Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A Brief History of Bolting

As you know, Max has been very lively on the few occasions I've been able to ride him since Christmas. Now I know he is just happy and excited to be out, but on Saturday, after the bucking in the road incident, by the time I came back I was ready to sell him! I'm glad I've kept this blog now, because it clearly shows that as the winter has progressed, Max has become more and more energetic, verging on dangerous. I am so scared after the bolting scenario last year, and really don't want a repeat performance. It was quite a strange weekend all round, what with the car crashes and everything, and I didn't feel very well.
I do want to keep Max, but I don't want a horse I can only ride six months of the year. What's the point of that? The truth is, last year isn't the only time he's bolted with me. He does it a couple of times every spring. Up until now he's always gone loopy in a wide open space. I am not phased at being bolted with. I know the procedure. You have to get hold of one rein and turn the horse in a circle that gradually gets smaller and smaller until they have to stop. And that does work, if you're in a big space.
The problem has been that when it happened the first time Mr O thought I was just going for a jolly gallop and galloped alongside me instead of standing still waiting for me to sort it out! This made Max go even faster, as you can imagine.
Once he did it in a big field at the back of Lindrick Golf Course (still my favourite ride to this day). When we got home Mr O said, "Don't you ever cut me up like that again!" and I didn't know what he meant until I sat and thought about it later. I am right-handed, so if Max bolts, naturally I haul like billy-o on the right rein, and gradually turn him and slow him down. But this time Mr O came steaming up on my right-hand side. I was trying to overtake him so I could begin the turn, but the faster Max went, the faster Barnaby went to keep up. I looked ahead and we were rapidly running out of field, with a woods up ahead. In the end I actually kicked Max on and cut across in front of Barnaby so I'd have some room to begin the slowing down session, and that's what annoyed Mr O, but desperate needs...
One time, not long before we left Lorna's I decided to do the Gateford ride. You go across some lovely fields, through a housing estate and back through some more fields on the way home, all in a giant rectangle.
We'd gone so far and came to a maize field. The maize was really high, so I decided to turn round and come home, when Max suddenly plunged in and started cantering through it, which was up above our heads. Then the cantering changed to galloping, as we careered blindy through the crop. The maize stalks were so thick and strong, that eventually they pushed my feet out of the stirrups. That was the beginning of the end really, as seconds later my entire legs were forced backwards and upwards, until I was laying horizontally on top of the saddle, still holding onto the reins, legs straight out behind me as though surf boarding. It was only a matter of time before I fell off and Max disappeared, crashing through the corn, out of sight. I looked about me as I got my breath back, and found his whole stirrup leather lying on the ground next to me. I got to my feet, brushed myself down, and set off in pursuit.
Fortunately, a brave man had caught Max as he'd stopped to eat grass on Gateford Common, stuffing his face as usual, totally unphased by his ordeal and not in the least bit concerned as to my welfare. We had to walk all the way round to get home, as we obviously couldn't go back the way we'd just come. Not the best ride I've ever had. Mr O had come out to look for us as we were so late getting back.
The trouble with the bolting episode last January is that it wasn't in a field, it was on a tiny grass track with a high hedge on either side, and the only way was forwards. It was an experience I'll never forget.
So, due to being extremely tired, nervous and unmotivated, I made the decision to sell Max. If you're like me, you decide 'one more fall and I'll have to quit.' I said that to myself on Saturday. Then I thought, 'No Jane, that was your last fall. Enough is enough.'
I'm going to have to tell you something else. As you know, Mr O has only been riding for about four years, and he's always been very gung-ho. He does things and jumps things that other people walk away from. Some of this is guts. Some of it is stupidity. I can remember hiring a cross country course and went with Mr O, my friend Leanne and her sister. We came to the water jump. Us three girls looked at it and could see how muddy it was in the bottom. We decided not to bother with it. Mr O decided it was 'the thing to do' and made Barnaby jump in, which he did, but promptly got stuck in the mud and threw Mr O onto the bank in his efforts to scramble out. Serves him right I'm afraid.
So I've got to be honest and admit that hacking out with Mr O makes me nervous, due to his lack of fear, and sometime lack of wisdom. He will make you ride through, over and round things you really don't want to. So when this man stopped outside our house on Saturday morning and warned us not to go where it was icy, Mr O decided to ignore him and keep going anyway. That put the fear of God into me and made me not want to go on a hack at all, so I was nervous before we even set off and looking for an excuse to come home. It's only because I went on and on about it that Mr O decided not to come up Alton Hill and just come back the way we went.

Anyway, that's by the by.

I was talking to my friend Amanda on Sunday night and she suggested I cut Max's feed right back. I told her what he was having, which I had increased while it was snowing, and she said it's too much, especially as he has Mollichop, which is full of sugar. He's always had a lot of feed in past winters because I've done indoor showjumping and been hunting, which requires masses of energy from the horse. Max is only 14.2hh though, and a cob, which means he's what you call a 'good-doer'. It's a polite term for 'a greedy little bugger', which I'm afraid he is.
So last night I watched him mosey through his tea bucket. "Carrots? Check. Mix? Check (not realising I've cut it by half) Chop? Hang on a minute, where's me chop?!"
I'm going to lunge him tomorrow, then get on him and ride him in the school and see what he's like. I sincerely hope, for his sake, that he's calm, as he was calm in the school last week, then very naughty on the way home (do you remember I got off and walked the last bit?)
To be continued...

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