Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “Don’t Try to Walk before You Can Crawl” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)
TITLE: The New Canopy
By Judy Bowers
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There he was, splashing in the meandering stream which was still swollen from earlier rains. I parked near the inner barn, unlocked the tack room to get his halter and lead, and proceeded to the gate nearest the stream.
He turned his head in my direction as I called out to him, “good morning, Bob”. He responded with his two-pitched neigh as he started towards me. He knew he would get some sweet tasting carrot bits before I slipped the halter over his head.
Once tacked up, we headed for the dressage arena where we needed to practice our last lesson. As we walked along the driveway, I noticed the wind had picked up, but thought it not strong enough to unsettle my newly-backed three year old.
I mounted and we entered the arena where we first walked a few twenty meter circles at one end to give him time to adjust to my weight upon his back. Even at the walk I could feel his great strength beneath me. Although I had ridden many older horses, I had never undertaken the task of starting the training of a young, inexperienced horse.
After several minutes at a walk, I gave aids for the trot. Using the rising trot to preserve his still young back, we trotted a few circles in both directions and he was responding really well. We were having fun spending time with each other so I shifted into trotting squares in both directions. As we rounded one corner heading down the long side of the rectangular arena, I asked for a canter.
Three steps into our canter work, Bob sighted the newly erected canopy at the far end of the arena. It was now flapping noisily in a strong gust of wind. Flapping canopies do not attract my attention. However, my alert young horse had never seen even one canopy flapping. So being a very smart flight animal, capable of fleeing any perceived danger to his survival, he unexpectedly cantered us to the center of the arena where he bravely cantered a small circle to get a better look at that canopy.
Apparently his young mind then determined that his best chance for self-preservation was to get us to a safer place. As we suddenly exited the arena at a full gallop I realized that during my surprise at his canter in the center, I had lost my balance and would not be regaining it at a gallop so would certainly be coming off at some point in time. I opted to fall sooner in a soft grassy area rather than later in a hard rocky area.
Physical bruises heal much more quickly than bruises to a rider’s confidence. The confidence of any rider is an important aspect in riding and any horse has the ability to humble any rider. So as I humbly walked, bruises and all, toward the pasture behind the barn to catch my runaway pony, I wondered if it would be wise to sell this healthy young horse that had just shown me he was strong, alert, and certainly smart enough to recognize a potentially dangerous situation.
Or, would it be wiser to engage a more advanced rider to give him a few energetic rides to assure him he could not expect to go through life dislodging his rider, while I took a few lessons on an old schoolmaster horse to recheck the security of my position in the saddle and to regain my confidence.
And so that is how I came to lead my very young horse right out to the new canopy where he got a chance to thoroughly examine that scary object while I stood by his side.
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