Thursday, June 16, 2011

A response

I started writing this as a response to Muddy K's comment but it got really long so I decided to make a post out of  it instead. You asked a good question that I hope I understood correctly. Here's my answer to the question I think you asked:

I didn't like having to do this with him, it doesn't sit well for me to use negative reinforcement. But when I asked myself if I would be comfortable asking someone else to ride him- with him just deciding to run off whenever he pleased- I wasn't. It wasn't safe and he was escalating. Visions of him bolting across the hillside were swimming in front of my eyes.

All I want him to do is wait for me to say okay before he transitions up; when he transitions up without me asking for it he has to circle. I could just ask him to halt but I'd probably have to pull on his face to get it and I don't want to do that (he's been ignoring my seat aids too). What I'm trying to do with the circling is get my message across with the least amount of punishment. When HE finds the stop we stop, I don't keep pushing him past that point to add an exclamation mark. I've never found that making the horse move past the point where they want to stop just to "make it your idea" works very well for me. Been there, tried that, decided not to buy the t-shirt.

Most of what I do is trail ride and sometimes we get in situations where I really need him to run these things by me so he doesn't get hurt. I'm not doing this to be punitive or controlling, I just need to him to get the message that he needs to get my permission. The last thing I want to do is kill his exuberance and make him hate being ridden- if I'd gone out today and he'd run off to the other side of the pasture to avoid me I would have written about it and warned everyone to never do this. Believe me, I was looking at him for signs that I'd done wrong by him, he's not shy about letting me know he's ticked at me. But he wasn't, he let me put the halter on like he normally does, walked beside me up to the barn like he normally does, let me tack up while he stood loose eating hay like he normally does, and when I rode him we only had to circle twice. Plus he actually stopped for clicks for the first time in weeks, he had been blocking me out to such an extent that he wasn't even stopping for treats anymore (This was quite distressing for me, I went out and bought the premium treats I know he loves and he wasn't even stopping for those- prompting some serious self questioning on my part.).

It's possible he could still be ticked at me or he could be accepting that I'm standing my ground and making boundaries, I'll probably never really know. What I do know is that if I need to do something to save my bones from getting busted I will. I can't afford to get broken again like I was last year.

Will he run off again eventually? Yes.
Will I fall asleep at the wheel and let him? Sadly I probably will.
Is there a better way to do this? Probably.
Do I know what it is? No.
If I find a better way will I use it? Absolutely, and I'll be sure to let everyone know so they can do it too if they want.


  1. Smaz, I get everything you've said here, accept it completely, and wish you could come and ride Scout. I think the part of my question that I didn't frame very clearly is: do you think he can eventually arrive at the place where he fully comprehends what you are asking and accepts it as gospel. I mean, I know there will always be moments, and training is often nothing but a series of constant reminders, but how do you know when something has finally stuck? (Not to make you write another post, but this stuff is interesting to talk about!)

  2. Hehe, don't tempt me- you only live 2.5 hours away from me you know ;)

    I was a little defensive but it had way more to do with what was clanging around in my own head than what you asked. Lucky you, you'll get to read all about it in my next post.

    I think he already understands what I'm saying to him. On Tuesday he was rushing off literally every 10 strides and we had to do a lot of circling. Yesterday he only did it twice. I'd say that was at least an 80% improvement in just one day. It won't ever be gospel to him since he's the type who WILL push the boundaries, but if he tests the boundary and it doesn't move then he won't feel the need to test it again for a while. That's the theory anyway.

  3. My theory, and I've said this so many times I sound like a broken record, is do the least amount to get the necessary result, but always, always, always put safety first. It's not fair to present your farrier (unless you're the farrier) with an unsafe horse or to put yourself on one. If nothing else, you're doing a favor for the horse who, if he does get you off his back and hurts you, will suffer the consequences probably more than you, especially if it causes him not to be rode and unable to be sold.

    I think what you said up there is spot-on--if you find a better, easier way, you'll do it, but in absence of that, you have to do what is essential for your safety.

    Although, I don't know what a better solution would have been to his issue than circling or "letting" him(rather than "making" him) work. Usually a horse who wants to run home has a lot of energy to burn off and letting him do it by turning the opposite way or circling is giving him a proper energy "release" and allowing him the time to think about the situation and find a compromise between what he wants and what you need.

    Beautiful Mustang (Still can't leave comments on this form as a google user.)

  4. Oh, and I do believe your horse will get to where you want him and stay there. You'll know he's got it when you can ride him to and from the barn at all gaits by asking--turn him around--ride off--and he stays the same horse. But my theory (another one, that is) is that training doesn't always follow the horse to the next owner. It might for a little while, but if the next owner doesn't show consistency, he'll (and any horse) will revert back to what it wants to do at its more instinctual level.

    Linda (again)

  5. Brilliant, Linda. Thank you. You are going to do such a good job with Beautiful, she's a lucky mare.

    PS- I wish Blogger would fix their issues already. I had to switch to Chrome to get things working correctly.

  6. Shannon - I wanted you to know that we have been instructed to do exactly what you are doing when a horse is getting pushy and wants to take off - walk them in a small circle. The other thing is halt, fast back up and then stand for a few seconds. Safety first, my friend. Wouldn't want you banged up again!

  7. Thanks Wolfie, your comment felt like a hug and I needed that :) I think I've finally figured out why it bothered me and I'm okay with it now. You're right, safety is first!

  8. smazourek-

    My trainer taught me something she calls the fire drill - a halting method that does not get in your horses mouth, or inadvertently tell the horse to go.

    Reins held by the buckle in one hand.

    Other hand make the okay sign - touch thumb to forefinger - around the end of the reins.

    Slide okay sign towards horses neck - pull reins through okay sign (around reins still) - until you gently hit the neck. Calmly repeat as necessary.

    This stops rushing tbs who think pulling on the face means go, and has calmed my horse and saved my neck a few times. Practice it before you need it!