Horse Training: Dina-mite, day four

It was a gray, gusty day. I knew Dina-mite would be tempted to be spooky in the wind so I made an effort to keep things as calm and pleasant as possible. I led her to the round pen with the saddle on and I round-penned her gently for a short time. Then I rode her walking around the big pen. She was crabby, heavy and resistant. I may have been a little impatient or bothered by her resistance. I should have taken her back to the round-pen. But instead I employed an exercise (used sometimes as a discipline or an attitude adjuster) that I’d done many times before with Dina-mite. This is the exercise: while mounted and with the horse standing still, I gently pull her head back both ways until her nose nearly touches my knees. This normally helps the horse to relax. As I attempted this exercise with her, I pulled left and she gave me her nose reluctantly, showing some signs of irritation. As I was pulling right, she leaped sideways and up and fell hard, wedging me between her bulk the hard ground. She struggled to get up with my right leg and part of my torso underneath her and then fell again. I didn’t have time to get away. The second time she fell, she didn’t get up and I was able to wriggle free with effort. My wind was knocked out. Trying to get my breath and my wits, I crawled a few feet away from the horse still lying there. As I began to breath more normally, still on my hands and knees, I took an assessment of how badly I was hurt.

She just laid there like she thought she was going to die. She was emotionally traumatized but I knew she wasn’t physically hurt. After I’d made my own physical assessment and concluded that I wasn’t going to die either and could move, albeit painfully, I nudged her gently a couple of times with my foot. She got up. At that point I seriously considered calling it a day. I knew I hadn’t broken any bones, except possibly some ribs. I was feeling pretty sick but I hated to leave the horse on such a bad note. I chose to work it out. I led her to the round pen. I took the saddle off. I wanted her to stand for the saddle without restraint of bridle or halter After 15 minutes of free lounging, she joined up and offered to stand for the saddle. Then I rode her to George’s. She was nervous and worried for the rest of our ride but she was not crabby. She was hot and sweaty when we got back to the barn. I brushed her (allowing her to cool off), grained her and put her away.

Either I was in shock or adrenaline was working or I was just willful enough to finish the job with the horse, but when I finally got in the house, I had the shakes and my left upper ribs and shoulder were traumatized. I suspect it’ll be a couple of days before I can get on the horse again but I think I’ll be okay to train from the ground soon.

Hopefully this episode can be a reminder and warning to me and other numbskulls. Horses learn like we do–three steps forward, two steps backwards. As a trainer, when I see that the horse has done an action correctly, I tend to think we have covered that maneuver already and can go on to another step but the horse doing the action correctly a couple of times doesn’t mean that the horse has learned the movement forever. Repetition and patience is the key. Presumption has often been my fatal mistake. Going by the day previous, or memory of her from a couple years ago, I was presuming that she would perform correctly according to my cue or maybe just stand there frozen, but the violent panic attack took me completely by surprise. Most, if not all, of the more serious accidents or mishaps that I’ve had with horses have happened in just this way, that is, me presumptuously pushing the horse beyond it’s training.







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3 Responses to Horse Training: Dina-mite, day four

  1. Treg says:

    Thanks for sharing that lesson here, Joel. It works that way in physical therapy, too.

  2. J.R. says:

    Thanks Treg, yes I’ve been amazed. Everyone should have a horse. The lessons learned in horsemanship are so basic to this life on earth, that they apply at many different levels and disciplines.

  3. Kay says:

    Yeah for you for being so totally honest with this event! It truly shows the value of repetition and patience and putting safety first!

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