Friday, March 11, 2011

The dreaded indoor

I took the chance on Wednesday, during a brief respite from awful weather, to take Coriander out for a short jaunt on the trail. I thought it was important for him to know that not every ride ends up in the indoor next door. You see, Coriander HATES the indoor with the burning fire of a thousand suns. Lately, with all this snow, it's been the only safe place to ride so most of time we've ended up in there. Knowing this, he's started ducking away from the bridle and pitching mini-fits at the turn in the trail that leads to it. This is not ideal.

The thing is, I totally understand why he hates it. It's a nice facility, they maintain it very well so the footing is nice and the air isn't polluted, but it has no windows- just a transparent band around the roof to allow light in. This means that there are lots of sounds coming from outside the building that Coriander can't distinguish the source of, and he's not too keen on that. Also, something bad seems to happen every time we're in there.

Consider the last three times we were in there:

On the first it was a nice-ish day and the snow on the roof was melting. This meant that every once in a while there'd be a big "whump" coming from outside the building, freaking him out. To his credit he never did anything more than startle, but it's incredibly difficult to get him to listen to me when he's constantly on edge waiting for the next bit of snow to drop.

Then there was the second experience. On the way over we passed two riders who were being brave enough to tackle the deep snow and go on a trail ride. I had just got him in the building, mounted and started walking around when we heard a horse frantically galloping around the outside of the building. Coriander freaked out. A few minutes later the two people we had passed came into the indoor, one of them had been bucked off and it was her horse we heard bolting back to the barn. She gave up rather quickly and took her horse back in, but the other rider stayed. Now this person is very nice, but she has an uncanny ability to amp up every horse she rides and create a nervous, jiggy mess. I'll jump out on a limb and guess it has something to do with her hanging on their faces while applying strong leg, but I don't know for sure. Anyway, poor Coriander was already nervous and the addition of another nervous horse to the mix didn't help any.

The last time I rode in the indoor was last Friday. Normally Friday is a free day to just toodle around and chat, so I popped the bareback pad on him and headed over hoping that it would be low-key enough to soothe his fears. Nope, comes out the local equestrian team had a show the next day and they were cramming. My trainer very nicely said we could come in anyway and ride in the back of the ring after they finished their flatwork. I got him inside (he wasn't real pleased about that) and waited in the middle until they finished up. Wouldn't you know, one of the horses (Elvis, I might do a post about him someday) bucked his rider off and bolted across the ring towards the door. Poor Coriander freaked out again, fortunately not enough to get me off, but he was so upset that no amount of circling I tried could get him to calm down. Since all I was sitting on was a bareback pad, I decided to abort the ride before he threw me and wrecked their practice.

You see why I don't blame him for hating it? This leaves me not so patiently waiting for the outdoor to thaw. We need to do a lot of work on bending and circles, but since I want quality I think I'll pass on the indoor for now. Poor boy.


  1. Could you do something peaceful and easy for him in there - like just standing around with you? Or how about some simple clicker work - if there's food involved he might start thinking better of it.

  2. You're right, Kate. I think what I'll do just that. I have been trying to keep the reinforcement rate high while I ride him in there but I probably do need to start on the ground. Thanks for clicking my brain back into motion.

  3. It's a shame you had such unsettled rides in the indoor, but you can turn it around :) Kate's suggestion is good - treats make everything better!

  4. I’m glad it’s not just me. Cole and I have been having a tough time in the indoor. The random noises, snow falling off the roof, rain sloshing in the gutters, other horses misbehaving, cars flying past on the driveway, horses in their stalls kicking at the arena wall. He is doing better with it all, but I am now a nervous wreck. Did I mention people opening and closing the doors every couple minutes?

    And then there are the times when he gets bored and wants to play…

    We do use clicker, and that has calmed him down when it gets to be too much, but it doesn’t help me too much. Alas, will spring ever get to NE Ohio? We just got another foot of the white stuff today.

  5. Treats do make everything better! I'm going to give it a go :)

    Hi Judi, thanks for your comment. This is why I post stuff like this- so people know they aren't alone. I guess we'll both have to do some slow clicker work and see if it makes a difference. Plus it's amazing how well clicker works helping the human calm down in a given situation.

    Sorry you got more snow :( Fingers crossed it melts off soon for you.

  6. It's easy to see why the poor guy is so against the indoor. If I was a horse I don't think I'd like my experiences there that much either.

    With our herd some like it and some don't. Dusty loves it because I think she believes when you enter the indoor it's like a giant Pez dispenser of treats. To get her used to it(she used to really hate the indoor at a facility we boarded at once) we just gave her lots of treats and hand walks around and more treats and a tiny bit of lunging and more treats etc. Now the minute she walks in she stops and looks at me as if to say "ante up I'm here in the indoor"! Maybe if you just brought him to the indoor and played with him he would learn to love it. Good luck, maybe the weather will change soon.

  7. I don't envy you - you've certainly had bad luck. I try to give treats after the ride when I'm at an indoor, as we work on ground work, so I second (or third?) that suggestion. Or if you can get the indoor to yourself, maybe some free lunging over jumps to have some fun. I'm sure you'll get it worked out. Also, you'll be outside soon :)

  8. Sometimes things just stack up like that. It's a pain when that happens but sounds like you have a good plan to deal with it.

    That's how things happened when Legs got scared in the show pen. It was three shows in a row with some goofy thing happening and my poor horse was fried.

  9. Hi GHM, Dusty makes the best example sometimes. It's good to know that the treat plan works.

    Thanks Carol, fortunately I've already been able to ride outside. It's fantastic. Yay spring!

    Hi Mikael, I can now completely understand why Legs got so upset about the arenas. The worst part is that Coriander's trust in me is pretty much destroyed, which I imagine was part of your issue with Legs. Getting that trust back is difficult.

  10. Seriously, I should be thankful everyday that Miles doesn't hate the indoor, for the exact reason you've stated...anything they can hear but can't see can be terrifying...especially horses running amok! It's a common problem that's for sure...hopefully one you won't have to worry about much longer:) Maybe he will be much better about it when the weather is warm and there are minimal scary noises outside so you can work him in relative calm...or even just hang out with him there, like folks have said.

    Miles is ok in the indoor, most days, but he still hates weird noises he can't see the origin of, and people coming in and out (especially the ones that try to sneak in quietly...ugh, it's not a library, announce yourself people!). Glad to hear you're able to get outside now:)

  11. Sorry to hear about the troubles with the indoor. I like Kate's idea a lot--I like to go back to ground work whenever I encounter a problem like this. I not only find that it helps the horse refocus, but me as well. It seems like if I concentrate on our work instead of what might happen, my horses do as well, but if I think about what they might spook at or if I find myself anticipating the next problem, the problems always happen. It's a constant tightrope act--to be prepared for an event without anticipating it :)