucked. Was it....
1. Lack of work ethic and training--what some term "lazy." (I don't term it lazy. They're just not used to being asked so much, and it's frustrating until they build a work ethic.)
2. Past experience. They unseated someone before and it got them out of the stressful situation. (Let's face it, riding is work for them.)
3. Ill-fitting tack.
4. Body pain.
5. Fear or surprise.
In Bee's case, I think it was either fear/surprise or lack of work ethic and training OR both.
To keep a horse from bucking you have to keep them moving, keep their head up, and if possible, keep them turned in doing circles.
If they do buck, and succeed in bucking you off, you cannot get mad at them when they stop or they'll think you're mad they stopped. You have to keep your cool and get back on. AKA: Cowgirl. Up.
I do lots of circles, and when I feel that we've hit a wall--stiff body, backing up, tossing her head--I dismount, work her on the ground, then remount and continue the ride.
Yesterday, I said I wanted to give her purpose, softness, willingness, and trust. I have a few ideas.
I can ask someone to ride one of her herd mates in front of us. She is very in tune with her herd, and it could help us to get some safe riding time in where I focus more on turning, stopping and backing cues--different gaits, etc.--without the stress of being separated from her herd.
Another activity to give purpose is placing boxes and bags around the arena that have one treat in each. Ride her to one, dismount, give her the treat, remount, and ride off to the next.
Softness comes from understanding. Bee is super soft on the ground, but she's nervous being ridden. I want to help her thoroughly understand what I'm asking--each little whisper of an ask. To do that, I need to ask in my body before asking with an aid. When she understands this unspoken language, I must praise her to high heaven and build pride in herself.
I also need to deepen that partnership by being out there with her--EVERY. DAY. Not just riding, but having fun together, too.
A partnership helps with the willingness. There's a lot a horse will do for someone they love. I don't believe in using fear to make them willing. My philosophy is to build in small increments, so there is never a reason for her to fear. When she is fearful, I hope to help her through that and show her it's okay.
Trust comes from all the things I've listed so far--but it also comes from strength. When we get back on after falling off, when we stay calm through their fear--it builds their trust in us. Likewise, when they surprise us with their own courage, our trust in them deepens.
The next time I ride Bee, I will be using my saddle. I hope to have someone ride Penny in front of us, or do the hidden treats. And, with all of this--the buck may still come. Some things are worth the risk.
Two things for me to remember--loosen the non-asking rein and keep my head up instead of looking down at her all the time.