Monday, June 7, 2010

"Everything Worth Knowing Leaves Bruises"

I happened across this statement recently and had to laugh. I'm not sure exactly what the author was referencing, but the quote seems tailor made for horsemanship. I have had countless bumps, bruises, scrapes and breaks in my riding career, and with every one of them came an important lesson in horsemanship.

The concept that sticks out most in my mind for being learned the hard way is "forward". Forward is truly a vague term. Most people tend to think "faster" when they think "forward". I used to. I still remember the day I learned what forward really meant. I also still have a dent in my thigh from learning that lesson.

The concept of forward came courtesy of a naughty little Oldenburg I used to ride. He was small, less than 16 hands, and built like a bulldog. He was also a master of being behind the leg. My instructor at the time was always yelling at me to send him forward. So I would kick him, and his stubby little legs would churn faster and I would think that I was really doing something. Did I mention that he bucked? He bucked like a rodeo bronc.

Now, at this point in my riding career I had been around the block a few times. I'd ridden Schoolmasters and I had felt what forward was like on them. But, on the non-Schoolmasters it was still a little hit or miss. I was getting the concept, but sometimes lacked the feel to really get the quality of forward from a horse...especially a horse that was still learning. Sometimes when I was thinking "forward", what I was really getting was "faster". Not the same, as I was soon to learn.

So one day I was riding the little bronc wannabe and he started throwing a few bucks at me. But of course, I *knew* that a horse that's forward can't buck you off. So, I kicked him and he stopped. For about three strides. Then he started up again. So I kicked him again, and he bucked faster. Obviously, something was not working. But, I have a stubborn streak and a sticky seat, so I kept kicking and we went around bucking and cantering for about half the long side of the arena. Somewhere along the way I sank down into the saddle, sat up straight, grabbed the outside rein and really kicked the crap out of him. And then, suddenly, I had it.....forward. He sat down on his haunches, his forehand lifted and he was really, truly forward. I had control of him, real control. I knew that there was absolutely nothing naughty he could do at that moment because I really, truly had control of his body. It lasted about a minute, then I lost it and he bucked me off. As I fell, the little bastard kicked out at me in a final act of defiance, catching me in the left thigh, right above the knee.

As I lay in the dirt, watching the horse run back to the barn and wondering if my femur was broken, I cemented that feeling in my mind. Not just the pain of getting kicked and the humiliation of getting bucked off, but the feeling right before that. The feeling of forward and exactly what I had done to get it. I cemented all those feelings in my mind because I never wanted to be laying in the dirt, watching a horse run back to the barn and wondering if my femur was broken again.

I have no idea whether my leg was actually broken or not. I could walk on it (sort of) and since those were the days when I was still invincible I didn't bother going to the doctor. My whole thigh turned black and I walked with a pronounced limp for about a month, but it eventually healed up. Except the dent. To this day I have a perfect half-moon shaped dent in my quadriceps muscle, right above the knee. And I have never forgotten what forward really feels like.



P.S.- Still no baby. Eviction is scheduled for Friday morning. ;)

9 comments:

  1. OK, so if nothing happens naturally...then Friday it is. Bet you can't wait.

    Love the "forward" story. It is glorious when it happens, but that little monster just had to throw in the tantrum in protest. The kick was the final insult to your getting the better of him. What an ego he must have had!

    Lesson learned, but those were the days when we used to get up and walk away. Ah, to be young and invincible again. Then the lessons wouldn't be quite so traumatic.

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  2. whoo, come on baby!
    Ugh, horse injuries. They should be a sort of badge of honor, right? Especially yours, because you actually learned something!
    I have a small area on my right calf that is completely numb after being stepped on after a fall over a cross rail from a very LARGE buckskin gelding...when I was about 12. Some gifts last forever:)

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  3. Your determination is admirable. Also, it made me laugh.

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  4. You make me smile. Great lesson ... but a bit painful, what a cheeky horse!

    I hope late baby will decide to exit before friday ... you never know. It is because you feed too much that baby, when he/she runs out of food, he/she will come out ;-P !!!

    I wish you the best labour/birth possible .

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  5. Fingers crossed for Friday!

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  6. Hello, is the baby there yet? I hope everything went well for you and the baby.

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  7. I posted about bucking and forward recently too (after getting bucked off at the canter). I just didn't get the whole 'can't buck when going forward' thing. My horses didn't get the memo. After reading your story it makes more sense - they certainly can't buck when off the forehand. Hmmm...

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  8. Hoping all is well with you and baby. I am awaiting a post with the wonderful news!!

    Sending best wishes your way.

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