Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hand Holding

I'm a needy horse owner right now.  Somewhere in the last ten years of being away from horses, I mis-placed my ability to try things.  I'm afraid of looking stupid.  I'm afraid of screwing up my horse.  I'm afraid of being wrong.  I'm afraid of failing.  Yes, we all know that I'm a master of being afraid.

But this has been bothering me lately.  Because I'm paying a trainer a decent amount of money every week to help me through this.  To tell me what steps to take to make this better.  But I'm starting to think that maybe part of my problem is that I want my hand held.  Every ride.  Every grooming session.  Every flicker of my horse's ear.  I want to know what the right thing to do if she pins her ears and for every answer I have a "Yeah but what if..." scenario.

Let's take biting for example.  Tessa will swing her head and try to bite while you saddle her or if you're grooming her girth or her chest.

Answer #1 - let her head connect with your elbow, finger etc so she punishes herself.
My Response- She's in crossties and can't actually reach me.  Also, she will just bite my elbow, finger, fist etc.

Answer #2- Back her up and get her feet moving.
My Response- This works but then I can't put her in the cross ties.  And I want a horse that I can put in the cross ties.  Also, this doesn't work if I'm in the wash stall.  There is no where to back up.

Answer #3- Hard smack on the neck.
My Response- She will throw her head up and away when I do this.  And then come back for more

Answer #4- If she comes back for more, you haven't disciplined hard enough.
My Response- But I can't hit her any harder and if I (theoretically) booted her like I was a horse, I wouldn't want her in the cross ties.

Just so you know, this was NOT an actual conversation with my trainer.  This is just an example of how no matter what training advice I get (and putting it out on the internet, I've gotten LOTS) I have a "yeah but..." to go with it.  Because what it comes down to is that I want someone with me EVERY TIME I interact with my horse to make sure I'm doing it JUST RIGHT.  That way I won't embarrass myself or ruin my horse or be one of those people everyone talks about how they're ruining their horse with their stupidity, yet somehow nobody ever SAYS that to those people.

I don't have an answer, this is just something that I'm mulling.  I've been reading some pretty great blogs about lightness and training and different ways of doing things.  My lesson is tomorrow and my trainer is pretty traditional.  Not harsh or close minded or anything, just more of a traditional trainer.  And some of the things I want to try aren't traditional, but I have a gut feeling that I need to try them.  They may be spectacular failures, but I think I'm realizing that I need to be willing to have a spectacular fail to prove to the pony that this between her and me.  And that *I* will hold her hand (hoof?) because I'm in charge.  A little bit like finally realizing that you don't need to ask your mom for child rearing advice at some point.  It's okay to do what you feel is right for your children without living by consensus.

Can I be in charge instead?
Sometimes I feel like I need to move barns to find a community that I connect with differently.  Everyone at my barn is super nice and I'm REALLY enjoying riding with my trainer, but....but.....I need to find MY voice and MY stride and I don't know what that looks like yet.  Ahhh....rambling thoughts.  The big update after a two week break comes tomorrow!  See you then!


  1. I really hope you find what your looking for!!!
    Shes such a cute mare!

  2. You won't ruin your horse! It just takes time and patience. You know what? Sometimes you need failures to learn the right way. And when it works, it makes it that much sweeter. :-)

    Gem is very mouthy. He will reach for me as I walk in front of him in the cross-ties, and I am pretty sure if I let him connect with my person it would result in a nip. I use a squirt bottle. I sort of tuck it under my arm so he can't see it and when he reaches for me, I squirt him in the nose followed by NO! It's invisible and it doesn't hurt you or your horse. I also use the squirt bottle (followed by NO!) to stop him from grabbing my saddle off the holder or pulling his blanket off the rack. It works. However, with Gem it only lasts for a few weeks and then he starts pushing my buttons again. :-)

  3. Simple is best - I'm a big fan of the the "oops, you accidentally ran your muzzle into my sharp finger - so sad". Works like a charm and they think they did it to themselves - that's why it works. I'm working on more "being" and less "thinking/worrying" myself right now . . .

  4. : ) GUT! Have you internal dialogue with your "trainer-self" like you did in this post! Every what if. Till you come to a conclusion. You can be your own best hand-holder. And DO adventure. I'm very similar to you in wanting approval for everything I do with my horse, but you're right. Explore. Have fun. Stop asking Mom for permission!!

  5. I guess I feel like generally if you think you're ruining your horse...then you're not.

    But all I really wanted to say is, I miss Arabian noses. They truly are the best.

  6. Look at it this way: You are regularly working with a trainer, so if you try something, you will have someone who sees you often enough to say "Uh..what are you doing to that horse?" before you have a chance to "ruin" your horse.

    My friend taught me with a horse that was a known biter to keep her elbow pointing out at their head so if they turn in they run into the elbow instead. Our crossties have a good amount of give so I can back up my horse if he is being naughty without taking him out of them.

  7. You are a lot like me. I consider the possible outcomes of every situation and have a hard time just following my gut. The best thing for me has been not always having a trainer to rely on. I'm by no means saying ditch your trainer, I'm just saying maybe sometimes quit wonder how he/she would handle the situation and take 5 seconds to think how you want to. You're not going to ruin your horse. Have some confidence in yourself.

  8. I think you are getting there - with your statement about making your own decisions of what might work better with your horse. No two horses are the same - they all react differently to discipline, praise, etc. What worked for our OTTB gelding does not work for my Warmblood mare.

    My mare used to nip - loves chewing on anything within her reach. I tried the smack in the neck, elbow to the mouth, etc. I finally just kept my dressage crop within reach and pop her in the chest everytime she tried to nip in the cross ties and she quit trying. I know most people would not approve of that - but it worked for me!