Today I`ve rediscovered the joy of riding a bike.
One of the horses at the yard has started being cheeky when hacking alone so we decided to solve the problem by his owner and rider going out with only me and a bike for company. The horse is quite young but has hacked out alone before, however I think he was worried and the combination of rider nerves and horse nerves meant that they had to return home yesterday, after reaching the end of the road.
So I dug out an abandoned bike from the back of the barn, and followed the horse and rider out. It was interesting to see how the two interacted. When the horse spooked, he spun and tried to run, which caused his rider to lean forwards slightly and bring her hands back. As they started heading towards home they got into an argument and wound each other up.
My advice was when the horse spooked and tried to turn around, his rider should just make him stop. As a young horse he`s going to be unsure about things, but he needs to learn that he can`t run away from the monsters. Stopping also stopped his rider getting her knickers in a twist, and let her sort out her position and technique. Once the horse had calmed down, she asked him to walk on towards the monster with legs and voice. I noted that when anxious, her horse chomped his bit, so she should wait until his mouth is still before proceeding.
The first couple of times I and my bike had to block the road to help prevent her horse running home. Once we`d established the routine of spook, spin, stop, reassure, re-approach, praise, the hack went without a problem. Once we`d been around the block once we went straight round again, and I was almost indispensible.
On Friday I`m going to follow this pair around the block again, but by giving them a good head start first so that they can prove to me that they can hack alone! Once they get going I think they will confidently go on any hack.
Seeing as I`d dug out the bike I decided a session at desensitising Llani was in order. Whilst he stood in his stable I cycled up and down the barn until Llani stopped shooting to the back of his stable. Despite being wary, he was intrigued by the bike, so I took it over to him to sniff it. Llani wasn`t bothered by bikes until some whooshed up behind him on a hack just before Christmas and since then he`s a nervous wreck around cyclists.
Anyway, I brought Llani out of his stable and wheeled the bike carefully around him, showing it to him, resting it on his shoulder, and bringing it up from behind, as would happen on the road. He soon got used to this so I put it away and worked him. After he was rugged up and ready to go out, I produced the bike again. He just watched carefully, as I wheeled it towards him and then I proceeded to walk to the field with Llani on one side and the bike on the other. He walked happily enough, just very conscious of the bike and just before we got to the field I climbed astride it and pedalled slowly, leading him. I hope that he learns not to worry about me hopping off and on a bike, and just accept it.
At the field, Llani turned and watched me fascinated, as I closed the gate and cycled away. For the next few days I`m going to cycle to the field every morning so that the horses get used to the bike, and then when Llani is completely confident around it with me I`ll hack him out with a friend on a bike so she can replicate cyclists on the road, and then hopefully we`ll crack Llani`s phobia!