How stubborn is my Haflinger? Occasionally I’ve wondered how long it would take to wait her out when she decides the answer is “no”. I have my answer.
I’ve mentioned previously that during some conditioning rides, she gets ‘stuck’ and refuses to go forwards. There doesn’t appear to be any fear involved. Those episodes feel very different and are given much more tolerance.
Pre-Christmas, Confetti and I zipped out for what should have been a moderately paced solo ride. It was the middle of the day, sunny, not muddy, good headspace on my part. We moseyed our way up to the top, a little slower than I’d thought. Then we headed down the other side of the loop, had a lovely canter up a sandy hill.. the world felt wonderful and alive and amazing.
She threw the brakes on a minute later heading downhill through the steps. Dead stop. Clearly going to die can’t possibly move forwards. I kicked, smacked, took a deep breath, and summoned every ounce of patience that I had. I was not going to get off. The park was quiet. We had plenty of time. If I was late to dinner in four or five hours, so be it. I was not going to get off.
We started with lateral work. Could she go sideways on the step? Yes, she could. Sideways both ways? Fine. I want to climb up the side of the hill and go that way! she says. No. On the trail. Can you take a step down? No. OK. Lateral again. Pause. Breathe. OK. Insist on forwards, persistent nagging kicks and occasional swats. Any forwards motion and I’d quit. Try to go off the side of the trail while going forwards and I’d haul her nose back to the trail and smack hard. Sometimes that led to her going back up the step, but that’s the rules: stay on the trail.
We made it a few steps down, eventually, and continued: her refusal, my insistence. I don’t want to. You have to. She braced through her neck, so in our halt-breaks I’d flex her left and right, then back to forward-insistence. Somewhere along the process, I pushed too hard for more forwards, and she went backwards up the steps instead – multiple steps. Pretty impressive. Pretty frustrating! Forwards and lateral and forwards again we went, quarter steps half steps thoughts of forward.
Thirty-some minutes in I called my boyfriend to let him know I might be late for dinner, but that this was a conversation I was going to finish out. Naturally, I kept up the forward-insistence with my legs while I talked – she wasn’t moving anyway, so what was the harm? She took the opportunity to go forwards up the side of the hill since I had one hand on the phone, which promptly gave way underneath her. I snapped my phone back into the holster, took up both reins, said some extraordinarily impolite things as for the first time ever I feared my pony might fall over, re-established balance on solid ground, and picked the phone back up. Unfortunately for me, the iPhone microphone does pick up fairly well from one’s hip, and my poor boyfriend confirmed later that he heard everything. Oops.
On the bright side, it was only a minute or two later when she decided she was done resisting, and leg really did mean forwards, and we went zooming down the trail: one pissed off pony, one moderately tired rider.
Forty minutes. Maybe a hundred feet.