Monday, November 7, 2011

We have issues

Trail riding is definitely a training tattle-tale.

Just because your horse is as good as gold in the controlled environment of an arena does not necessarily mean your training is sticking and making the impression it should be.

Yes, Gabe has been absolutely wonderful in the arena, a nice, mostly-controlled environment where I can keep his attention mostly on me most of the time.

But take him out into a completely uncontrolled environment where anything can happen at any time and his attention often wanders from me and some pretty big training issues are revealed rather obviously.

A friend came over to go riding with me Sunday so all three horses got to go out. We were out for a couple of hours, the wind was HIGH, the air chilly, leaves flying all over the place and all the horses on high alert.

Gabe, for the most part, was pretty good. Aside from the cantering sideways issue (yeah, I don't know, it was weird) and absolutely refusing to respond to my lateral aids, he was fairly good. On high-alert and snorting at unknowns was the least of my worries with him. I can ride his silliness through without much problem and usually, I laugh at him just because he's being such a goof.

But two huge training issues revealed themselves and made me realize that perhaps, just maybe, I'm not expecting nor requiring enough of him. I admit, I let him get away with more than I probably should. ie, not making him give me the right response right away every time. I tend to make excuses for him and I need to quit that, right now.

The things I've let slide aren't obvious in the arena, but become glaring problems on the trail.

One big one is turning. Yes, a basic one, but a big one I didn't realize was quite the issue it is. Let's just say this horse is GREAT at yielding his neck, not so great at following through with the rest of his body when he doesn't really feel like it or isn't quite sure he wants to go where I want him to go. If he has decided he doesn't really want to go where I'm trying to get him to go, he'll turn his neck all day long in the direction I'm asking him to go but the body stays put. Ugh. Big time training issue that I'm going to have to really get fixed yesterday. No more excuses that he maybe doesn't quite understand what I'm asking, because he does, I know he does, he just decides he doesn't want to and that's NOT AN OPTION. Not on the trail. Not when going where I tell him to go RIGHT NOW is absolutely imperative in some situations.

Secondly is his forward. We have stop and back up perfected, actually, way more perfected than it needs to be because he's using both of them as ways to avoid doing what I've asked. Forward has become a huge issue. I fought with that horse for nearly 45 minutes to get him to even get close to a cow pasture filled with curious dairy cattle. Yes, the dairy cattle again. I'm tempted to borrow a small herd of dairy cattle and make him live in the same paddock as them for a few months. Passing those cows was an absolute disaster. I think at first the cows were the issue, so I let him stand and watch them for a few minutes and he seemed to be fine with them. The other horses didn't give a crap about the cows but Gabe didn't take their lead at all. It then became less about the cows and more about him deciding he was NOT going forward, period, end of story. It was backwards backwards backwards sideways sideways backwards circles backwards spinning more backwards, more sideways more stupid crap but NO FORWARD. UGH!!! I couldn't get him to take one little step forward for anything, and of course, I'd declined to bring the crop on this ride since I hadn't needed it in the arena for quite a while.

When I first brought him home forward was an issue then, too, but instead of going backwards, he went UP when he decided he didn't want to go forward. I fixed the up, he doesn't do that at all any more, but now when he has determined he doesn't want to do something, no matter what it is, he goes backwards, very quickly. It's hard to steer a horse going backwards, especially when that horse has decided he is NOT going forwards. And it's dangerous, very dangerous. I finally had to get off and force him forward and past the cows. He flipped his lid and I think I saw his brain slide right out of his head and smash on the ground. Even with me leading him and the other two horses marching along and sighing with boredom and I'm sure a bit of annoyance at him, he didn't want to go forward, so backwards and sideways he went, into a ditch and he lost his footing and fell. I'm glad I wasn't on him when he pulled that crap but I think it scared him straight. He got back up, the whites of his eyes showing and he marched forward when I led him on. No problem. We walked right past those cows without another problem. I wanted to take him back and forth by them a few more times, but my riding companions had already been plenty patient enough with us up to that point and I wasn't going to ask them to wait for our silly asses any longer.

I don't even want to talk about the absolute lack of his response to the lateral aids. I think I was just about ready to cry by the end of the ride because a simple trail ride had exposed all the basic training crap I need to put my nose to the grindstone on and quit accepting half-assed responses from him.

So, I'll be working on his forward response and expect an immediate and energetic forward response each and every time I ask as soon as I ask, no matter what. Until we get this down he no longer has the option of declining my request. Although it goes against everything I believe in training philosophy, I'm going to have to take away his voice until we get these very basic issues fixed. No more giving him second and third chances. The same thing for turning and lateral aids. No more second and third chances. He knows what I'm asking, it's time I start expecting and requiring him to respond when I ask, not when he feels like it.


  1. I think if you're just matter of fact about it - "forward, now", and "turn, now" and back it up with a secondary aid, and are consistent about getting it, he'll pretty quickly say to himself - "guess she means it" and the issue will go away. Drifter has a tendency to use balking/popping up/crow hopping as an evasion to forward, and we're working on that. With that, and the backing, if you've got room to do it turning in a tight circle can sometimes interrupt the thought and let you get forward back again. On the turning, if you can keep him between your inside and outside reins - giving a bit with the outside rein but supporting with it too, that should help keep him from popping the shoulder out as his neck won't have the room to bend around that far.

