Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A monster in the cornfield

If I didn't know better I'd swear there was cuttin' horse blood coursing through my Thoroughbred's blue-blooded veins.

That boy can drop rump and spin 180-degrees without thinking about it then take off like his tail was on fire. It's actually quite fun to ride...when I know it's coming!

Last night's arena ride was lazy and slow but we did good work. I remembered to ride the effort, but also took the time to just give him his head and let him find his own way without me nagging at him. I can become quite a "nagging" rider if I don't keep myself in check, especially on Gabe. He never expends more energy than he absolutely has to, so, to keep him working at a good walk or trot, I have to keep on him, pushing, pushing, pushing. Unfortunately I've been known to get stuck in the rut of pushing and nudging...I get into a rhythm...and I forget to give him the release/reward when he DOES step up. I worked on very obviously giving him a release when he stepped up like I asked. Granted, he reverts back to the drag-butt pace in a few strides, but I gave him release and only "nagged" at him when he started dragging.

We had plenty of Losgelassenheit, but not a whole lot of Schwung! Must work on the Schwung.

For portions of the ride I just released him, completely, and let him do as he wanted. I think it's good for a horse to know that every now and then they are in charge and can make the decisions. I believe it builds their confidence and encourages decision-making (if that's possible!). I'd rather have a horse who is confident enough to try to get us out of a bad situation than to wait for me to make a decision in a split-second...such as over cross-country jumps or out hunting.

After every ride we go out for a short trail ride as our cool-down and a nice hack-out after the real work. The farmers are in the fields and one of the fields next to my property is harvested so I decided we'd take a swing around it.

The combines have been out and spent most of the day behind the horses' pasture yesterday so I thought "eh, the combines won't bother him, he's seen 'em all day!"

Boy, was I ever wrong. Apparently the electric rope around the pasture prevents the combines from eating the horses. But you take him out of that roped off safety zone that giant, rumbling machine with teeth is GOING TO GET HIM!

As we were riding around the field one of the combines came up a rise and around a corner in the next field, straight towards us, spewing the remains of corn husks and smiling at Gabe with it's shiny, flesh-ripping teeth.

Gabe lost his everlovin' mind and decided he needed to save both of us from the corn-chomping monster. Drop rump, spin and RUN!!!! AWAY!!!!! from the beast of DOOM! I guess he DID have some energy hiding in that big body of his...he was just saving it for an emergency.

I thought I was a goner for a minute and remembered to push my heels down, shove my legs forward, stand up and press my hands firmly into his crest so he'd pull against himself, not me. Good thing I hack out with my reins bridged!

I let him run a bit and we settled quickly into a less frenetic rhythm. The thing about Thoroughbreds is, if you just let them go forward to get it out of their system, they get their minds back rather easily. If you fight them and make them go slow, slow, slow, the tension just builds to explosive levels. So we galloped. He snorted and blew and sweated and we galloped. Not far, maybe half a mile, but far enough for him to start to relax.

All I have to say is this: I am SO glad I put a really good stop on him or we may still be galloping!

Then, I turned his big gray butt around and we walked/jigged/hopped/side-passed right back towards the maw of the metal beast. He didn't want to, but he went because I insisted. And once we got close enough (a couple hundred feet), I made him stand/jiggle/wiggle/dance and wait for it to make a corner and head away from us before I allowed him turn around and walk back from where we came.

There are lessons in everything and in everything, I take the opportunity to turn it into a learning experience in the hopes that one day the corn, the telephone pole, the combine and the waving marker flag will no longer incite him to turn tail and run.


  1. WOW! That is quite a story. You handled it extremely well and it sounds like you know your horse / thoroughbreds very well. I would have tried to stop the horse immediately. Guess that would have led to bucking? Anyway, good work and staying calm and getting him to face his fear. I enjoy your blog :)

  2. The Momma in me wonders, do you wear your helmet? egads! Story well written. One day I will share the account of my most recent 'riding' of Willow, when I recover... LOL

  3. Oh my! I totally understand that drop rump and spin thing. As my cowboy trainer likes to say, it's kinda annoying!!
    It's comforting to know I'm not the only one experiencing this type of reaction. I love the way you handled it. Hooray for bridged reins!!!

  4. I'm so glad I read this were a superstar and I'm pretty sure you cemented in my mind how I need to handle my OTTB when we finally hit the trails!

    The one time he spooked outside the arena, he put me off balance and just wanted to GET OUT. I hadn't cantered him before the incident, and I just wanted to stop, so I tried this half-azzed one rein stop, when he really just needed to GET AWAY.

    I should've just let him canter a few yards away and I bet he would've been fine, and we could've worked on the issue then.

    Thanks for the tip:) OTTBs are special, aren't they?

  5. immediate thought was to make him stop, but he was so UP and worried that stopping him would have given no where for that adrenaline to go and I would have had a bigger fight on my hands that I probably would have lost. He has been known to rear when he gets upset and is prevented from going forward...I'd rather gallop than rear any day of the week! He came back under control at the gallop quickly, I was only being "run away" with for less than a minute.

    Kathy...yup yup, always always wear the helmet, especially on Gabe. I've never been on him without one. My next safety gear purchase will be a vest for the cross-country and the galloping. And, you MUST share your account on Willow! I wanna know!

    Dreaming...Isn't it funny how different horses have different reactions? Some stop, stand, stare and shake...some spook sideways, some snort, stare and get over it, others just gotta get out of there as quickly as possible! Bridged reins have saved my butt more than once, that's for sure.

    Miles on Miles...OTTBs are very special, and I love their guts! I have learned that if you just let them go forward, whether at a trot, canter or gallop, for a few strides, their brains relax and they can refocus. As soon as you try to stop the forward motion in a "panic" situation, it can lead to more dangerous behavior (backing, rearing, bucking, spinning). As long as you are in control of the forward motion, it's all good...even just letting them go forward for a few circles is effective. Then, after the panic is gone, you can go back and work on the issue.
    Sometimes, when Gabe is having "a day," I have to just let him canter and canter and canter or go for a short gallop until he relaxes enough to work.

  6. I would run from a combine too! Poor brave Gabe.

    Good job riding it out. I always tell myself "well, she'll eventually get tired and decide to listen again" and then I concentrate on not falling off.

  7. Atta girl!!! Oh, how I loved your telling of this tale!! You have made me laugh out loud and I could just picture the two of you on this merry adventure. Thank you so much, for I dearly needed a good laugh today. :) Maybe I found it so very amusing because I have been right there a few times...