PostHeaderIcon Whoa, Darn it, Whoa

Not every horse has the same understanding of Whoa that I do.  I tell my horse to Whoa by leaning back in the saddle just a hair’s with, I let all my energy out, I put my legs a little forward.  If my horse doesn’t stop, I lift up one rein.  That’s what I would like to think that I do.  In reality, I do all of the above, but my hands sneak up and pull with both reins back…just a little.  Your hands work independently of what your outward brain sez.

Your inside brain goes with instinct and we are born to pull back.  I’m trying to think about my hands when telling my horse to stop. Hands disobey so easily.

That’s not the story today. This story about when I went to Phoenix and rode someone else’s horse. That’s when I got to undertand that not all horses understand whoa like I expect. 

Let me tell you about horse back riding in Phoenix.  You get on your horse at your house and ride on the sidewalk until you get to the place where they have huge open expanses of land between the backs of people’s houses.  Since they don’t have grass in Phoenix, these huge expanses of land are gravel. Children play, horses ride etc.  It’s pretty cool.

But what Phoenix has in common with every other city in the USA is streets.  Phoenix has wide streets because they have a lot of cars on their streets. So many streets are at least 6 lanes wide and sometimes 8 lanes wide.  You and your horse have to cross streets when you ride in Phoenix.  When you are riding on the wide sidewalks of Phoenix, occasionally you have buttons you can push to make the lights change and the cars to stop.  That’s not true when you are riding on those large expanses of land.  You and your horse come to an eight lane wide street and have to wait till all the cars disappear before you can cross.  Since the horse has shoes on, you are riding across paved streets with steel shoes. That scared me to death.

Can you see why a Whoa in a horse is important when you ride in Phoenix.  If you don’t whoa, you might be out in the middle of 8 lanes of traffic moving along at a steady 45 mph stream.

Turns out, my horse didn’t understand whoa.  I was lucky the first street to be riding behind my friend who did have a horse that would stop. Good Lord, that’s why I am alive today.

The rest of the streets, I discovered that I had to start whoaing about 1/4 city block before the street crossing. That’s how long it took the horse to think about stopping. The horse was worried about her mouth and fought the bit.  She didn’t understand.

Before we started riding on this fun filled traffic day, my friend told me that I needed a bit with a little more grab in it than my snaffle bit.  Yes, I did bring my snaffle bit in my suitcase along with my Parelli halter and lead rope.  But, foolish me believed my friend about the bit and her bridle being better than my snaffle.  I was young and full of myself then.  I thought my horsemanship skills were top notch.  However, your horsemanship skills are only as good as your equipment.  How often have you heard Pat Parelli say that!

The only way I knew how to stop a horse that wouldn’t stop is the control rein.  Rein to your thigh, horse turns in little circle until the horse decides stopping might be the answer.

So, me and the horse are circling around on our 10th lap.  My friend sez, “Susan, the bit is out of your horse’s mouth.”  Guess what this bridle wasn’t set up to do?  No one ever told this bridle about the one rein stop.  It didn’t have a chin strap.  I  pulled that bit right out of the horse’s mouth.

My friend got off her horse and was able to stop my horse and get the bridle back in the mouth.  We were still out in the middle of our city excursion with 8 lane wide street crossings.  I had lost my one rein stop ability.  My horsemanship skills were useless.

I lived through the day.  The next day I used my snaffle bit and we trailered out to ride on some trails. Stopping wasn’t as critical.

On the third day, my horse started to relax her head. She gaited smoothly for short periods of time. She started slowing down when my body started relaxing.  We were out on the trails again.

On the 4th day, it snowed in Phoenix. The wind was bitter cold.  Instead of riding, we went shopping.

On the 5th day, I flew home to ride my horse that had a whoa.

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