Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not the "Best Day Ever"

I had made plans with Kim to go ride on Wednesday night.  I woke up Wednesday morning with a migraine, but managed to get my butt to work. Through out the day I considered canceling, but since my headache was getting better decided to go ahead and go.

As I was leaving work to go home, the Suburban wouldn't start, had to get a jump, I should have just accepted that sign of doom.  I am so good at talking myself out of stuff and then regretting it, and I am trying to change that, so I ignored the warning.

I figured that if I gave everyone just a little bit of food, it would make them a little less pissy about having to work before dinner.  I thought wrong. Danny was mad mad mad!  I did remember to grab the blankets this time though.

I got him saddled up and tried to get him loaded. For the first time ever he refused to go into the trailer.  I mean flat out, backing up and being a total jerk, refused. I was shocked!  I wanted to put him in the front so I could shut the divider and give him support.  But since he was being such a pain, I decided I didn't care if he had support. I tied him to the trailer and tacked up Trax. Of course Trax went right in, like he always does. Then I tried Danny again. Still a no go. Finally I had had enough! It was cold and getting dark and I wanted to get on the road.  I made him start working his butt off. It was hard on him in the driveway of crushed asphalt (which was frozen and really hard) but it was the only thing I knew to do.  One thing I know about Danny, he can get pushy and bossy, but it doesn't take too much to bring him back to where he is supposed to be.  FINALLY he loaded up.

We get to arena just as the last light faded, no cars..yes!!! I was encouraged by the thought of having the arena to ourselves. Kim pulled in right behind me.

Danny about ran me down coming out of the trailer, I made a mental note to work him on his respect issues. Trax was just Trax- to him trailering is just a part of life.

I started with working Trax, ground work, lunging, etc. He was really wanting to go so we spent a good amount of time on downward transitions. Then I did something different. I asked him to move his front end in a circle away from me, while keeping his hind in where it was.  He did good to the right, couldn't do it to the left. I settled for a few steps to the left, and called it good.

Apparently I forgot how to tack a horse on this day, because I didn't even have his bridle on all the way when I got on.  When I was asking for the lateral flex I noticed flapping buckles and had to dismount and complete the task.  I was happy with him for that, because he didn't move a muscle while I got on and off.  He was not like that when I got him. He was notorious for running off on a mount or a dismount.

RC had told me to get some spurs to help me get him off my leg. So I did. I was curious to see how he would react to them, given the harsh riding he endured in the past.  He actually didn't react badly at all. Of course I was careful to always be respectful when applying them.  I worked with trying to get him to collect like she has showed me, it was a complete and utter failure. I'm not sure who was worse. Me or him. I was trying to recall all the things she told me, but it just wasn't working.  His head was straight up most of the time. I don't know if it was because I went back to the d-ring snaffle or just because he was in a crappy mood, but I do know that it sucked.  Since I could tell I was just confusing him, I quit that exercise.

Kim was there about 10 minutes, but poor Fawn was hacking and wheezing pretty badly, so she opted to take her back home until she knew why. So now I was on my own again.

The hardest part of trying to train on my own is that I cannot see what I am doing wrong.  Couple that with not knowing what I am doing in the first place, and I can get frustrated very easily.  I decided to go with something I knew.  We trotted.  I would ask for a slow trot, and when he would take off I would stop him and back him up and then start again.  Finally I was able to ask for a nice easy trot, and get him to maintain it. We cantered a little, but I didn't want to get him too sweaty with as cold as it was outside, so we kept it brief.   We did a couple of decent side passes, and worked on some spins, but really can't seem to get the hang of those yet.  We were able to end on a positive of an easy trot and a nice try on a stop, but I wasn't feeling real good about the ride overall.

Next came Danny. I stretched him, I lunged him, I made him canter for a decent amount of time. Then I got on him.  He was a little wild at first, but pretty soon we were able to settle in to a nice postable trot. We also did some backing up to get him to lift that rib cage some.  He really wanted to run, but I decided against it.  

About that time, mother nature hit me by surprise and with a vengeance and I was totally unprepared for her. (explains the migraine from the morning) There usually is no reason to carry my purse with all those "things" a woman needs, to the arena, unless I know I am going to need them. From now on, I will take the purse no matter what, or find a place to stash some in the trailer.

Well crap! Could the night get any worse?  Well heck ya it could and it did.   As I found myself paying attention to what was going on with me, I lost my focus on Danny who took advantage of it and started to "dance" around.  It feels more like you are going to fall over, so I clamped my legs on to him for balance forgetting that I had the spurs on. Yeee Haww!  I swear I have never seen him jump so high!  I got ride off of him and rubbed his sides, to try and undo some of the mental trauma.  Poor guy never saw it coming. I felt bad, but he got over it pretty quick.

So now what, I couldn't just go home, I had two very sweaty horses (Danny especially-he is so out of shape) to cool down and dry off. I continued on with the job at hand, feeling very... uncomfortable and self conscious. 

