Saying “No” For Yourself (part 1)

Hey guys and gals! In last week’s post I said I would be discussing knowing that it is okay to say “no” when taking stock of your own safety, even when someone else may be in charge of the activity you are involved in. Due to it being longer than I anticipated even cutting down as much as I could I’ve decided to break it into a two part post. This post is mostly aimed at beginning riders, but really for anyone who has ever felt that a situation was wrong, felt unsafe proceeding, withheld saying anything, and was then nearly injured as a result.

I believe I mentioned a short while ago that I’d started riding horses again. The first lesson went well, I felt comfortable back in the saddle and I managed to carry a seated trot better than I had in the past with help from the instructor and advice from a trail riding guide I spoke to in the past. It was so wonderful to be riding again and to know I could move the horse on the ground and feeling confident I could budge him in the saddle.

That isn’t my focus point today, however. Today I want to tell you about a more recent lesson. What I learned from this experience provided me with red flags that can be applied to a variety of situations. For the most part you live and learn. The example I have for you is one I am glad I did not have to learn the hardest way.

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The riding instructor had informed me that we would be using a different horse for my second lesson with them. This horse was one I had seen nipping and biting when his sponsor was grooming him to ride. My instructor secured the horse’s head with a halter and left to finish a different lesson while I tacked up. I greeted the gelding and spoke to him, but as soon as I started in with the curry comb I felt something was wrong. His skin twitched wherever I rubbed and he began biting the door to the stall. At first I thought going slower and gentler would help so I did so. This time he started pulling at the lead rope. My instructor stopped by and said this behavior was normal for him and told me to keep going, so I did. I was taught that I should trust my riding instructor and so I tried to do just that. However, that nagging feeling inside reared up its head, much like a reluctant horse on a halter would do. I went as slowly and gently as possible but by the time I put on the blanket and saddle and tightened the girth, that nagging feeling in my head was pulling back, stamping and balking.Red flag number one.

Twitching like that on the horse’s skin like that usually means there is a sensitive spot. It could be ulcers, a skin condition, or something else I am as yet unaware of. It wasn’t intended to be vicious or at me but I’m sure it was intensely uncomfortable for him. Sometimes horses can develop this behavior when the girth or cinch is pulled too tight too fast (most especially in green horses). This horse was about twenty years old so he’s about middle aged and getting on in years for a domestic horse.

I’m still not entirely sure why, standing in the stall with my fists on my hips with a feeling of unease about this clearly unhappy gelding, that I didn’t immediately take the gear off and turn him back out to his pasture. In fact, I’d had plenty of time to do just that before the instructor came, put on the bridle, and had me lead the horse out to the round pen. The saddle was the same western one I was used to but the bridle was English. In the ring the instructor had problems with the horse turning to nip when she tightened the girth before I mounted up. Once in the saddle the instructor told me we would be using the two handed method, a style I knew in theory, had tried once, and did not like using. Red flag number two.

When it comes down to basics the different style bridles can be used in either the two hand or one hand method depending on how the horse was trained. Only the bit itself can affect a horse’s mouth differently. I’ve been told that once you train in a particular style relatively well you are not supposed to switch, especially if you are still a beginner or just getting back in the saddle.

That’s it for this week.

Because I’m splitting this post into two parts there will be two posts next week. One will be on Tuesday, March 19, and the second will come on Thursday, March 21.

Remember that “New Grounds,” the next story in the Kaleidoscope series, is coming out next week! I hope to have it up Wednesday March 20 and depending on how long my Smashwords site takes to process it it will be up either the same day or the next day! This story will have a promotional period and will be free for at least the first week of publication. Later in that promotional week I will be uploading it to Amazon via my kindle store where you can also obtain it for a limited time for free.

Until then, take care everyone and have a fun rest of the week!

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