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Give a Cheer
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I love Java with all my heart, but whenever I saddle her up, I'm never sure which Java I'm bringing to the party. So I always have to be prepared to deal with whichever one shows up. Some days, she's perfect. Then there are days like this one, which happened this past Easter. Even if you don't know much about horses, you can see that this mare is having herself a right temper-tantrum.

For the record, that's not me aboard - it's my younger daughter - but I frequently ride her through snits like this one (and worse).

The photos do a pretty good job explaining why my dressage coach says she doesn't make me look good, and when I show up to lessons with her says, "why are you still RIDING this horse?" They also explain why I'm coughing up the money to put in a full sized dressage arena in my back yard. I just need a place to contain the energy when Java gets her tail in a twist. And they are pretty good evidence of Java's athletic ability. My coach when Java and I are experiencing rides like this says, she ought not be able to DO that but she obviously is.

Photo #1. She is counter cantering, which means she is bent to the inside and leading with her OUTside leg. It's an upper level test movement, reserved for finished horses. Java does it all the time, by choice. She knows how to take the correct lead. She just decides that she doesn't want to.

Photo #2. She's doing what's called a half pass. One hind leg reaches across and in front of the other one as the horse moves forward and sideways at the same time. It's supposed to be done on the flat surface of your riding arena, corner to corner. Java is performing it while traveling uphill, and the degree of difficulty to be able to do that and not fall over? Well, she just ought not to be able to do it. But there it is. It's important to note here that what she was ASKED to do was travel in a straight line down the side of the future fence line.

Photo #3. She's round through her back, bent in her hocks, and carrying her weight off her front end, all the while with her nose in the AIR and braced with her neck against Amy's hands. She ought not be able to bend through her hind legs and get them tucked under her in a nice balanced way with her nose in the air like that, but again there it is. Photo proof.

Photo #4. This is Java's best imitation of a buck. She thinks that she is doing real rodeo bronc work here, when the truth is, she's smooth and fluid enough that you just feel like you're on a merry-go-round on a downward drop.

None of these are hard to ride. They're just annoying and frustrating because it would just be so much EASIER for her to do what you're asking. Horses are, by nature, lazy. They will always travel the path of least resistance. Unless you are a horse named Java who has decided, I do what I want.

The thing is, when this happens, you can't give up and quit, because then the next fight is bigger, harder, and lasts longer. Amy's attitude is, "ok. You want to pout? Bring it...." Me - I just ride her through a million one rein stops where I bend her around her ribcage until she stops moving, let her settle down, and then ask her to try again.

Regardless of which one of us she's dealing with , Java eventually decides that the fight isn't worth it, but she and her rider are usually pretty worn out when she decides to finally just give up and behave like the broke horse she is. This tantrum was short by relative standards - 20 minutes and she was done.

It's exhausting on a level that is really unimaginable.

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