We had our first open-field charge practice with the new riding school class today. Last Saturday, we had practiced in Wren arena to give them the feel of a charge in an enclosed area. Today, they graduated to the open field charge.
We had four of our most experienced riders assisting with the training as it can get a little intense on the parade ground. I was riding Charlie, a big quarter horse who used to race in his previous life. He is actually assigned to one of the students, but because he injured a student from the last class and has been acting a little crazy of late, we decided to put the student on Cochise, and I rode Charlie instead.
Pete, our most experienced trooper, led the class. He had us practicing parade maneuvers for a while and then had the class work on controlling their horses on the parade ground at different gates. The horses were agitated as is usual for them when they are on the parade ground. They all love the charge and get excited whenever we line up in a skirmish line. Pete had us practice maintaining the skirmish line at a walk in both directions up and down the field. Then we tried a trot and then, finally, the gallop. Of course, the horses were getting more and more exited as we did this.
As soon as we went to a gallop, the student on Cochise departed the line at an extended gallop and was rapidly moving up the field. Charlie saw this and immediately bolted to catch up. I leaned back and grabbed the reins with both hands to no avail. I may as well have been trying to stop a runaway locomotive. Realizing that Charlie was not going to slow down until he caught up with Cochise, I let him go. He rapidly closed the distance and soon passed Cochise. I reached down with my left hand and pulled his left rein to bring his head off line slightly. This technique, which is taught to all new students, will cause the bolting horse to slow down slightly so the rider can regain control.
Charlie came out of his bolt, but was still in a pretty strong gallop. I began vigorously halt-halting him to get inside of his head and prepare him to stop as we were reaching the end of the parade ground and about to cross a paved road. Charlie saw the road and decided it was in his best interests to slow down before we hid the slick asphalt. I teach the students to not try to stop on the road, as it is slick, but let the horse cross over the road to the grass on the other side. However, Charlie had slowed down considerably and I was able to bring him to a gently stop. Cochise was right behind us with his student.
We debriefed the experience several times afterwords as it was a good lesson on what to do with a bolting horse. A mysterious bystander filmed the charge as we sped by, which can be seen below. Cochise is in front and Charlie and I are closing in on him on his left. It is not a good quality image, but you can see the speed of the various horses as they go by.