December 18, 2017

Aliens Invade Yorba Linda!


“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.” – Calvin Coolidge


Aliens Invade Yorba Linda!


            I was going for a ride the other day. I had my paint mare, KT, all tacked up and ready to work. As is my custom, we walked into the arena and began doing a little ground work before I mounted up. As we approached one corner of my arena KT suddenly became a giraffe! Her head went to the sky, she started snorting and tried (in vain) to run away! Since I wouldn’t let her just bolt, she continued to dance in place while I looked around trying to figure out what had gotten her knickers in a bunch. Hmmm, the arena seemed the same as always, no rouge grocery bags or vicious bunnies lurking about. The small hill behind the arena likewise. Ah ha! Just then I spotted the cause of all the drama. A large, black trash bag filled with weeds was resting ever so innocently against the chain link fence that separated my property from my neighbors. In fact, a whole flock (3) of them had apparently invaded the neighbor’s yard and come to rest against that fence. It was Grover’s Mill all over again!           

        So now the time had come to try to “talk down” my 16.1, 1100 lb mare and convince her that those bags were not some new strain of horse-eating alien space predators that had come to earth just to make her their lunch. I would have loved to just hop on and continue with the lesson I had planned on for that day, but things had changed with the appearance of those bags. My lesson plan for the day was now gone. I needed to do something at once or my poor mare would lose her mind. I couldn’t do everything I planned at once, but I could do something at once.            

          The first thing I did was sacrifice myself to the alien gods. That is to say, I put myself between her and the bags.  Hey, better that only one of us becomes lunch, right?  Plus, I have already established myself as the alpha mare in this two critter herd so if I showed her that I wasn’t afraid, maybe she wouldn’t be either.   

           Next I got KT’s feet moving. I walked her back and forth, always keeping my body between her and the “aliens.” By making her move, I was negating her flight response. She would be less likely to bolt if she knew she could move and wasn’t trapped. Here is when being able to lead your horse from either side comes in handy. I needed to walk her both directions while keeping myself between her and the bags. If you haven’t taught your horse this skill, now isn’t the time, but it is a good skill to have.  With each pass I got gradually closer and closer to the invaders. As I did this, I was very careful to watch KT for signs that she was ready to stop and investigate the invaders. The signs include- her desire to stop walking, lowering of the head, twitching ears, and calmly looking away from the predators.  Once she showed me these signs, I moved on to the next part of the plan.      

        Let her stop and watch. Now this can sometimes backfire so you have to be sure of the timing here. You horse needs to be really, really ready to stop and the alien needs to be very, very still. If a sudden gust of wind had moved the bags, we would have been back to square one, but nothing like that happened this day. The slight breeze did cause the untied “ears” of the bags to wiggle a little. This was enough to keep KT’s interest, but wasn’t sufficient to invoke another panic. Lots of soft-spoken, encouraging words and stroking here will get you quickly to the next step.  

         Sacrifice your horse to the gods. Just like in some ancient cultures, it was time to sacrifice my 7-year-old virgin to the gods. I began walking in a circle again, but this time I kept KT between myself and the bags. I made her walk to keep the flight response in check, but she was also required to listen and respond to my normal ground cues while ignoring the bags.  And we walked circle after circle. Then we changed direction and walked more circles always getting closer and closer to the bags. After many circles, KT was responding normally and had overcome her fear of those trash bags. Now, that is not to say that the next time a bag shows up someplace else the process won’t start all over again, but for today we were ok. This whole process only took 15 minutes and was well worth the time invested. 

           I was then able to mount up and continue with my riding plans for the day. Well… I did ride, but the plan was different. The process starts all over once you are mounted, but that is a discussion for another day. Just remember to do what you can do at once, keep your wits about you and the “aliens” won’t get you. Or your horse.           

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also a registered AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted.






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