The reason I ride is for pure pleasure and connection with my horse. I keep riding fun!
I don’t allow Zum to grab at grass or trees while I am riding him. I cannot ride on a loose rein if Zum is grabbing for food. I think ahead and pull his head away from the things he wants to eat before his head reaches them. I impress upon him verbally that it is not acceptable to eat while being ridden. I tell him: ‘It is time to exercise, not eat!’ When it is time to eat, I ride to a grassy area and I tell him he can stop and eat. I want every ride to be enjoyable for both of us!
When Zum bolts because he is frightened, I don’t punish him. When he starts to bolt, I use one rein and quickly pull his head around to the side. This bends Zum’s body into the turn. I don’t want him to run blindly forward with his head pulled to the side. I pull him around in a circle, making smaller and smaller circles until I can stop him. Then, I reintroduce Zum to the scary thing and reassure him. Right now, he is afraid of quails flying out of trees, big, black rocks and broken branches or logs laying on the trail!
In May, when I am out in the desert riding my Arabian horses, I love the white, orange, pink and yellow cactus flowers on the Saguaro, the barrel, the beaver tail and the cholla. Even the trees are blooming with lavender and yellow flowers. I smell sweet scents in the air. I love my horses as they gaze joyfully at the desert scenery! I once heard that if you can love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world!
Working with Zum is working with raw emotion. Zum is not trying to be difficult, rude or rebellious. There is no reason to get upset with him. Yes, his up and down anxiety level is tiring. But I know Zum just needs more training to learn how to respond to what I am asking him to do. With enough repetition, Zum will figure out that it is easier for him to stay calm. I try to ignore Zum’s undesirable behavior and I stay focused on what I am asking him to do.
I am trying to teach Zum to lower his head. If he ever stepped on his reins, I want to have a safeguard in place to prevent Zum from jerking his head up and breaking his reins or hurting his mouth. I pull down on one rein. I use more pressure on the rein to ask him to lower his head then when I ask him to turn his head. It is one smooth downward pull to the side. When Zum lowers his head, I release the rein as reward. After many repetitions, he learns to lower his head to pressure.
It is said that failure is the fertilizer of success. To me this means that all my failures have put me that much closer to my successes. Every day I visualize in my mind’s eye exactly what I want to manifest…whatever my heart desires. For almost two years, I have visualized myself riding Zum in the beautiful desert of Arizona. It has been and still is my biggest challenge and my biggest success!
I am always watching Zum’s ears. If Zum lays his ears back, he is unhappy or frustrated. I don’t punish him for putting his ears back. I replace unwanted behavior and emotion with behavior I want. So I ask Zum to do something every 3 seconds to get his attention back to me. Pretty soon, his ears are forward and we are having fun!