  2. Yours and mine TB's are quite opposite Jenn. Mine does trails,.and focuses. But arenas are our total misbehaving place.

    Man, Gabe, he really pulled out all the stops. I know you were frustrated. And I'm glad you got off for the sideways ditch stunt cause Staying safe is utmost.

    You'll get to him...he will come around in time and 500 reps!
    He is very smart, that Gabe.
    Take care

  3. Oh man, I can feel your frustration! They can be big old poops sometimes, and that definitely tests our patience. I don't like to use force either. I want my horses soft and willing, training always to be about relationship. But sometimes...they have to understand that ultimately "somebody" has to be the leader, and that is the human. I'm no expert, any any stretch, but I'd throw in a lot of hindquarter work in there. Get him to release his hindquarters with true forward movement in a tight circle with you on the ground. Unstick those feet. It can be a tough book to read sometimes because of the author's way of speaking and it's simplicity; but, I love the book "True Horsemanship Through Feel" by Bill Dorrance. You will get there, but you need to be safe. You sound like you have a lot of experience and want what's best for Gabe.

  4. I once had that issue with the herd of cows, and a 4 year old mare. We got through it without any major wreck, but I did have to get off, let her stand and look at them (they rushed the fence, which is what scared her) then got on and rode back and forth in front of them until she lowered her head and licked her lips.
    These are potholes on the road, you'll find your way around them!

  5. I understand your frustration. Trail rides are supposed to be relaxing...... lots of miles and wet saddle pads are the best cure, not always easy to accommplish in the darkness of the winter or in a life filled with scvhool and work!. We had a little episode this summer in the mts, on a narrow granite ledge, in a deep canyon, when the colt decided to back away from the wooden bridge over the raging river below. HELLO! ask Kayleigh about it... my word verification is bodsstop LOL

  6.'re absolutely right! That's the plan with the forward thing, just expect it to happen and make it happen when it doesn't. As for the turning, I always forget to keep him between my reins and hold that outside rein on a turn when we trail ride. I use a leading rein when he doesn't want to go, I guess hoping he'll just "follow" it...and he does, with his neck. Ugh.

    @allhorsesstuff...yes he did. I was so frustrated I was near tears but knew I couldn't give up. He HAD to do it no matter how long it took me convincing him that going forward would not end up with his demise! Thank you for the encouragement! is always something! I hate using force and avoid it unless I absolutely have to, and unfortunately, I'm going to have to, at least until he really, really gets it that I'M the leader in this whole relationship. Period. The tight circle on the ground was exactly how I got him "unstuck" once I decided to get off and try leading him. It took a few circles after the continuous backing up, but he finally decided going forward was perhaps the best option. I have read some Bill Dorrance, but not that book! I'll have to pick it up.

    @Shirley...I really wanted to ride back and forth in front of those goofy cows a few times, but I just couldn't. I think we were both pretty exhausted and over it by the time we did get past them! Next time though, if he pulls that crap again, we will walk back and forth by them until he's so bored he could go to sleep. :) There sure seems to be quite a few potholes lately, but we're figuring 'em out.

    @Kathy...and I thought being on him while he was throwing his backwards fit near a deep ditch and a culvert was scary! YIKES!!!! Bad colt! Lots and lots of wet saddle pads is exactly what he needs, and what I need is about 12 more hours in my day to get it done. :P I'll ask the kiddo about it tonight...Bodsstop ROFLMAO!!!

  7. This won't make you feel any better but I'm having the exact same issues with my mare right now- except she's just starting under saddle. I got bucked off a few months ago because her feet weren't following her nose. I spent the next two months ground driving her everywhere and cementing that concept in before I got back on her. It may seem remedial, but it's a nice way to work through issues where you think the horse might have a fit without sticking your bones up on them.

    Oh- and grab that hip! If he won't go forward make him yield the hip and bend him into forward. If he starts backing up- grab the hip! If he's going to throw fits like that you don't need to be holding any punches.

    And that's about as far as my training expertise goes :)

  8. @smazourek...actually, it's comforting to know it's not a "wow, i really screwed him up!" think but something others also deal with. I was seriously considering going back to groundwork to re-establish some of the "rules." Which is perfect for this time of year since the ground isn't always ideal for riding but is fine for groundwork. The fit-throwing is absolutely unacceptable! He reminded me of a bratty little kid throwing a full-blown temper tantrum in the middle of a store because he didn't get his way.

  9. Re your comment to my comment, wasn't 'bad colt' it was more like 'OMG, here we are single-file trail in the mountains, colt leading the way, colt stops at bridge, both adults realize at the same time, "HE'S NEVER CROSSED A WOODEN BRIDGE BEFORE". Not a good time to face that big hole in your training program, not a good time for grands to hear nana cuss like a sailor.

  10. Just like allhorsestuff, Bar and I have the opposite issue. He is super forward on the trail, sometimes too much!

    Keep taking him out, even on short rides, and make it as relaxing as you can, maybe? Like.. Oh, we're going to go out for 5 minutes, let you have some grass, then turn around. I don't know if your barn has that much of a trail around it (ours doesn't), but trail riding is really, truly what saved Bar and me. Gabe will learn to love it, I'm sure of it!