Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Hundred-Acre Wood

I loved Winnie the Pooh when I was little. I had all of his read-along books (my audiobook obsession started young!) and I still remember all the little songs and stories.

I catch myself singing this one a lot since we moved to Oregon.

When you’re little, and you live in town, a hundred-acre wood sounds like an almost unimaginably large space. Bigger than the playground. Bigger than a rich kid’s lawn.

As an adult, of course, 100 acres is still impressive. It’s enough space that you only see your neighbors if you want to.

But as an endurance rider, I can appreciate how small 100 acres is, too. In simple terms, a 100-acre square is less than half a mile on each side. Not nearly enough space to get things done.


In fact, 100 acres is a perfectly respectable space if you can convince your horse that going around the loop more than once isn’t a special torture you devised just for him.

The “back 40” where I board is roughly 100 acres, and we can get a lot done there. Not knowing what Blue’s deal is at the moment, I’ve gone into rehab mode. This means shorter rides with specific goals.

The back 100 is great for this because it had just about every kind of footing and terrain. Blue is basically over his phase of refusing to trot in general, so now he is showing more specific things for us to work on. Namely, at the moment anyway, he has forgotten how to go down hills.

It’s always something.

I realize that the physiological basis of trouble with hills is lack of balance. Lots of possible root causes there. He’s less than thrilled about collecting up and using his hind end lately, so probably that’s the well from which our troubles have sprung.

Anyway, what happens is we charge confidently up the big hill (3/4 mile, gradual), then jog back down. Most of that jog is perfectly lovely, aside from the occasional bobble where it’s uneven and rocky. But the last 15 feet before the bottom is a flurry of stiff, hollow, awkward, bumbling steps, Blue’s rear end miles behind us in never-never land, head in the clouds, front end skidding across the gravel like Bambi on a frozen lake. It is this way every time, and I admit that it would be funny if it were happening to someone else.

Why the panic and rush at the bottom of the hill? I HAVE LITERALLY NO $&@%#ING CLUE.

What’s the plan? I’m thinking that we need to be on the hill more. Learn the hill. Feel the hill. BE the hill. Become one with the hill. AKA, we’re going to start doing stuff on the way down. Lane changes, from one side of the double track to the other. Sharp turns into the trees on either side. Stops. Backing. Rollback and canter up the hill.

Either I will make the soft-tissue damage permanent and be shopping for another horse by the time the rain starts again, or I will have turned water into wine.*

*Clumsy horse into agile mountain goat.


  1. A plan is a fine thing to have. I always learn something from your posts. I hope this gets your goat ;)

  2. Hahaha, I love your attitude. I can't tell you how many times I've thought the same thing: "either this will kill us both or it'll fix the problem." Neither Dixie nor I am dead yet.