Some days, you shouldn’t even bother getting out of bed…
I’m talking about last Monday. A pretty crap day, by any standard. I won’t drone on too much (that’s not my style, now is it?) but here’s the lowdown…
The day started off well enough. Pauline Beulze was staying with Alexandrine (they’re long-time friends) and had offered to give her a hand backing the two breakers she has at the moment. Of course I wanted to watch! I find the Equitation Ethologique approach to breaking fascinating, none of this tying down of heads and lunging horses until they’re exhausted before they’re sat on for the first time!
I’d seen the grey mare in action already. Argumentative, assertive, stubborn, dominant – Alexandrine actually described her as aggressive, which I’ve never heard her say of a horse before, but she’s done a lot of work with her on the ground and the mare’s manners have improved enormously. They started with Alexandrine working the mare on a circle with saddle, bridle and bit. After that, she did some work running beside the mare while holding the reins at the withers – like in this picture with Tilou, taken last May.
Then Pauline took over. The first thing of note was that she prefers to use just the rope halter and a single rein at this stage. She did some hopping up and down beside the mare from both sides, stepped up an down on the stirrup from both sides a few times and then lay across her for a couple of seconds from each side. All this with no-one holding the horse. Like I said, it’s a different approach. The mare was less comfortable with everything from the right hand side, so she worked on the right an extra bit. And then she mounted.
Easy as pie. No bother. Same thing from the right, sure the mare was a little more tense but it was all good. Then there was lots of mounting and dismounting, from both sides, followed by a little bit of circling in each direction. This is another difference from the approach I was familiar with in Ireland – get up on their back and stay there for 10 minutes or so; then finish the session. I guess this way teaches the horse that mounting and dismounting is not a big deal at all. Here’s a short video :
Note how she disengages the horse before mounting or dismounting. This is so that if the horse flips out, it’s unlikely to involve the rider in its shenanigans.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Pauline had finished. The mare is by far the more difficult of the two breakers – the other guy is a sweet little chap who had not given Alexandrine a moment’s trouble to date. Which is why I stopped taking photos and videoing – after all, I have the full record of an ‘easy’ breaker with Tilou last May. But I’m actually glad I don’t have a video, and if I had made one, I would have erased it. The sweet little chap EXPLODED the very first time that Pauline put the least bit of pressure in the stirrup, during one of her preliminary ‘hops’. He caught Pauline in the stomach with his hind feet as she flew through the air and she landed in a heap on the ground. Unconscious. When she came round, she had no memory of where she was, why she was there or what had happened in the last 24 hours. Well, the only thing for it was to call an ambulance and head to Urgences, where she was thoroughly checked out. Her memory started to come back as we waited for the ambulance and, at the hospital, nothing was found. No internal injuries, no head injury, nothing. Phew.
Three hours later, I drove Pauline and Alexandrine back from Manosque, just in time to go to my very first French funeral. Which was a sad and beautiful affair, with an accordion playing as the remains of our Dutch friend’s mother were carried into the little graveyard on the hillside, while an eagle soared overhead. Tansy, the LSH and I were all there to pay our respects and we all left feeling deeply moved by the love with which the family spoke of their mum.
Tansy and I decided to take the dogs for a quiet little walk afterwards. Just to unwind and lose the stresses of the day. Which was a great idea, until Rosie ran at top speed into Cookie’s retractable leash, sending not just the two dogs flying, but me as well. I was whipped forward by the left arm (which was holding the lash handle) and whacked full-length into the ground. I think I probably looked something like this as I fell :
(Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure that ‘old lady’ is actually a stunt woman)
Luckily I was wearing a thick woolly hat, because my forehead broke the fall, closely followed by my left hip. I was pretty stunned afterwards and, four days later, I’m still sore.
And THAT, my friends, is why I should have stayed in bed on Monday.
PS The little horse was seen by an osteopath the next day and it turned out that he was very sore just in front of his withers – not surprising. His reaction was so violent and so unexpected that it had to be pain related. Alexandrine will continue with his education in a couple of days.