Saturday, February 25, 2012

More progress and the scary trotting poles of doooooommmmmm



This is what I wish my arena looked like. Not what it actually does…. > < ~

Hmm.  Today was interesting.  Again.  I’m not sure how I feel about it; and that seems to be happening a lot these days!

Joey {yes, Joey was Joey, then Sparrow and is now Joey again…} was pulling grumpy faces and stepping away when I went to saddle him.  I’m not sure how to stop that, but it’s a good indication of where his mind is at at the moment.

Horsey’s all like *dumdumdunna- wait!  Is dat a saddle??  Ohnoes!  *pulls grumpy face and sidles away…*  “Maybe she won’t notice if I tippytoez over herez…  I dun really want to do this today…

Anyone got any ideas for keeping his feet planted?  It’s not too bad as in I can get him to walk back to his spot again and then put the saddle on, but I really don’t like the fact that he thinks that he can “get away” from work.

Besides that we had fun lounging – he’s gotten a lot better at staying out on the line and working through his transitions.  He does a little “humpy” buck on the right – I growl at him and get on his case.  I don’t think that has been the most effective response from me though, because he tends to race around like a maniac on the end of the lounge then.  I don’t want him learning that discipline = running fast, so I am going to change tactic and work his butt off on a tighter 15m circle.

After that then we had a discussion about the scary trotting poles of doooooommmm.  Backstory – Joey thinks that any type of trotting/ground pole or jump is super-duper scary because his last owner would jag him in the mouth every. single. time. he went over a pole or jump.  He is so scared/worried about them now it’s not even funny. 

I basically have to work him over poles every time I go down there until the new response of over poles = calmed and relaxed, as apposed to over poles = *arrrgguuh! They’re going to eat me! Quick! Jump-forwards-so-they-can’t-catch-me, run-away, jump-sideways-just-in-case, buck, snort*

It did get hairy on the ground because he tried to escape the poles by barrelling right past me at a canter.  I wacked his chest/shoulder as he dashed past, but I was not impressed, so he worked his butt off for that one as well!  Once he’d done a few more circles he did walk quietly over the poles in both directions.  And that’s one of the things, if not the only thing, that keeps me coming back to this horse.  He will freak out like any TB green four and a half year old, but he’s teachable. 

If you can get him to go down a gear and relax, you can actually see him working things out.  I like that.  That’s the part of him that I think has potential.

So more lounging after that episode as he was not ready to be mounted yet, and then I got on.  We just walked around the arena and did some trotting and 20m circles.  And then I just had to see if I could push it didn’t I!

jump with poles

~  You’d think that I asked him to do this!  ~

Yup, I tried to get him over the poles.  First time, he was sticky, evasive and unwilling, but we did get over them; mind you at a very fast clip!  He spooked away from them sideways – trying very hard to teleport out from underneath me, and I sort of lost my seat, but not that badly so I wasn’t able to sit and quietly ride the crazy.

Second pass?  Uh, no bueno.  Things got really hairy this time – I was gritting my teeth and focusing reaaaaallllllly hard on the other side of the poles as well as directing myself in my head with “Forwards!”  *nudge-nudge-nudge*  “Straight!”  Gentle guide with reins.   “Forwards!”  “Straight! Crap-I’m-going-to-have-to-use-spur-do-it-only-on-the-side-where-he’s-running-through-your-leg!  Straaaaight!” “Forwards!”, etc.  He wasn’t having much of it, he was tossing his head, backing up{though not scrambling backwards thank goodness!}, and he was really pipped at the application of the spur because that meant he had to listen.  Still, he did walk up to the first pole.

Then my dad walked his horse past us and around to the other side of the poles, and it got ten times easier.  Joey went over, trotting a bit frantically to Mercury's side{my Dad’s horse}, I scritched his whithers and gave him a few seconds to relax, then turned him around for another pass.  He was still sticky, but he went over and from there on it just got easier.  We went one way, then the other, we followed Mercury over, we had Mercury walk beside the poles and we went over, and then we finally finished with a loose rein, head stretched down, calm walk over the poles AWAY from home AND Mercury which was really good.   I just walked him around the arena a bit more then hopped off.

