Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ups and Downs (it's a novel)

I am going to attempt this on my iPhone because I left my computer elsewhere so sorry for crazy spelling/grammar.

I had the longest break from Dickie since he's been here. It was a long work week and I had to so some annual housesitting for my family and Bre's farm. Usually they don't fall on the same week so Sunday I was very ready to get back to a routine. I was expecting him to be a little wild Sunday and he exceeded those expectations by exponential proportions. He immediately gave me the cold shoulder. Usually he's pretty cuddly right away but he was trying to bite me and push me over the second I walked into his stall. I wont deny that he's a mouthy bugger generally he tries to bite his lead rope or nip in my direction. Sunday he threw in some carefully aimed bites and even caught a boob. I know they are big but I am not looking for an equine assisted breast reduction anytime soon.

The first order of business was getting his brush boots on. He thought standing still for long enough to get those things on was an unreasonable task and his fancy feet put Fred Astaire to shame. During our walk to the arena, he threw a tantrum when I wouldn't let him walk in front of me. He was offended and reared like a maniac when I pushed his shoulder off the top of me. He reared and pawed and even kicked at me when I worked with him on moving his haunches and shoulders. After some basic ground work in the arena we headed to the round pen. He was willing to listen but very disconnected. Usually he's always got an ear on me and is ready to come in to visit as soon as I say it's ok but today he didn't have a submissive bone in his body.

I still didn't feel like I had really connected but I don't like to do any one thing for more than 15-20 mins so we wrapped up with a walk. I have found that we always make the most progress through our walks. He kept trying to bolt ahead of me and the second I corrected it he would rear. He likes to get ahead then walk right in front of me so I worked on getting him to take a step back and haunch turn away from me. I would reward him if he would move that shoulder away by letting him have more forward motion while still moving away from me (kind of like a few steps of haunch turn then a few steps of leg yield). I wasn't expecting anything fancy. I just wanted to feel through his body that he was submitting to me. I also wanted him to understand if he walks over the top of me and acts like a doofus it's going to be way more work than just watching my cues and following my lead.

At this point if he isn't walking on a slack rope, a few steps behind, and more than an elbow away I won't tolerate it. He isn't trying to be mean but is testing boundaries and I know letting these little things slide can mean huge problems down the road. I am sure I could have avoided the rearing and bucking if let him pull on me or walk a few steps ahead. It might have "looked" like a less exciting walk if I had ignored some of the pushiness. However, I would rather have a few knock down battle of the wills than constant minor disobedience. At the end of the walk he was stopping when I stopped and walking quietly next to me. He was wasn't thrilled about it though and had an Appy stink eye. If you have worked with an Appy you know that look that says "I'll do what you say because I feel like it but I will not give you the satisfaction of being happy about it." That made me chuckle because I LOVE a good Appy stink eye.

I stopped in to see Bre on the way home. It was so nice to be around her calm cuddly presence. She has a way of making me feel better about pretty much any problem I face. She also gives me confidence that I can train Dickie. Bre's worst days were enough to make me wish I had on Depends to protect my panties. Despite all of that in less than a year she was a dream to be around. I also called my friend who started two horses on her own. She made me feel better by sharing stories of her TB kicking her in the boob (it's not his fault, she has big ones, they are hard to miss), biting her, and all the expected baby stuff. It reminded me that just because we had a rough day I am not a horrible horse trainer. I logically know I am good at training horses but self doubt creeps up I worry that I will make a mistake and let him down.

Today it seemed our little argument did the trick. When I called his name he snapped his head up and made a bee line to me. His ears were locked in on me and he was chewing/licking. He nuzzled me but didn't ram into me. He wanted a treat but asked politely. He was alert during our walk to the arena but instead of snorting and scooting ahead he looked at me to see if I thought things were scary. We had a nice session in the arena walking around looking at all the jumps and cones. Our round pen session was just as lovely. He licked and chewed from the beginning. Every time I asked him to stop he would chew and ask to come in. I didn't work him long because he was where I wanted immediately.

Poor guy,  I think I dropped him off at an unfamiliar place and he had to be his own leader for too long. Sunday he said "Dude, I have been on my own all week and it's scary out there. If you want me to be the leader I'll try my hardest but I am a baby so this is FREAKING ME THE F*&@ OUT MAN." Today he seemed really happy that he doesn't have to be the leader and can let me worry about the scary world.  I suspect there will more than a few days where he tries out being the boss but I will just have to remind him who the real boss mare is. I wanted a smart, athletic, strong willed horse, who was going to make me use my brain so I can't complain!!!


  1. What is the footing in your arena?

    I understand the testing. . .ugh! And Haffies have a stink eye that will cut glass! Once, during a halter class, Shy gave me the dirtiest look and the judge commented on it. She kinda chuckled about it, but we didn't place. Ha!

    Don't let self doubt get you down! It is good that you are not letting him get away with the little behaviors! I am new to your blog, but you are doing great with him :)

    1. I love a good stink eye!! Sounds like I would like Shyloh. I love mare faces too. I never thought I woudl get a gelding because I love mares so much.

    2. Oops realized I didn't respond to your question about the arena. It is kind of like hogs fuel but made from cedar shreds. It's wonderful. No dust, not too deep but lots of spring.

  2. What a dork!! I'm glad he happily went back to his sweet compliant self the second day. :)

    I understand the self doubt stuff. I've been around horses my whole like so I don't consider myself a beginner by any means, but Chrome is my first horse to really start all on my own, so it's been kind of new to me. As long as we're having fun and being safe I don't think I can go too wrong though, so I try not to worry about it too much. At least you have the experience with Bre to fall back on LOL!! Keep up the great work with him.

    Oh and yes I am very familiar with the Appy stink eye! I don't think Chrome has a stink eye, but I'll have to watch for it and see lol.

    1. I have never started a horse from before riding. Bre was young and not very trained but she had all this stuff down. And she was so scared that she didn't constantly push boundaries. It is kind of refreshing to have a horse that is confident enough to test things out and isnt scared of how I will react. Sometimes when I get after him for being naughty he gives me this look like "Whoa no reason to get all fired up. Life is good man, relax, chew this lead rope with me. It tastes gooood, no reason to get your undies in a bundle"

      It fun to see you with Chrome. Someday I will be there too.

    2. Really? I totally thought you started Bre from the ground up. Huh, I guess I need to pay better attention LOL! So Dickie will be your first too. :D Yay!! I look forward to sharing stories and ideas. I wish Chrome's sweet itch would clear up so I could ride him some with this nice weather we've been having. Oh well.

      I love the description about how Dickie reacts when you get on to him. That is too funny! :)