This morning I groggily stumbled down to barn to feed. I dumped their grain in their feed bins and set about putting together hay bags to hang.
I put together Ava’s hay bag first.
I slid her stall door open as I wrestled with an empty 5 gallon bucket with one hand, and a full hay bag with the other. I met resistance getting the hay bag through the door and realize I hadn’t slid the door open far enough and the bag got stuck. I drop the bucket, slide the door wider, and try again. Ava’s already trying to tear at the bag, so I shoo her away. I get the bucket placed upside down and step on top to hang the hay bag.
As I was struggling with the latch on the hook, I feel something bump against my butt and then sharply pull my coat backwards
I turn and Ava jumps to the back of the stall, head up, eyes wild.
The little jerk bit my butt!!!
I was mad. Not because of this single incident, but the constant testing. Constant threatening.
I only have a few seconds to get after her. Her butt is pointed at me and I know she’ll kick if I hit her, so I grab the dressage whip and I bellow as loudly as possible while striking the stall wall. All while standing just out of kicking range.
Ava seems to understand that she’s done something bad.
I take her hay bag and leave.
Joy and Jessie are startled and stare for a few seconds, then quietly go back to munching their hay.
I have to go to work soon, but I wait a several minutes before giving Ava her hay.
I go back in her stall and hang the hay bag. Clean slate.
I leave the barn feeling depressed though. It seems like my efforts to get Ava to understand that biting and kicking are not acceptable are not getting through to her.
I get home from work after thinking about it all day. I decided I’d take Ava for a short trail ride. I’ll keep reinforcing boundaries, but some exercise will make her more compliant. She was always so much better behaved when worked consistently.
I’ll just ride her. Then all this dominance, testing crap will go away…. She’s sound now (sound enough for light work), we can walk around the fields now. She was never this ill-behaved when she was ridden consistently.
I pull Ava out, brush her down, pick her feet. She’s always good about this. Very polite. I toss the bareback pad on her because I don’t want to put my riding pants on and the saddle hurts with jeans. I slide the bridle on as if we haven’t missed a day.
We get to the mounting block, but I lead her around the make-shift arena for a few minutes to make sure she’s calm and not thinking of mayhem. She seems calm.
Ava stands quietly at the mounting block as I swing a leg over and settle in. Everything’s fine. We’re fine. I really missed this. It feels like home. I’d forgotten how solid and safe she feels.
I consciously relax my body. I make sure my legs are soft and draped, not grippy or vice like. I want this to be relaxing and happy.
We make it half-way around the arena and Ava starts winging her head in circles, and then the front feet come off the ground. And then the back feet start coming off the ground. At this point I have Ava’s head cranked tight to her ribs and she’s still bopping up and down. I get scared and jump off.
But then I realize I blew it. Now Ava knows she can scare me. So I growl at her and immediately drag her to the mounting block and get back on.
Relax my legs. Deep breaths.
I ask her to walk on, but this time I keep doing little shallow serpentine as we walk, and little baby leg yields. She settles, and I give her the reins bit by bit… not quite trusting her, but wanting her to know she can relax.
A few minutes later, after circling the small arena a few times without incident, I stop her. We stand for a minute as I scratch her withers. Then I hop off and we go back to the barn.
She looks so sweet here, doesn’t she?
The riding went better than I thought it’d go. I expected worse. But I thought it’d take more from Ava to scare me enough to get off. At least I got back on…
I have to convince myself to get back on tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. Eventually, I’ll either win or lose.
Maybe I just need to play some hard hitting, rocking music while riding. Then it’ll seem like an action adventure movie instead of a horror flick.
Yes, that is Friesian mane on the floor there.
I half expected the Friesian Police to roll up with lights and sirens.
“Excuse me, ma’am. We heard there’s been a mane desecration.”
“Sir, I only cut her bridle path.”
“That’s a felony, ma’am. You’re going away for a long time!”