Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Full of BEANS

Well, the mare was "energized" yesterday, and it's the closest she's been to her old ways since we found the light with Supermom (and Regu-Mate).

It's was clear from start to finish.  She was fidgety in the cross ties, snarky to all the boarders and just generally more antsy than she has been for the last few weeks.  That being said, she was still WAY more manageable than what we were dealing with, so I keep trying to keep it in perspective.
Oh Hi, I'z have electric legs and fiiiiiiiire.
Really our problem was that when we went to the ring, another mare was being hand grazed in a paddock, but left to return to the barn shortly after we started lunging. 

Being left has always been a struggle for us.  P's ears were instantly glued to the barn and her attention was nearly impossible to get.  Even with her lunge line looped through her girth to encourage a bend, she still cocked her head out and toward the barn whenever she passed by that side of the ring (grrrrrrr).  I got pissy, I got demanding, and I tried to get the mare more interested in what the screaming, cranky human was doing than what was happening (or NOT happening) in the quiet barn.

It didn't really work.  So we lunged. we lunged and lunged and lunged, and the mare's anxiety about being alone kept her quite 'perky' for longer than usual.  We lunged and lunged and lunged.  She was a rushing, floppy mess.  No balance, no ability to step out instead of just faster.  nothing.  I was irritated.

Finally, after about 25 minutes of almost all canter, she started to slow and come back from the brink of panic.  I decided I was sick of it and that getting on would be the best way to move forward and make her focus on something other than the mare who walked back to the barn forever ago...

Then she did it. 

She was sticky.  The witch tried to wiggle out from under me when I asked her to walk down the longside and away from the barn.  (what the cuss!? BAD MARE)

So I whipped her in a circle and smacked her.  (no result)

So I whipped her into a circle (again) and smacker her. (no result)

So I yelled, whipped her in a circle and smacked the CRAP out of her (we went forward).

At this point I should have moved straight into a canter and made her work, but I was knocked a little off my "high horse" and retreated a bit.  Not good.  Especially as the mare was all sorts of tense and fire breathing.

I tried to lower her frame (nope) and send her forward.  What resulted was less of a gorgeous replication of the long, loose and swinging trot we got with supermom and more of a speeding, tearing, stress ball shooting around the ring.


We were trotting.  And we were not sticking on the open sides of circles.

I think my temper got the best of me a little bit, as I felt stiff and grumpy which didn't exactly translate into any sort of encouragement for the mare to come down and work over her back, but we got through it.

By the end of the ride she was long and low and supple, but I think we got there more through exhaustion and less through constructive asking and giving.

All things considered, still better than a month ago, but not where we've been.  I'm headed back out tonight and am crossing my fingers that we're past it.  Otherwise I'm going to have to really think about what I'm doing that's letting this behavior sneak back in...


  1. Everybody has bad days; at least you were able to work through it. Plus, if you think about it had you had this ride a few months ago, would it even have seemed like a bad day? Always look on the bright side of life;)

  2. I think the circling is giving her mixed signals about what you want her to do, and you should save that for when she is out of control bucking or bolting. Instead, send her forward, always forward, even if that means galloping the ring a few times. She is not equating what you are doing with forward movement. I am sure you'll get more out of her if you figure out a way, a fool proof way of getting her forward when you get "stuck".

  3. Kate, It is a relative success! I'm trying to remember that. 4 weeks ago this "bad" ride would have been one of our "good" ones!
    Niamh, You might be right, but I don't think so. I circle her because If I kick and try to whap her when she is sticky, She bucks/rears/freaks out. So the circle is to disengage that, then as soon as she's willing to move out, We stop the circle and go. So far it's worked pretty well. Yesterday was the first time in a while that I had to "repeat" the circle to get a good response.. If I didn't think I'd lose control without it, I wouldn't use it :)

  4. You do cognitive science right? Any chance that what you're seeing at this point is an extinction burst? You've worked her through this, found some good strategies for nipping the evasive behaviors in the bud, and I suspect that now she is testing you. Evasion is attractive because she doesn't have to work so hard, so now she's testing to see if she can still get away with it. My next move would be to just stick to my guns on the corrections, and ride through it. TONS of praise for good behavior.

  5. AA- I heart you for even typing the words 'extinction brust.' And yes, I do think that's probably a bit of it. We've had some good weeks, coupled with a weekend off, so she's fiestier than normal... such a little tester... guns blazing for today's ride :)

  6. Your picture had me cracking up. :)

    I agree that she's testing you and it sounds like you handled the situation well. The end result is what you were trying to get from her, so even though it was a little rough, it sounds like a success.

  7. My mare acts exactly like this when she's in heat (which is why I leave her alone for two days a month). How long has Pia been on the Regu-mate? Maybe it hasn't fully kicked in yet.

  8. It actually might be a *good* thing that you lost your temper and got after her. You stuck to your guns and got through it - maybe it wasn't your most brilliant bit of work, but YOU won and SHE didn't.

    Sometimes riding is not about the ride you *wanted* to have, but riding what you have under you. Even if it's a mess, you rode it anyway. Good for you!

  9. I think you are doing great! Remember that riding is always 2 steps forward 1 step back. Or in other words, even if they get it, and 90% of your rides are great, there's always going to be days where she'll test, or be futzy, or anything, particularly being an opinionated mare! Stick with what you are doing, as it was clearly working, and this was just one off day in a string of good days (and who here hasn't had one of those?).

    I am of thought that negative emotion has no place in working with horses. As hard as it is (me included, because lord knows I screw up with the best of them!)They pick up on emotions extremely quickly, and sending off such negative energy when what you really want to be doing is working with your horse is just creating another hurdle in your communication. Get after her, state your intentions and follow through so she knows your not backing down, just take a deep breath and set aside the frustration and "pissy" for when your not around the horse.

    Try to take this in stride though. Not where we were a month ago is a huge accomplishment, and today was just a little bump on your path. Your doing great ;)

  10. Keep working! There's progress, and she'll soon get through it with you and you'll have a great horse.


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