Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The B*tch is Back

Just in case you didn't know, the title is an Elton John song.  It just seemed so appropriate for my Monday night lesson recap.

The first part of the lesson was some fairly lovely work.  We're really focusing on me staying relaxed and pushing Tessa into a solid contact and feel.  Tonight's lesson was a bit more challenging because it was dark, rainy and windy.  There are two open ends on either side of our arena, which means that when it gets dark and someone is walking past or a gust of wind blows the leaves around outside, the horses can spook.  I mostly avoided going to one end of the arena because whenever we got there, I lost Tessa completely.  This is something that I feel like is a huge hole in our training and I get frustrated that it doesn't get addressed more.

We'll be trotting along in a nice frame and I'll feel her start to slow down.  I'll push her forward, but in the next step her head has come up, ears forward, head turned to look to the outside.  I tried REALLY hard not to yank on the reins at that point, but I've completely lost her.  I put a leg on and get nothing.  I put a spur on and get nothing.  I jab her HARD with the spur and she swishes her tail at me, but her head stays cranked to the outside.  So I use my inside rein.  And it's ugly.  I'm dragging her nose around using brute strength, while kicking her with my inside leg.  This happens EVERY SINGLE TIME, which means that I'm doing something wrong.  I don't know if it's that I'm tensing my body or what, but it gets old having to resort to bully tactics every time.  Again, I recognize that I'm missing something but I don't know what it is.  These are the kinds of things that I would love to work with someone like Mark Rashid or Buck Brannaman on.  Because I'm pretty sure they don't need to bully their horses into not spooking.  No, I'm damn sure they don't.  There's a Buck clinic in my area in November, but it's on my wedding anniversary weekend that I have already rescheduled once for a different horse activity so I won't be able to make it.

The other major thing of note was that after our walk break, she decided to throw a tantrum.  She does this EVERY TIME.  Do you see a theme here?  I do.  It's called ARGH WE HAVE NO PROGRESS in these departments.  Yes, yes.  I exaggerate.  But she threw a tantrum when I asked her to trot forward and then to canter.  She kicked out every time I put leg on her.  My trainer's answer to this is that I need to get after her for throwing a hissy fit.  And I know that she's probably right, but again there's that part of me that thinks there's a different answer.  But what is it?  I'm not a softie who doesn't want to hurt the poor little pony.  I mainly don't punish her because I still have a residue of fear left over and when she gets super kicky and bucky like that and she pins her ears and grunts at me, I'm kind of intimidated!  And of course, smart pony knows that.

I will also say that it's very likely she's going into heat.  Her pasture buddy is in a serious heat and it's the right time of year for that last heat.  But still, I'm tired of arguing.  I'm tired of wondering if I'm going to have to suck it up and ride through a temper tantrum.  I'm having an "I want a gelding" moment and maybe a horse who's a little less smart.  Don't worry, I'm not seriously contemplating selling her.  I just need to find the answers that work for both of us so she can stop pestering me with the question on a regular basis.


  1. I was exactly in this spot - gosh, only this past Spring (seems like longer). I am very, very glad I listened to my daughter and husband and stuck with my Diva mare. My daughter told me that same thing - when Riva got bitchy - I had to bet bitchy back. It is not pretty or fun - but the payoff was worth it. Her Diva moments are so few and far between now, I can hardly believe it. And I am not a brave just gotta pretend you are :)

    Stick with it!

  2. Hey, I have a gelding and I'm still going through the same thing! Fingers crossed for both of us that a solution is found soon.

  3. With my horse, I want him to know I am the HBIC and if he ignores me, there are consequences. If he is looking somewhere I don't want him to and ignoring my requests, I ask him to go back to work nicely and then as harshly as I need to get a response. I give him the opportunity to take the nice aid, and if he chooses to ignore it, then he is inviting a harsher aid.

    As for the walk breaks, same idea in my world: I'm giving you the chance to walk and take a break. If you want to be a jerk, we can just go back to work, and harder work at that.

    From what I know of Buck, that's his thing: Make the right thing easy/pleasant, and the wrong thing hard/unpleasant. You're giving them the choice.

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  5. Suggestion for the "scary end" when you are approaching it and you know the place she typicaly balks at - do something completely different - don't turn around but immediately no matter how ugly SHE makes it do a 10 meter circle, do a leg yield (if she's there yet) the idea is change the subject before she can. Even if you halt, backup, then do a quarter turn you still changed the subject, not her.

    as far as the tantrum after walk break - transitions and direction changes. Remeber backup is a transition. Circles even if you put her nose to her butt and circle make her do it until you say stop. Horses HATE circles! I'm very quick with a one rein stop and circle until I have control and the horses attention.