Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trust issues: Mine

Sometimes I don't give Gabe as much credit as he deserves. Sometimes, I think the worst will happen instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt. Yes, I am a pessimist.

Due to the incredible amount of mud around here I haven't been able to ride for at least a month. Yesterday was beautiful beyond belief and the ground had dried enough to still be soft, but not squishy or slippery and the only thing I could concentrate on was getting home and riding!

So, I snuck out of work early so I could get out there and ride my boy while the riding was good. I lunged him first (again, I might be crazy, but I'm not suicidal!) and he bucked and farted around a bit, but was good. As long as he stays on the end of the line and listens when I ask him to settle down, it's all good. I'd rather he get those stupid moments out without me in the saddle! And I've noticed that lunging him first, even if it's for a couple of minutes, gets him into the right mindset for working rather than goofing around.

He was not too sure about a new piece of tack I fitted him with and tossed his head around like he was trying to fling it as far as possible from his body. I think I've mentioned before that he has a bit of a mouthy issue. As soon as the bit goes in it's jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, chew, chew, chew, suck it up and try to gnaw on it. For the entire ride. He works the crap out of that bit. No grinding, just chewing and playing. We gets TONS of white frothy stuff, but the bit isn't staying stable and he needs to learn to just let it sit there. I tried a flash on him, but I HATE flashes and he hated it too. So I gladly took it off. I found a nice figure-8 noseband and fitted it on him for the first time yesterday. I fit it loose just so he could get used to it. He was NOT PLEASED with it. He'll get over it, and he did. I'll snug it up a hole for our next ride and see how he does. I'm not a big believer in holding their mouths closed, ever, so it will never be as tight as I've seen on some horses. I'm sure you've seen the ones that are so damned tight the horse's flesh bulges around the leather. That's just cruel and uncalled for, in my opinion.

We did a lot of really forward, steady trot work, changing diagonals, circles, serpentines, figure-8s and gait changes. As long as I kept him moving forward things were excellent. Every time I halted he got wiggly. I don't blame him, it was gorgeous and a bit windy and he was definitely a bit full of his silly self! He still hauls around circles like a freight train when tracking right, but we're working on it.

Oh! And we cantered a bit, too. I LOVE LOVE LOVE his canter. Probably the easiest, smoothest, most powerful canter I've ever ridden. I can ride that canter all day long and never tire of it. Lovely, lovely. He tossed a few half-hearted hops/bucks in while we cantered along and I laughed at him and his exuberance. It was obvious to me that he was just playing and feeling good, not being a butt or trying to dump me in the dirt.

Here's the part I was feeling a bit pessimistic about.

I've never taken him out for a trail ride by himself and I knew before I even got in the saddle that I was going to take him out. Yes, I had a few butterflies in my tummy just thinking about it. We've always been accompanied by one of the other horses and he's happy to march along with his friends safely near him. The few times the other two have been out of sight while I was riding he pitched an "Oh My God! I'm going to DIE!" fit until he could see them again.

So, I was worried he'd pitch an even bigger tantrum if I took him completely away from them. I was prepared, riding in my defensive seat and aware of every little ear twitch or muscle quiver, ready to react quickly if he decided to come unglued.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when he was absolutely perfect. I mean PERFECT. Strode along with that huge, powerful ground-eating walk of his, didn't startle when a bunny jumped out of the field under his nose, didn't argue or hesitate at all, even as we got further and further away from his buddies. Who, by the way, yelled for him a couple of times.

We only went out for about half a mile, but he was perfect for every step of it, even came back nicely without rushing.

I guess I should trust him a little more often. I've done a good job training him so far and I should trust that training, trust that he will behave and respond when I ask because that's what I've taught him to do.


  1. Some horses are just plain mouthy, but the bit-chewing could be a dental issue or else perhaps he just doesn't like the bit - what type are you using? Some horses prefer a bit with a lot of movement (double-jointed snaffle), some like a single joint and some prefer a bit that moves around less - one of the ported Mylars or the Mylar comfort snaffle, perhaps. Also, depending on how thick or thin the horse's tongue is, a fatter or thinner mouthpiece might be in order. And also play around with how high or low the bit sits in the mouth - horses seem to have a strong preference about this.

  2. That is awesome Jenn! So proud of both of you. I have often found that OTTBs in particular "read" their riders - if you don't get upset, neither do they. Its one of the qualities I love about them.

