Backyard Horse Tales Sox(second edition)
I was progressing very well, and most of the time I knew what was coming. Katie grumbled once in a while, You are too smart, Sox! It was true that I would occasionally anticipate my next cue. As Mom had predicted, advanced training was a lot more difficult. I was sure that I had succeeded in driving Katie around the bend. One time our workout was almost over when she rode me straight at the arena wall! We had been working at a trot, and the wall was quickly approaching. I started to turn to the right; Katie pulled me to the left, so I thought that I had made a mistake and turned to the left. But she would not allow me to turn away. It was a good thing that I had not been going very fast. Confused, I did not stop soon enough and banged my noggin.
Katie snapped, Pay attention Sox, and next time you won’t bump your head.
We ended every workout that way, and soon I was able to stop straight just inches from the wall. I never bumped into the wall again, even when we moved to a lope. I also figured out that if I sat down some and brought my back legs under me that I could stop better. Katie praised me whenever I stuck my hocks and tail in the dirt! When I heard her drag out the command to whoa, felt her sit back a little in the saddle and take her legs off of me, I stopped.
“Whoa, means stop!” I learned that long ago, but now I had to learn how to round my back and settle to a smooth stop while balanced over my hocks.
“Katie keeps drilling me like crazy. She is never satisfied with my stops,” I complained to Mom when we were turned out the next morning.
“She is just trying to show you how to position your body, Sox, so that you can stop without hurting yourself when you have some speed going into it.”
“SPEED? You kidding me? She never lets me go faster than a lope, Mom.”
“Be patient, my boy, it won’t be long now and she’ll let you have all the speed you crave so much.”
By my third birthday I could lope up to the wall and slide to a stop. So we worked on developing my slide without the aid of the wall. Now that I had the basic skill, I could slide to a stop in the center of the arena too. Once I had a good handle on “whoa,” we moved on to circles. We spent a lot of time practicing them. Right circles seemed harder for me than the left ones, but they were getting close to the same size and shape.
During my rest periods, I watched Emma work with Mom. I was amazed at how fast my mother ran toward the arena wall, and then she just slid to a stop that sent the dirt flying up behind her. “Mom? That you?”
Parents sure can surprise you! I could not believe this was the same horse I couldn’t get to run with me until the day I picked up a stick and chased her with it. That memory played in my mind as I took a break, and continued to watch their workout.
A rainstorm had knocked down some tree limbs my yearling summer. Out of boredom, I had picked up a long twig and had begun to play with it. I was running with the twig in my mouth and shaking my head. I noticed that the other horses were hightailing it away from me. It had always been a challenge for me to get the older horses to play. So I would then search for a nice long twig once I learned it resulted in a group gallop around the paddock. Maybe the other horses thought that it was a whip, or a snake.
I had never seen my mom run as fast as she did during that reining exercise! I was not the only one surprised. Emma’s freckled face turned a little green, like she might be sick. Katie coached her on adjusting her seat position. Emma, sit back on your hip pockets and move your leg toward Sandy’s shoulder more. You have to adjust your riding style a bit. You can’t ride a reining horse like a pleasure, or equitation horse. When you are close to the wall just take your legs off her, sink deeper onto the hip pockets of your jeans. Make sure to keep your legs forward and push into your stirrups.
It took Emma several tries to get used to the feel of Mom’s powerful burst of speed, and her equally powerful stop. Like me, I don’t think Emma believed that Mom could move so fast or stop that hard. The Mom we knew had always been a quiet little pleasure horse, but she sure could raise a cloud of dust when she was called to the task of reining.
Katie was happy with Emma’s circles. OK, Emma, roll Sandy back, over her hocks to the outside of the circle and go in the opposite direction. Try to stay on the same tracks you made with the previous set of circles.
I watched as Mom galloped her circles and rolled back several times to change direction. Katie had them finish their workout by running straight down the arena into a sliding stop that sent the dirt flying higher than before. I am ashamed to admit that I was jealous of my mother. I wanted to run fast too, but Katie would not let me. She would tell me, Easy, Sox, We need to gather all of the ingredients before we can bake a cake, and then it has to set before we add the icing.
Okay, whatever. Sometimes the things that Katie said just didn’t make any sense to me, but when she talked I twitched my ears back and listened intently to her voice. Mom called Katie’s statement a “metaphor”. Mom’s explanation was a bit beyond me, too!
I still had visions of running, and running, as fences dissolved before me. I knew there had to be open spaces out there somewhere, places where horses could run free mile after mile, but so far the wide-open spaces were only in my dreams.