Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What to do about BMR?

Yes, I have been very remiss in my postings... but then, I've been very remiss in my equine activity.  In fact, parts of me wish I'd never learned to ride in the first place.  My accident with BMR damaged me seriously in many ways and it seems the most lasting one may be to my confidence. As of my last set of radiographs one of my vertebrae is very stubbornly refusing to heal, and according to my orthopedist may never do so.  "After all, " he said, "at your time of life (careful here, Doc; you're heading onto thin ice) , bones may fail to heal on their own." So what does this mean? Surgery? Apparently not worth the effort. But could I ride? I showed him a YouTube video of a dressage rider sitting an extended trot in an attempt to convey just what I planned to subject my middle aged bones to. He shrugged. "If you can stand the pain, fine..." although clearly he thought I must have taken a harder blow to the head than I let on since I wanted to return to such activity. No, he didn't approve but I wouldn't actually cause any additional damage, provided of course I didn't repeat my feat of performing as an equine airbag.

BMR has not been standing idle all this time. He spent some time with an advanced event trainer, and since his return I've been working him regularly in the long lines. I've even been lunging him over gymnastic grids with some heights up to 3' and he floats over.  So what's the problem, you may wonder.

Honesty, fear. I'm terrified of riding. My first few attempts to ride consisted literally of me willing myself into the saddle, sitting rigid with terror for a few seconds at the halt before bailing from the saddle to the ground, bringing me to a hand shaking, cold sweated, heart pounding state. This went on for several weeks, and I must add that BMR quite approved of this new easy going training regimen, and before too long he began to modify it in his favor. He quickly discovered that taking a step or two backward only hastened my departure from his back and it wasn't long until I'd trained him NOT to stand for mounting. Simply placing my foot in the stirrup cued him to shift backward and I now lacked the backbone (pun intended) to stand up to him and put him in his place. 

Therefore I returned to ground work and driving, which is odd, since in general I consider driving to be more dangerous than riding; but I had no fear concerning sitting behind him. My fear even extended to reliable Owen, who I have been regularly taking out aside. He senses my hesitation and like any wise old equine is quick to take advantage. Not that he did any thing horrid or dangerous, but he would test me. In the past he never would have hesitated to cross a bridge or hop a log, but lately he practically thinks out loud "Does she REALLY expect me to do this?"  Even in ring work he's a bit slow to respond and there's usually some commentary (snort, puff, unnmpf) to go along with the work. I don't trust him fully as I did previously, and now open fields that once I would have galloped across with reckless abandon are now traversed in a careful collected trot.

Naturally my fear has resulted in frustration and anger that I have been taking out on others (humans, not quadrupeds) and this has not gone unnoticed by those around me. I m clearly not the rider I once was and it has been suggested that I sell BMR, an act I toy with from time to time. But if I sold him, I would sell it all and hang up my aprons for good. Sometimes I find myself mentally drafting advertisements for a huge sidesaddle and accoutremont sale, including one supreme school master and a Baron horse trailer.

I have pushed myself as far as riding BMR around the paddock next to the barn, and his basic flat work is coming along well; he picked up the leg yield and shoulder fore at the trot very readily.  Two days ago I summoned the courage to hack him out in the field...we started walking away from the barn toward the gate, and BMR stopped dead, tucked his head to his chest, and started running backwards.  It's amazing how quickly a smaller horse/pony can get behind your leg, isn't it?  I pummeled him with my heels but he ignored me and started shaking his head, exactly what he did prior to going over on me this spring.  And yes, it's just a plain old pony temper tantrum but it scared me nonetheless.  I immediately turned him sharply to the left, kicked him up to the trot on a 10 meter circle, and before he knew what was what, we'd passed through the gate to the field.  Once out there I actually had the guts to pop him over a small line of bounces.  After the first trip through he put his head down and bucked a bit (you know, kept bouncing even tho' the bounces were no longer there!), but I kicked him forward and by our second line he had settled down went through quietly.  Bruce had been watching us, and he thought BMR was going quite well.

Is this back crying out for a sidesaddle or what?

I know the answer to BMR is to tire him out. I get feedback from others stating that on days he is worked his ground manners are much improved, but pushing him harder is also pushing me harder. Still, something in me just can't give up and walk away.  My paltry goal with him is to show him at USET in the walk/trot division next year...walk/trot? Me, an FEI level rider aspiring to Walk/Trot? 

Pretty pathetic.


  1. I have been amazed reading about your dressage work with Owen, tempi and passages and all the things I have been dreaming of, and I can't imagine how frustrating it must be for you to find yourself in this place.

    The thing is though - aspiring to do a walk/trot test may feel like a massive come down, but at least you still have the guts and determination to aspire to ride at all!

    It's hard to push through fear - I can't say that I know exactly what you are going through, but there are so many times when I have had to force myself to mount and get on with it. I think the worse thing for me is that little voice inside my head telling me that even if I'm faking it the horse will still know I'm afraid any way and muck up more because of it! :/

    I hope you hang in there though and get through it. It's hard, but you can come back from this. :)

    bonita of A Riding Habit

  2. I'm so sorry to hear you are going through this. I've been paralyzed by fear of riding and I know it takes a lot to push through, but I have all the confidence in the world that if you WANT to push through this, you can. I'm not saying it will be like it was before. We age. We change. We are not the invincible, full of potential riders we once were.

    I do disagree with your thought process about selling BMR and your "all or nothing" attitude. You may want him to be something he isn't and if he's not right for you and you're hanging your entire equine future on his compatibility, that's not really fair to you or him. Life is too short to ride a horse that's just not right for you. And the sport is just too danged important to hang on one horse.