I am glad we finished so well, but I do have mixed feelings about it because it only worked out that quickly because of my dad and Mercury.  I know I helped Joey deal with his anxiety, but I’m not sure that I’ve really dealt with mine by doing that.  See, it was easier to get him over the poles with the help of another horse/person, but I sort of feel like I needed to ‘win’ that one by myself for my own confidence….  I don’t know. 

It was the first time I had tried to get him over the poles myself.  We did do it once, but it was that second time that I needed to get with him.  I think.  Maybe I just need to help him first and then help myself.  I don’t know. 

I am less nervous about riding him, which is great, but I am still really nervous about pushing him outside of his comfort zone.  Today, half the battle was that it was scary for him and half the battle was that he didn’t want to listen to me.  It’s that not listening to me part of him that gets the ol’ hamster spinning in my tummy.  I don’t like it.  It’s not fully licked yet. 

I don’t have all of his respect yet – and I am still stumped with how to get it.  I really am trying to bring it with the ground work and have everything just so, but under the saddle it’s still eluding me.  And that’s why at times I am still scared to ride my horse.  : X




  1. I just can't ever shake that nagging bit of fear I have when I ride. Husband calls it wisdom. But I can't help but to think any self doubt I have gets transferred straight to my horse and then what is she supposed to think? She is afraid of poles, I'm afraid of poles, how are we supposed to cross those darn poles?! When my doubt gets to strong, that's when I usually get off and we do more ground work. I really don't think there is anything wrong with that and it often helps bring my confidence level back up.

    Your saddling problem is tough. I don't think I've had a horse that has tried to move away while saddling. My first thought was to move him back to the correct position every time he moves but then I pictured trying to do that while lugging a saddle around and thought, yeah, right. Maybe practice bringing the saddle over to him but not saddling him. And only put the saddle on when he's standing still?

  2. To be perfectly honest Story, I don't know that the nagging bit of fear is wisdom. I look at it this way - if there are other horses you can ride without that fear, then it's a problem with the horse you have/your reaction to the horse you have. Like I'm afraid with Joey sometimes, but Copper never bothered me like that.

    If you feel that fear with every horse that you ride, maybe there's another issue/confidence problem there that you could look at? I know there are people out there who are totally petrified of horses, but still want to and do ride anyway, which I think is totally brave. But if that's the case, then I would be asking if the horse you have is going to help you get over that lingering fear, or if she's going to make it worse...

    I think you can bluff the self-doubt away, and my instructor told me that as long as it doesn't affect my riding, it's ok to feel that way. But you know what? I don't like feeling it all the time and if it doesn't go away in the next 6-12 months, I am going to accept that Joey isn't the horse for me and move on. I don't want to ride in fear, I don't think it's good for my horse or for me.

    And yes, I totally agree that ground work is a great way to move through issues you have when you aren't confident to do that in the saddle! I am loving the ground work/lounging for Joey - I think it's super effective.

    With the saddling, I already put him back to the correct position when he moves, and it does sort of work, but you can tell it hasn't really addressed the issue. I thought I might try putting the saddle on him every time I go down to work him even if I don't ride. Then he will learn that the saddle means any kind of work, but not just riding. Don't know if that will help, but I think I am going to try it. Thanks for the suggestions! :)

  3. Hi Bonita,

    I'm really glad that you have set yourself a deadline - a time to have made a decision by. Because you are entirely right: Riding should be FUN! :) From when you rode Copper, you must remember that happy excitement of looking forward to riding ;)

    Not sure if any of this is relevant, but I love this blog:

  4. I think the deadline has been pretty helpful for me, so I am glad I set it too! I can't wait for riding to be fun again, not something I don't know whether I am going to enjoy or not. :)


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