Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My in-hand debut

Well, gang, Thursday's the day. My horse handling debut with Riley is on August 28 at a USDF sport horse breed show, and I should be ready. I've done the preparation. I have the USDF breed show instructional video. I've watched the experts. I bought some khaki pants.

Now help me find the courage! It's the classic Stacey Kimmel dilemma: I'm afraid of chickening out. When the pressure is on, I may jog him around like a western pleasure mount instead of pushing him hard for the big movement judges want. It's true that lots of amateurs handle their horses. In-hand work is not hard to do, it's just hard to do well. I want to do the triangle like the pros. "Flat out, baby," as my husband says--run hell for leather and really to get a brilliant trot, or at least the best Riley can produce.

But have you ever tried to run alongside an young, excited horse with someone shaking a whip behind you? It's dicey stuff, but I did it. Yes, this had been a regular part of our ground work -- but that was before the incident. Have I shared this with you before? I think not. We didn't know each other well enough. But now that we're friends...

Last year, about this time.
Bob is videotaping as I practice in-hand work with Riley, then a yearling. We spend perhaps 1/2 an hour in the ring, with only one minor, half-hearted, buck. A few days earlier I had practiced running Riley through open fields near the barn. I had been so proud of him -- he had listened! His trot was exuberant! We were as one! So I said, "why don't you videotape us in the open field?"

A very bad idea..

Here is this special moment of my life, captured forever by my husband/videographer. We are moving up an incline, the fence on one side of us, a wide open pasture (dotted with gopher holes -- lots of 'em) on the other. I prepare Riley. We take perhaps three trot strides, and then...

Riley makes a break for the open pasture. Whhheeee!

I'm going down!

Here's where I think, "the gopher holes!"
I clutch that lead rope like grim death.

It's blurry but you see the left hind hoof on its way up.
In the next few frames it'll hit just above my knee.
Not hard, thank goodness, but I'll have a big bruise.

Both hands now. He could break a leg out there.

Personal space? What personal space?
Helloooo pasture!

I landed on the ground, arms in front of me. Bob yelled "Let go!" But I did not let go. Did I mention the gopher holes? Fortunately Riley didn't really drag me, or at least not more than a few feet. Chain over the nose.

Will history repeat itself?
Well, that was last year. This year, working in a bridle, it's been smooth sailing until Monday. Guess what. Same thing happened, Riley bucks and bolts, I hold on, stumble (but this time I remain upright). I'm up close and personal with Riley's hind end as he begins to pass me and start bucking. Fortunately the reins come in contact with his mouth, pretty sharply, and he stops. I can't manage to squeak out a "Bad boy!" but I do apply a correction (backing him half way across the ring). We go again, and he behaves. All's well that ends well, but it does shake one's confidence!

Thursday at 9:52am, I'll have to concentrate for 20 seconds on getting a great trot and staying on my feet. I think I can do it, but my whip handler will have my insurance cards, just in case :-)

Oh, if you want to see the actual video, it's at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNLYcuYLvL0
(go to 3 minutes, 30 seconds to see my great moment)


  1. Riley is a fabulous looking Hanoverian. Oh I can only imagine your anticipation and excitement to one day see him under saddle. He's a lovely mover.

  2. Thanks for photos of the lovely floating Riley to help me get over the dressage mules! You're so heroic to risk your own legs to save Riley's.

  3. Heh heh! Mules may not appeal to everyone's aesthetic. Thanks for the compliments on Riley -- he's a cutie but he has to be a good boy tomorrow!

  4. That's so interesting...I had a TB I halter broke myself when he was a yearling, and he would pull the same move! Unfortunately it was more random - once he spooked at someone carrying a white helmet and shot past me from a standstill and then kicked out. My whole chest was covered in bruises! Fortunately with more work and age he became a perfect gentleman.

  5. My thoughts and prayers will be with you! You can do this, girl!

  6. Here's my story: When I had first taken ownership of my very first horse, a green OTTB, I took him to a show and thought "In hand? That sounds safe!" So there we stood, me with a 7 year old rank green TB and others with lanky gorgeous young sweeties. Well, my TB did a grand job of trotting the pattern, but on the home stretch, he got stung by a wasp and flipped his head back and knocked me down under his feet. The ensuing bollix-up caused endless merriment among the crowd as he tried gamely not to trample me, and I tried desperately not to get trampled. We got a red ribbon in that class! Clearest example of a sympathy ribbon you could ever desire to see. Take heart and have fun showing off your beautiful boy.

  7. yeah riley is fabolous .

    Italy Travel

  8. The videos are great! :) This post made me want to link to you!

    While I'm here, I may as well do a shameless plug for our new site horsemanmagazine . com. Check us out, if you like it please add us to your blogroll.

    Keep up the great work.



Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.