Thursday, March 10, 2016

Slightly less perfect horse makes the human work for it

As we knew would happen from time to time, last night's ride was a bit of a mess.  Which was probably about 50% young horse not focusing and 50% overtired human bringing her life stress to the ring.

But to step back and give credit where it's due, Monday's ride was great.  See, Odin is still learning how to deal with crowded rings.  I imagine to an off the track horse, riding in rings makes no sense.  Hell, oftentimes it makes no sense to me and in theory I have the higher functioning brain in this relationship.
Self serve grazing

Plus, I don't think he spent much, if any, time in an indoor before he came to me.  He started his retraining last May, then was off most of the fall with the popped splint, then came to me at Thanksgiving.  And our indoor isn't very large.  So at first, he was pretty uncomfortable with more than one or two other horses in there and was more than willing to let them know if they got too close with a warning kick.

Side note, I did always tell people that I was bringing a brand new green horse who needed personal space in to ride with them, but I guess their idea of personal space and Odie's were not always the same.

With time and careful exposure, he pretty quickly realized that this was how life worked in the ring and stopped the defensiveness.  But that has morphed into wanting to chase the other horse's around, which also makes sense.  For awhile, if another horse started cantering, we pretty much had to stop and stand in the middle because the excitement just made his little brain fall straight out of his head.

Now he can usually continue to function as long as the horse isn't getting overly excited or acting naughty, but it definitely takes more work for the rider.

Well on Monday, there were up to 7 (SEVEN!) horses in the ring with us at one time.  Our biggest challenge to date.  And he was great.  It is possible that the volume of horses just overwhelmed him and actually made him pay more attention to me.  Because he was definitely listening well instead of trying to drag me to his friends.  And we practiced walking next to another horse, then trotting away, trotting past other horses, turning and trotting past them the other way.....he did it all politely.
Mooching off the barn kids with his Jedi Master

Then last night happened.  As soon as I climbed on, I had a suspicion I would be getting off again shortly.  Odin has pretty good manners for mounting but last night as I was swinging on, he danced sideways into the mounting block.  Then feigned surprise when he hit it and danced the other way.  Hmm, strike 1.

Then as I was walking around, another horse trotted a pole somewhat close by and he squealed loudly and started prancing in place.  Strike 2.

Finally, as I asked him to trot off he surged forward, bumped his butt, and then kicked out.  Oh yeah, Strike 3.  10 minutes in the box.  And by box, I mean longe line.
Where shenanigans can happen safely

Usually it is hard to motivate him on the longe but this time, he was off like a shot.  He literally grabbed the line in his mouth and took off bucking.  I yanked it out of his teeth which offended him but gave me a chance of actual equine control and he spent some time working it out.  He was definitely high as a kite but I am also considering if we need another round of estrogen as he was butt bumping and lead swapping all over the place.  R2 said to re-evaluate this weekend as it could be his stifles or that he was just too wild to control his body.

I had had a really long, tiring day at work which involved 3 hours talking to our IT department as well as my lunch hour dealing with Comcast (HATE) so I was tempted to just call it after longing but I decided to get back on.  This wasn't a terrible decision, but it was certainly a challenging ride.

Longing took the edge off so it was possible to work, but Odin still wasn't in his normal "how can I help you?" frame of mind.  There was quite a bit of rooting and trying to hang on the bit and getting speedy at the slightest provocation.  I was trying to hear my trainer's voice and not let him pick a fight, let him go on a loose rein whenever possible even for only a step or two, and use lots of circles, and direction changes to keep him engaged.  While keeping my damn upper body back and hands quiet.

Always great at snuggling
Let me tell you, keeping your hands quiet when your horse's head is all over the place isn't easy for me! Anyways, we muddled through and actually had some decent work, quite possibly despite my ineffectiveness.  His downward transitions (and there were oh so many of those) were really coming from behind, he trotted poles on the rhythm and didn't jump them, did some laterally work that isn't straight yet but wasn't half bad, and a few times we hit that sweet spot in the trot.  At the end when he was going nicely, I pushed a little too far and almost lost it all, but managed to end on an ok note.

Considering where he started and how we ended, in hindsight I think we did reasonably well, but I did have to pep talk myself because I know if I was in a lesson it would have gone better and I hate being trainer dependent.  But that is why we pay the pros and sometimes you do learn more struggle bus-ing it with yourself.  And neither horse nor human is any worse for the wear!


  1. They always have to keep us on our toes! At least that face is super adorable.

    1. So adorable. And then it wants to snuggle and even if you were annoyed you can't stay that way

  2. Oh baby horses...sometimes their brains leak out but it sounds like you did a good job of keeping things together.

    1. I know sometimes it is hard to keep the brain between the ears! And we got by, that is about the best I can say.

  3. When I first got my Red Pony off the track, I was in college and we'd ride in the indoor with the western team lessons who would be constantly kissing to their horses. It took him a loooong time to figure out they weren't asking him to canter!

    1. Oh don't even get me started on the endless clucking and kissing. If someone is riding a warmblood with me, I just assume Odin will be confused the whole ride.

  4. I'm always surprised by how often people ride up other horses butts. Even on a well schooled horse I try to give adequate berth because they are animals with herd dynamics and differing opinions. You never know what could go wrong.

  5. aw silly frisky Odin!! glad you managed to work through it all. he probably just wanted to make sure you were reeeeeally serious about the whole 'behaving in company' thing ;)