When I first started working Danny a young couple showed up and the girl had gotten her horse out and by this time was riding him around bareback. She was cantering and just having the time of her life. Then her boyfriend got on with her and they were walking around the arena on this wonderful horse. They were holding hands as they rode together. She had dropped the reins and was guiding him with her feet as he pushed a ball around the arena. It was cute to watch, but yeah, I was a little jealous.  Sometimes I wish I had a horse that easy.

Cut to the chase, I got them cooled down and blanketed, and was ready to load up to go home, I carried both saddles out and got them put away. Took Danny first, and got a repeat performance. So I got Trax, and put him in. There was hay on the floor that he wanted so I reached down and grabbed some for him. I generally do not have to do the flat palm feeding with my horses, they are all very carefu,l as am I, but I guess I wasn't careful enough because he bit my fingertip this time.  Yes it hurts like hell. I honestly thing he was as surprised as I was because he let go immediately   I had to work Danny again to get him to load, but the work time was much less.  I was as happy as they were to head home and get them fed and put away. By time I was done, I was frozen.

I have come to realize that when it is cold like this, it is a lot of work to travel to ride with even one horse. To do so with 2 is too much on my own.  It isn't bad when I can go out to the trailer to tack down, and groom and dry off. But to have to pack everything back and forth when I am freezing...its hard. Too hard.  I can't wait to have an arena of my own to ride in.

I ended the night feeling very discouraged.  I found myself second guessing myself and my horse and wondering if Jay is right, maybe Trax is just too damaged to learn. Or maybe I am just rushing him.  I still can't help but feel if I had someone to work with me on a consistent basis with one method of training instead of several contradicting methods, we could get further.  An example is backing up. One person says to seesaw the reins just a little, another says don't. One says set the bit then tap with your heels to ask for movement, another says to just set the bit.  So I teach him one thing, and then am told to teach him different, and it messes with his head.  I feel like he wants to learn. I feel like he is trying really hard because the minute he understands what I am asking, he gives it to me without question.  For example, if I set my bit, give a very tiny see saw with my reins,and a squeeze with my legs, he will back up so smooth and fast, it is beautiful.  To him that is the cue. If I just pull back, his head goes up and he fights it and when he does finally go, it isn't pretty, because he doesn't understand. Then he gets frustrated with me.  I can't say that I blame him.

We have the halter clinic on Saturday, and then hopefully I can hook up with RC again on Sunday.  I'm not going to give up over one bad night, but I have got to find some consistent help, a real trainer to work with me, if we are going to make some real progress.

Here is a picture of Danny being angry.


  1. Wow, what a day from hell huh? Well, you're discouraged, but I am so proud of you for making it there at all. You didn't feel well, went anyway, then Danny is an ass, you work through that and are victorious, not to mention that it's colder than a witch's tit in January (I would have boged out right there), then mother nature graces you with her presence (oh joy), and it's probably the first ride in a while without being consistent, you know how horses are creatures of habit, right? Girl, like I said...I'm very proud of you for sticking to your guns and showing tenacity. Bet next time, the horses won't push your buttons quite so much. Momma's no quitter!! Ooh, and ouch that finger! :( I know how difficult it can be listening to everybody out there with an opinion. *sigh* That's why I follow one type of horsemanship, practice it to the best of my abilities and keep working at it. I don't practice it often enough, that's my main problem. When you find that 1 person who believes in training methods as you do, stick with that person and forget about all the other ways to skin that cat. My grandma used to say..."opinions are like mothers, everybody's got one". You know what? She was right! One more you think you're trying to work on too many different things at once, and confusing your horse? I like the KISS method. Keep it simple steps with perfection, before you know it, the difficult maneuvers almost happen by themselves.

    1. Thanks, I guess that is one way of looking at it! Yeah...I was victorious against all odds! I like that! I have to admit I was seriously tempted to just leave Danny home when he wouldn't load the first time, but knew that if I did that, I would never get him into a trailer again, so I had to keep going.

      You are right about opinions, everyone has one, and each trainer believes that their way is the best way, when really it is more horse specific I think. I'm really feeling like once we move,(if we move) or once I know that we aren't moving, then I need to actively seek out one trainer to work with. Oddly enough, there aren't that many here where I live.
      I also agree about keeping it simple. Getting the easy trot without him running off really was big stride for him, the runaway. So if I shorten my goals just a little for this day, then we accomplished just enough without driving him into the ground. Thank you for bringing me back to that. I think that I feel pressure to teach him so much before June, but really I don't have to do it all today or even this week. As long as I keep breaking it down into small pieces, he will get it. He always does. Even if he is perfect in time for the shows, we will still compete, do the best we can, get some great experience and have some fun laughing at our own mistakes.