  3. Kate, having his teeth checked was one of the first things I did in an effort to figure out this mouthy thing...the dentist said he had one of the nicest mouths she'd seen on a retired racehorse. I am using a plain eggbutt snaffle, medium weight and medium diameter. I tried a loose ring on him and he didn't take a shine to it. I also tried the Myler comfort snaffle and he went around with his head in the air. I put a full cheek snaffle on him and he absolutely HATED it. Fought it as soon as I put it in the keepers and just about went up. So, we're in a plain snaffle now. I've tried it both high, and fairly low, in his mouth and he still plays. I have a couple more bits in my arsenal and may try a Happy Mouth at some point if the figure-8 doesn't help. I've also considered finding a copper mouth snaffle to see if he likes that taste better.

    Who knows, he may end up being a good candidate for a bitless bridle or a hackamore.

    He is very mouthy and always has to have something in his mouth to play with. When he's standing tied, he has to have the end of the rope in his mouth and chews it, or, he's stealing my brushes and chewing on them. When I bridle him, he's always trying to grab the leather to chew on and when longing, he's constantly contorting his lips and twisting his head to try to pull the line into his mouth. He even tries to pull the reins into his mouth when I ride! He's chewed on my ponytail while I groom. He has a jolly ball that he is often gnawing on. He needs a giant horsey pacifier!

    Pony Girl...Thank you! I was pretty thrilled and couldn't praise him enough for his awesomeness! I find myself taking a lot of deep breaths and staying relaxed when I feel him getting 'up.' He can definitely tell when I'm nervous or tense and reacts to it.

  4. Aww well done you two! They like to keep us quessing yeah ;)

    Mouth issuse can be hard to resolve. When we had those mares to break over the summer it was really obvious which ones had been *ahem* "bitted".

    The first filly was a nightmare, owner said "oH yes, she's been bitted! They had her in a chinffney at the stud"(!!!!) Chinffney in a 2 yr old fillys mouth!!!

    The 2nd one was also gobby as hell, always playing with the bit, tossing her head about and being a pain. She had been "started" by the owner (ie..throw on misfiting tack and chase round on the end of a lunge line at a canter till she is too tried to go on)


    the third hadn't been touched and was an angel!!
    We always get our babies going in a scrawbring (bitless bridle) and introduce the bit very slowly, just inthe mouth for a week, light side reins after and then normal reins, and they have been fine.

    Your lad would have been rushed most likely (and I've seen many racehorses broken :( )

    The nose band is a good idea, just as a training aid to get him out of the habit of playing with the bit so much. He'll probably stop after a while.

    Have you tried a plastic bit?
    SOmetimes they don't get the same satisfaction as clonking their teeth with a metal bit :P

  5. Kelly...I was thinking he was probably bitted too quickly and harshly, too, never really given the chance to get used to it. I'm going to try the noseband for awhile and if he still insists on playing with it, try one of the plastic bits (Happy Mouth). I will figure this beastie out!

  6. Very cool Jenn!
    I could feel my butt muscles tighten with you there for a sec!
    Gabe is just getting to be better and better!
    This may be a weird suggestion...but ever thought of using a "Waterford"?
    They can't really grab it..and it is soft in the mouth.

  7. What a dream of a trail ride. I've been thinking on this same subject a lot lately. I have to start retraining Gabbrielle under saddle from scratch soon, since winter will be ending and she's recovered from he injuries. Last year I handled her with kit (kid?) gloves, because I wanted to make it a positive, no stress experience for her, and I also wanted to avoid any green horse explosions with my old body. However, I think this year I need to be clearer in my communication and trust that she's mature enough not to explode. (Yet at the same time hang on in case she does.) Trust is a balance.

  8. Oops! I just realized I commented under my daughter's login! The awukovich comment is mine...she must have been logged in when I commented and I didn't even notice!

  9. KK...isn't the waterford the bit that's basically a "rope" with all the balls on it? I've never had cause to use one. Are they gentle/mild? I don't want to ever use anything harsher than a snaffle in his mouth because he does have such a lovely mouth. But if it's a soft/gentle bit, I might consider using it if the noseband or Happy Mouth doesn't do the job.'ll be out trail riding your beautiful Gabrielle before you realize it! You spent a lot of careful time starting her, I'll be surprised if she gives you any big problems once you get up and ride regularly!

  10. Wow, terrific work! Thanks for posting.

  11. I am completely the opposite! I tense up and worry about arena work (because that's where we've had our issues, Bar and me) and relax on the trails because that's where we've had our biggest successes!

    Then again, my friends and family will all tell you I do things a bit bassackwards.

    Great post!