Friday, June 22, 2012

Stop, Look and Listen Baby

'Stop, look and listen baby.  That's my philosophy.  It's called rubberneckin' baby..."  Elvis Presley sang that song.  I used to be a huge, huge Elvis fan in high school.  I outgrew that phase but I still can sing along with most Elvis songs.

My pony is a rubbernecker.  Which is better than a bolter, but still annoying.  Her new thing is when we get to the scary end of the arena, she tunes out.  I have tried bending her, re-directing her energy, asking for a hindquarter yield.  You name it, I've tried it.  Her answer to all of these when she's distracted is to ignore me, slow down and stop.  She wants to look at what she wants to look at.  I'm trying to stay centered and focused, but sometimes it's hard not to feel like a baby beginner when I'm up there kicking the snot out of her, smacking her with the whip and practically grunting and she's just standing stock still.  I can bend her neck so that her nose is on my boot and she will be rolling an eyeball to look at whatever it is she wanted to look at.

Drastic times call for drastic measures, right?  But what are those drastic measures?  I want to make sure not to repeat mistakes of the past, where she was inadvertently punished for being afraid and stopped wanting to go down there already.  At this point, she's at least being brave enough to stop and look instead of just running the other direction.  However, all the stopping and staring is getting on my nerves.

Keep in mind that the pony is still very insecure.  She was turned out without her buddy the other day because he was at a show.  She was quietly grazing when the foal in the pasture next to her decided to have a quick romp.  Baby and Momma galloped off and Tessa was off like a rocket, off the grass and back to her shelter where she stood on high alert, nostrils distended, ears pricked, puffing madly.  It doesn't take much for her to go into flight mode.  So I don't want to push that button on her.

But, she's six now.  She's been riding circles in the same damn arena for a year and it's high time she be able to go around on the rail of the WHOLE arena without stopping and looking, right?  Or am I setting an unrealistic timeline?  Maybe I should let go of my timeline?

I do know that it would be good for her to expand her horizons.  After an actual trail ride, our arena may not look quite so scary, right?  However, with no access to a trailer it makes it hard.  Okay, that's not completely it.  It's also that I'm not a trail rider, I don't have a saddle I would feel safe in, I'm not confident enough to take her out on trails, we don't have a buddy with an older been there horse and currently all the riders that would be willing to take her on trails are busy showing their horses at horse shows.  What to do.  What to do.

My current plan of attack is to simply distract, distract.  Use ground poles, more complicated exercises.  Yield her down to the scary end instead of trying to trot a straight line.  But I'm also curious what you would do.  I think stopping and letting her look (bravo for being brave enough to stop and look pony!) is going against what I'm asking her, which is to go forward at all times no matter what.

p.s. I love my saddle.


  1. I definitely think it's about time she learned to work in the whole arena. I have a friend with a similar arab. She put him on Smart Calm from smartpak, and said he's a whole new man! I also really recommend groundwork, including dealing with obstacles, for helping a horse learn to trust you when they are nervous. It's hard for a horse to trust you when you are not confident, so make sure you are feeling good about your plan of attack regardless of what it is :)

  2. I agree with RHF - more ground work. Take her outside and do ground work and a walk. Stay in her comfort zone at first and little by little extend it.

    And yes she should be able to do the entire arena. If I was riding I would be sure that my mind was clear - not thinking about the lookie/spooky area and just ride it as it if was the not scary end. Also try to redirect her the moment before she tunes you out.

    Good luck!

  3. With G we keep at it in the spot he spooks or has to stop and stare at until he stops doing it. We will work at a trot if he stops ill give him a second before leg on more leg more leg then a tap and we start going again next time he will do it over again but eventually he realises that nothing over there has changed and neither has the idea that i WANT him to work and he is going to work on MY terms. Some days go better than others :) but eventually during that ride he gives it up and carries on.

  4. Focus on what you want her to do - you have to know what this is - and ignore everything else - even the things you don't want - just keep asking for what you DO want - the rest will fall away. It sounds counterintuitive, but it works.