      Thank you, I really needed that little boost...Sista! :)

    2. That was supposed to say "even if he isn't perfect"

  2. :) You've just made me smile!! Wish we were closer, we could ride together and give each other support. We have lots of people around here who call themselves "trainers". Trouble is, most of them I wouldn't let touch my horse if they were paying me!! I'm in the same boat, trying to find someone who I can respect and learn from, so that I can better work with my horse and build that relationship that I want. Oh, without spending my last dime to achieve it!

    1. That would be cool to be able to ride together!

  3. Sounds like a tough night! But good for you for sticking it out. I was at that with so many different opinions and then found a good trainer/friend and learned a lot and outgrew her training and moved on to a different trainer. he sure pushes me but I am glad and I have learned more from him in one lesson than a few years with the first trainer. So sometimes just a few lessons will make a difference, even if you have to travel a ways to get them (mine is almost 2 hours away)

    I totally agree it would be so much easier if I had an arena at home as well, I can wish but doubt it will ever happen.

    1. Thanks Crystal. I would gladly drive 2 hours once a week for a good trainer!

  4. Wow! What a bummer of a day!!!

    Me and my trainer had a conversation today that pertains to that EXACTLY. It's the whole 'if you have all day it'll take 5 minutes, if you have 5 minutes it'll take all day' thing. Her story was that when she was really tired and would pull pony out and not feel like working with her, shed turn her out, and pony would be a nutcase for like 15 minutes and then not let my trainer catch her for another half an hour. However, on the days she pulled her out in the morning and gave her attention and time, she was an angel.

    Maybe Danny feels like if you rush and don't give him the time HE thinks he deserves, then he doesn't feel like he needs to give you respect. Because even when we don't think that we are 'rushing' they can sense out feelings better than we can!

    I think that you and trax will improve leaps and bounds with more regular work! Which is of course tough in the winter! I ride pony 4 times a week and I had to crazy trot her for a full 30 minutes before she calmed down, I bet trax just needs more regular work for him to start really improving!

    I can see how frustrating your ride was, the first half of my ride today was just like that!! It really makes it tough, but that's what makes these speedy ponies that we love even more awesome! Especially because how great it feels when you are capable of getting quality work from them!!

    I definitely don't think trax has too much baggage for him to learn, I really honestly think that good hard work will make all the difference. When he has so much energy it's tough for him to focus on learning when each ride he has to work through the energy first!!

    Also, when I say good hard work, I mean mentally hard as well. I honestly think no good can come of loping around for an hour. I think transitions and stopping and leg yielding and transitions and circles and straights and rollbacks over and over to keep their brains working are much more exhausting to them, and clear their heads to learn more!

    1. Marissa, you brought up some really good points, so I had to really think back over my actions and determine if I was rushing Danny.
      With Danny and his handicap it is always important to give him the time he needs to figure out how he is getting into the trailer. I did do that. I let him sniff and check everything out, about 5 min or so. Usually within a minute or so he is in. After that 5 min, when he started backing up, is probably when I started getting impatient. So yes it could be that I was making things worse for him.

      But sometimes with him it is him just being stubborn. When I first rode him at my moms in Oregon, he was so good. Didn't give me a lick of trouble. A year later he came to me a different horse. Stubborn and bossy and disrespectful. I would get on him and he wouldn't go, he refused to do anything I ask. Why? Well, with my mom Danny didn't have to do anything. He was able to be the boss and she let him. It didn't matter to her, because she never took him anywhere, she didn't ride him, she fed him and groomed him and made sure he was healthy. She let him be retired and he liked that. So when he came to me, he was prepared to continue his retirement. It took about 3 lessons with Jay to remind him who the boss was. We didn't have to get mean, we just had to move his feet, and teach him to respect the bubble. After that we got along great. BUT, if I let him sit too long without doing anything, he reverts back to that jerk that came to me 4 years ago. With the cold, he hasn't done much in a while. So this time I think it was combination of me rushing him and him trying to convince me that he is still in retirement.
      Truthfully he is still in retirement, but he still needs enough exercise to stay sound.

      As far as Trax goes...he is my boy. I understand him like no one ever has. We aren't giving up, just had a rough day. And you are right, mental work is the best for him.

      Have I mentioned lately that you are smart beyond your years!

  5. I reckon if Trax is happy with the tiny wiggle as his cue to begin backing up, then why change for one he isn't? Maybe instead you can being to 'hold' with your backside and reins, just a hint, before you do that wiggle, and after a while he might begin to offer the back just from that. When I get mine good I can just hold the forward movement ever so lightly with my body and think 'back' with my butt and back we go. :)

    We used to have different instructors all the time at the adult riding club I went to. It got so confusing and also they just never knew me or my horse and our goals and needs. I was better working alone at home. I think you should trust your own experience more and not rely on someone to tell you how and what all the time. You can get too dependent and it has the reverse effect on confidence than you would expect. You know your horse, he knows you. You are a good rider and handler and you have his best interests at heart. Trust yourself!