Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Not-So-Cranky Mare

It's been forever... let me start by saying that in the last Month, Lic's attitude has completely turned around. She has suddenly become much more happy to work and more tractable... we have actually been making progress on some things, most notably really getting collected at the walk-jog, and even cantering in the arena. My trainer thinks she has just finally gotten through to the mare... I attribute, at least partially, adding the supplement Source to her diet. It's cheap.... I would suggest anyone try it.

I just finished reading a post on Mugwump chronicles: . I found it so interesting, I thought I'd post my thoughts here.

When I started this blog, Lic was a very desensitized horse... she ignored my leg, and eventually found that bucking, biting, and acting like a complete shit would get me off. This was my own fault... I looked for a trainer, and couldn't find one I liked. So I did groundwork, Clinton Anderson style. I did goofy things like walking her like a dog, and hopping up to ride back home. (Bareback, no helmet, and in a halter, on my shit of a horse. Smart, huh?)

Finally, I was able to ride on the trails, but dammit, I wanted to be able to do arena work too! She was a total nightmare in the arena... balking, bucking, biting, I just could not get her to go.

I finally found the perfect trainer... my trainer knows when to push, when to reassure, and when the horse just needs to get laced with a whip. When I first started with horses, i thought it as mean to hit a horse. Now I realize that it's mean NOT to hit a horse, if they need it. I saw my trainer back the mare up, flex her laterally, put a (short, english) spur in her side to get her to move, yell with the "pissed-off mom voice," and make her do endless circle... I also saw her lavishly praise even the tiniest improvements. She's a keeper.

Now, finally, Lic is at that place Mugs mentioned... sensitive enough to respond to light cues, but desensitized enough that she won't wig out if I make a mistake. Case in point:

The other day, I was working Lic in a large round-pen sized area in the lot next door. She had given me a good day- a flawless walk/jog warmup, and I actually got about 3 laps at the canter, each way... there was some bucking involved, but nothing outrageous. She is also starting to understand that bucking=getting popped in the mouth with the bit. So, as a reward, I allowed her to canter up a little path in the 2 acre lot. At first, she got excited and threw a bucking fit when I wouldn't let her all-out run. So, after another 5 minutes of cantering circles, we tried again... and she was fine, almost hitting that rocking-chair cadence. This is a huge stride for he, she has a lot of balance issues at the canter, and I take these improvements as a sign that all of our hard work is paying off. So, we go up one side of the property, and double back to go the other way. We were cantering again, and all of a sudden we're OMGI'MGONNA DIE! running, with her head in the air.

I breathe, and sit back, and slowly pull back on the reins. (It was really hard for me to learn to relax when my horse is wigging out!) We stop, turn and face the threat.... a boston terrier. *Sigh* Okay, so we go up, Lic puts her head down and snuffles at the thing, and I turn her, and we continue cantering the way we were going before. We round a corner (I live in a hilly area) and we suddenly see a car pulling away from the school that is adjacent to the yard.

This time, I didn't sit the spook so pretty. As we were already cantering, Lic very nimbly changed her direction... from forwards to SIDEWAYS. Nice. Well, I lost my seat, meaning my ass was about 1 foot to the left of the saddle... but my feet were still in the stirrups, and my hands were still on the reins. I ended up literally sitting on the mare's side, hanging on her mouth with the reins. (I know, I should have let go, but it was a bad moment).

The point of all this is that Lic would have had a legitimate reason to launch me... instead, she stopped after about 4 strides, allowing me to unceremoniously drop to the ground. Of course, the lady in the car witnessed the whole fiasco.... she felt bad, but I assured her it was no big deal and I was fine. I got back on, rode for 10 more minutes, cantered the damn straightaway one more time without incident, and called it a day.

The point of this story? My mare, who can be very laid back one moment and spooking like a bat out of hell the next, responded to my screwed up stop cue, without responding to the whole "rider hanging off of her side" thing. I'd rather she had either not spooked, or I had ridden it better, but with practice, I know that better riding on my part will translate to more confidence, and less spooking, on her part. And compared to six months ago, when asking her to canter in an arena would have been a complete disaster? Her improvement so far is amazing, and I expect more amazing things to come.


  1. Because you mention having a trainer and following C. Anderson I hesitate to make my suggestion. I make it anyway because you invite suggestions and because you are relatively new to riding and recreational ownership of horses. It's this: a small paperback Basic Training for a Safe Trail Horse with subtitle of Eliminating the Fear Factors. It is a narrative that includes methods to teach horses in ways they can clearly understand, because you can learn to relate to a horse as its alpha-mare herd member. Traditional methods, as well as those of the "natural horsemen" still rely on fear factors, which means you relate to a horse as a predator. In this book you can learn better ways, but you will also learn that to be successful you need patience, because interacting with a horse is an ongoing constant process. You have to be insistent, persistent, and consistent, but fear factors for both your horses and for you will diminish.

  2. WOW! That's major improvement! Enjoy your rides, they'll be smooth sailing (mostly) from here on out :)

  3. Thanks guys! Dazey, I will look into the book, thanks for the suggestion!