So, I have to take back everything I said the other day about the birthday mare. Although she might have her spooky moments, she did me very proud on Tuesday. I was lungeing her in the riding arena when a barnmate's mom brought her horse down and tied her. The other horse is one I dislike because she has terrible, pushy ground manners; I clean her stall twice a week and I'm forever having to threaten her with the rake to make her back out of my space. (Poor ground manners are, for the record, one of my biggest equine pet peeves).
The barnmate's mom tied her horse to a tie where the clip that attaches to the halter is broken and won't stay shut. The broken clip is a recent development, and most of us know about it and avoid that particular tie. In just a moment (only long enough for the mom to leave the arena and begin walking up to the barn), Piper had gotten loose and took off for my end of the arena, bucking and galloping, headed right for us. Meanwhile, we had been working at a canter and Cookie still had a lot of steam. I was standing in shorts and sneakers in the middle of the arena. What a place to be! Two wild horses, one attached to the rope on my arm, one loose and not very nice and headed right for us.
I could not immediately get Cookie to stop, in part because she likely had the same reaction I did ("OH SHIT"), so I had to trust that if Piper ran at her and tried to kick her, she would defend herself at the end of the line. They both ran a couple of laps before Piper paused at the corner of the fence; I took the opportunity to ask Cookie to halt, which -- wonder of wonders -- she did.
Meanwhile, the barnmate herself -- Piper's rider, whose mom had brought her horse down -- had seen what happened and had come into the arena to try and nab her horse. And isn't this always the way? Her horse is one of those horses who refuses to be caught. She ran back and forth along the fence line, bucking, throwing her head, occasionally kicking out in our direction, and steadfastly refusing to be caught. Her rider eventually gave up that battle and ran back to grab a bucket of grain in hopes of luring her away from us.
And can I just tell you? My horse, standing on the end of that lunge line, stood stock still at complete attention and waited for me to tell her what to do. She was clearly a little freaked but she didn't bolt or kick, not even when Piper approached, as she did several times, and kicked out at her. Fortunately for us both, I was holding a six foot whip in my other hand, which I brandished as a weapon. After about five full minutes of craziness, Piper was finally caught.
These situations are funny; as horse people we might know what we're supposed to do in hypothetical terms, but in a moment you learn what your real reactions are. The worst, but also most natural, self-preserving thing I could have done, would have been to drop the line and run out of the arena to safety. But I never would have considered dropping that rope. As for Cookie: you never really know how good your 'whoa' is until you can test it. I suspect that she would not have been quite so obedient had I been in the saddle -- I think she would have bolted. But I was proud of her for how well she listened; her listening made it much easier for me to stay safe.
She got a lot of treats afterwards.