Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Settling the Spooks

I realized that I haven't followed up much on the P2-bolting issue, but a few little mini-spooks during our ride this am, reminded me that I should.
scared. of. life.
The mare is... still spooky.  I'm pretty sure there are a few confused gerbils up there in her brain that are usually scampering about in the same direction - but every once in a while someone pulls the fire alarm and I picture them just running every which way, bouncing off each other and squeaking in panic.

Or at least, that's what comes to mind when Prairie opts to check out and and freak out over... haynets.  Or..... horses grazing.  Or...... something I can't see but she's certain is death itself.

Anyway, after our field trips where P2 demonstrated a finely tuned ability to gallop away from everything, I started reevaluating how I was responding to her "scoots" since her scoots were becoming less of a two stride shimmy and more of a mile long sprint.  

Additionally, after our first schooling show where Prairie demonstrated a refusal to maintain focus (squirrel! coffee cart! judge's booth! COUGAR!) as well as a refusal to return to focused work after a break - it was clear I needed to focus on increasing her patience and reinforcing the idea that when I ask her to work, it's time to work.

So we've been attacking both those issues.  Right now if she spooks/scoots the mare WORKS.  shoulder in, haunches out, leg yield, crappy half pass, anything.  and if she does it a second time (in the same spot presumably) she gets SAT ON HER ASS.  It's amazing how much she can load those hocks when you really slam her back.  (that should come in handy for those pirouettes that I'm sure we'll be starting any day now..)

That second part I don't love so much, but so far it seems to be reinforcing that it's not OK to eyeball the same thing over and over and over again.  If she must look, she has to work for it... then repeating the trick is not a welcome choice. 

So far it seems to be working for us.  In the past couple weeks I've only had to circle once to contain a spook.  The rest of them have been resolved by a hard lateral school and continuing on our track.  I like this better.  I'm also pretty sure that I'd rather throw in a uncalled for shoulder/haunch in during a test than a whole circle.  At least the first option will just look like we lost our straightness as opposed to a full blown error.

As for the patience, I've been deliberately taking longer walk breaks than normal (to trick her into thinking she's done), then going back to work.  Wash, rinse, repeat...

This pattern clearly annoys her.  She grinds her teeth, grabs the bit and generally is a bit of a snot for the first minute back to work.  She also likes to increase her looky-ness after a long break which gives us more "opportunities" to school them.  I'd like to say this is getting better - but really it's inconsistent.  Some days she's happy to go back to work, other days she's not so thrilled with me, but at least we're pushing that boundary and working through it.

I'll be very curious at our next outing (July 8th) to see if we have any increased focus and control. I guess that's the litmus test. 

Aside from that, things have been awesome.  I'm going to try to video tomorrow, but our canter is much bouncier than a few weeks ago, our trot is a bit more uphill and balanced and our lengthening are definitely more pronounced. 

Aside from increased strength I think that our routine of warming up with lots of shoulder-in to renvers, to leg yield to circles is really helping.  She's starting to bend more through her ribcage and I can feel that inside hind leg stepping up a bit more.

All good things.  At home.  Where we are comfortable.  Can't wait to see if it translates to off property success!


  1. Awesome!! So glad you've found something that works for her and are no longer just clinging on for dear life. Yay!

  2. Lots of improvements. Good job, I need to steal your idea of walking a bit then returning to work with Pippi too.

  3. I had a horse that bolted like that...I am glad your techniques are working for her! We could never fix our issue. So happy to hear improvements!

  4. Nice! Sounds like a you're doing it right girl! Hope it continues to progress well :)

  5. I meant to comment on a previous post that I like the idea of stopping to watch a lesson and then going back to work. What a great way to teach her patience. The long walk breaks are awesome too. It sounds like you're really figuring that part out. Hopefully she'll become more and more consistent about going back to work without the attitude. :) It also sounds like the spooks/bolts are improving. I'm glad you found a method that seems to be making a difference with her. Maybe she was just testing you and now that you're being more insistent that she listen, she is? Just a thought. :D


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