Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gabe throws a royal fit

He finally did it. He threw a teenage temper tantrum. If he was an actual human teenager he would have rolled his eyes, huffed loudly, stomped through the house to slam the bedroom door while telling me how I'm out to ruin his life FOREVER and that I NEVER let him have any fun at all. He probably would have flung something at the closed door just to make sure I knew he was pissed.

Gabe throwing a temper tantrum is a bit scary. He's HUGE and those hooves and legs have quite the reach on them, especially when you're the 5'2" human holding the end of the rope. He throws noisy tantrums, seriously, it was almost funny the way he was grunting and snorting during the fit throwing shenanigans.

We started with a 15-minute session of grooming with him tied to the post. He was mostly a gentleman. Not too wiggly and no pulling back at all. Still not cured of the pulling, but getting there. How do I know he's not cured? He stands there, but he's not relaxed. He's tense and worried about being tied up, but at least he stood this time.

Aside from the walk I took him on with Calypso not too long ago, all of our work has been in a pasture where he can see the other horses. He's close to them, the pasture is familiar, life is good and he works happily.

I decided it was time to change things up a bit so I took him out for a walk, alone, down our driveway. We have a pretty long driveway, nearly half a mile, and the other horses are out of sight pretty quickly. He was very non-happy about that, but, as long as we were walking and I was keeping his attention with regular halts and turns on the forehand/haunches, he was pretty good. A little nervous, but paying attention.

The driveway curves around the pond and there's a good-sized flat, grassy area between the pond and the driveway. My goal was to get him there, let him graze for a couple of minutes and do some lunge work in a new place. No new commands, just a new place.

So, he can't see the other horses, but he can hear Calypso screaming for him. The weather was changing quickly as a big, noisy thunderstorm was rolling in AND we were in a new place. Apparently, all that was too much for him and he decided he was going to have fits on the end of my line. Bucking and rearing and grunting and trying to run off back to the other horses. I'd get him moving at a walk at the end of the line and he'd lunge and buck and grunt and rear and try to take off, again and again. He can be pretty scary when he's acting like a spoiled brat and I wished, more than once, that I had plunked my hard hat on before I took him out. I guarantee I WILL be wearing the hat next time.

Finally, after dealing with his juvenile tantrums and reprimanding him with lots of backing up and tight, tight turns on the forehand/haunches to refocus him, I got him to walk once, mostly calmly, on a circle around me. Once he accomplished that simple task, we headed back. I decided it was probably not a good day to attempt to continue with our session in the wide open spaces. We headed to a different pasture, one I haven't worked him in, and made his goofy butt work HARD in there. By the end of the session he was quiet and listening and appropriately contrite for acting like a fool.

My new goal is to take him out and work him in strange places much more often. He has to learn that in every situation, in every place, no matter how new or scary, he MUST listen to me and not throw fits. His behavior was absolutely UNACCEPTABLE. Especially with as big as he is. He can get very dangerous very quickly if he decides he's done listening. He has to learn that behaving badly can be MUCH worse for him than whatever scary or nerve-wracking situation he might be in. He has to learn to turn to me in those scary situations. I can't make him not be scared or nervous about things, but I can teach him how to respond appropriately in those situations.

Next time, I'm wearing my hard hat. I don't need a big Gabe hoof making contact with my naked noggin.


  1. I'm glad you made it back safely. I had an experience with Gabbrielle once that was very similar, only she was running circles around me on the lead rope and I couldn't stop her. All I could do was start moving toward the gate so that I could shut it once she went through it. She was scared because I was walking her down the driveway and she kicked a rock up into some sagebrush, which rattled like a snake. It would help if the other horses wouldn't freak out when you remove a member of their herd.

  2. They can be so goofy. I think if Calypso hadn't been having a neighing fit about him leaving he might have been able to handle things a bit better. Ahh, well, these things take time. He definitely made me nervous for my noggin though!

  3. Yikes, glad you made it through the tantrum. Silly beasts! Were you wearing your gloves? Rope burns can be nasty.

  4. Good idea with the helmet. Also you might want to consider taking a stock whip-not to hit him with, but to enforce your personal space. I like to use a fiberglass rod type of stock stick- the kind they use for training dogs on sheep- when I am walking my stallion. It is firm enough that when I push his side it doesn't bend, and if I have to tap him with it he gets the message.

  5. Kathy...yes, I've been wearing my gloves! That awful case of nasty rope burn has taught me my lesson forever.

    Shirley...I've seen those stock whips at the feed store...the really thick ones they use to work sheep/cattle. I've thought about getting one because the dressage/buggy whip I use now is very, very bendy and not really effective at moving him out of my space when he's not focused on me.