Thursday, March 28, 2013

Horse/ride week day 3

Someone stole my horse.

They took my sweet paint boy who has been trying so hard to be good and replaced him with a clone look a like who more closely resembles the jerk of a horse he was 2 years ago...only on steroids.

I was not feeling great when I got home, but better than I was early, so I drank some hot tea, took a 5 min cat nap and decided to go. When I got there Kim was not ready yet, so I had to wait on her.  I did a few little lunge circles with him and a lateral flex on each side from the ground.

I can generally just step up and ride him without ground work if I know we are just trail riding, so I didn't worry so much about a lot of prep.  That was mistake # 1.

Mistake #2 I forgot to pray first.

I stepped up on him and asked for a couple of bends each direction, which took some spinning to get. Typical for the first time so I was not concerned.  Perhaps I should have been.

We headed out and he was just wanting to take off. Kim was on Schnizzle who is 2.  Schnizzle was so calm and relaxed, he was the seasoned trail horse, Trax was the horse who had never been out in his life.

No that is wrong, Trax was the horse that wanted to fly like the wind...while I sat in the dirt.

Schnizzle is a good hand or 2 smaller than Trax and he walks very slow. Trax is a bigger horse who likes to trot, or lope, so to ask him to walk slow was killing him, and wasn't much fun for me.

This is the trail we rode
We headed down the back of her property and then out across the main road (which is paved by my house but dirt by her house) and out to what is called "BB Brooks" land.  (remind me someday I'll tell you the story of the "wild" horses of BB Brooks) 

Every so often I would get tired of just holding him in so I would one rein stop him to the left. I have started choosing the left because it is his stiffest side.  Well this would elicite about 20 spins before he would give in. Not just spins in the same place, but spins as he was trying to move down the trail.  It was interesting to say the least.

I tried 2-tracking him down the path, I even started side passing him all the way down. I could feel myself being tense because he was so tense so I would have to stop and just really let myself relax, hoping he would as well. It didn't help much.

Then Kim says, "Do ya wanna trot?" Trax says, "Hell ya!"  So she and Schnizzle proceded to take off in a nice smooth ground eating trot. For a horse as small as he is, the boy can move out.  Trax had to either lope to keep up the pace or trot and stay behind.  He was not about to be left behind by some 2 year old.  Not once did we ever get that nice million mile trot that he has.

I do not know where my horse went in his mind, but it was not anywhere near me.  I am not sure it was even anywhere in the same time zone.

I finally decided to just let him lope, but I also asked for that little bit of flex to the left and asked him to move off of my  leg.  I'll say he sort of gave into me but not really because he never really dropped his chin.  Eventually he came back down to a trot but it was never nice, and never pretty.

When we reached the end and headed home, he turned the heat up a notch.  We started all over again.  I swear some of those "one reined stops" were down right nerve racking.   I rode them out with MK's voice in my head, "When he gets like this if you can ride it out, it is good but don't risk your own safety."  I seriously had to ask myself a couple of times, "Is this horse going to dump me today?"    He didn't, and I rode out every single one of them, but I was questioning my sanity the entire time.

Finally about a mile from home he started to relax.  I never could really let go of his mouth but he would at least drop his head and not hurt my hands so much.   I tried letting go to see if he would just walk, but as soon as I did he started trotting.  It was the nice trot, but it wasn't what I was asking for so I had to correct him.  He did seem to be happier when he was in front, but we wanted to ride side by side so we could talk, so all this crap he slung at me was not cool at all.

As I lay in bed this morning after letting the dogs out and waiting for the alarm to go off, I analyzed what the issue really was.  First off, we rarely trail ride with anyone else so he is used to being able to set his own pace, and I usually allow that.  When we do ride with someone else they are usually on Killian. Killian is even bigger than Trax and his walk is (or can be) as fast as Trax's favorite trot. So for him to have to match a pace with a horse that is content to meander was hard for him.  It was a new trail with a new horse that he didn't know. But none of that should have mattered.

I think I set us up for failure by not really ground working him first, and by not praying.  He solidified that failure by not listening to me when I asked him to do something simple like walk.  It wasn't like I was asking him to do some hard task or anything. All I wanted was for him to walk.  We will try this again this weekend, just me and him. We will see if he will walk then.

It was not the best of rides, but it was an eye opener for sure.  One of the things I remember reading in his personality assessment, is that horses like him make great endurance horses because they like to just set their own pace and move out.  If they have to conform to another horses pace they can get frustrated.  That was exactly what he was going through yesterday.  Even though I said earlier that he wanted to run away and leave me in the dirt, I don't honestly think that was the case.  He just wanted to do his pace and not worry about what that slow poke horse was doing. He wanted to get in his "zone' where he doesn't have to think about anything, or do any special tricks. Usually I allow that, this time I did not, and he did not understand.

With that in mind I have to ask myself...who failed who this time?


  1. So I found myself wondering, when Trax is trail riding, is he happy? Content in himself, satisfied, relaxed? Or is he speeding along all agitated? I guess I don't have any suggestions, but then you didn't ask for advice. :) I just feel like there's some fundamental quiet place that you need to go back to, or create for him (because maybe he doesn't have a quiet place when it comes to people riding him) and get his mind settled. Maybe a slow, easy, relaxed exercise that you drill and drill until it feels good to him to go back to that and "reset" his mind. Something where you're not asking him to hold his feet still, because for him that is very hard, but something that allows him to move, in a controlled way, and... well, I don't know. I bet your trainer will have some ideas. If it were me, I wouldn't ride him on a trail until you have some better communication going on, but then I'm a pretty big coward when it comes to riding a horse that I don't have push button control of. You guys have done fine in the past. But was Trax happy or running away from a troubled mind?

    That's my two cents. :) I'm sorry you had such a frustrating ride! I hate days like that. But I think we all have them.

    1. Actually our trail rides are usually pretty nice. Is he agitated? Well he has been in the past, but on our previous trail ride I can say for sure that he was not. He was easy and relaxed, moving along nicely, head down, but not running away. I could stop him easily if I wanted too, canter him nicely, and the trot was never stiff and hard on my hands. It was just "his" trot that we both love so well. I suppose it is possible that he was mentally running away, but then again, maybe I was too.

      So now that you mention that point of view I can honestly say there have been a few times when the rides were exactly like last night. The common denominator has always been when there have been new horses around and I am trying to match his gait to theirs. The only time this isn't the case is with Killian, they seem to enjoy matching their gaits and moving along together, but then they know each other so well and I think that really makes a difference.

      It was a frustrating ride, but not a bad ride. I just really found some new things we need to work on.

    2. I forgot to say thank you for your 2 cents. I always appreciate it.

  2. This whole thing is going to be on my mind a lot today until I see MK.

    I'm thinking about our trail rides in the past. Why do we always go fast? Is it his choice or is it mine? Well it is his choice, I give him the option to go at what ever pace he wants. But here is the truth. If he slows down, after a while I usually end up asking him to pick it back up just a little.


    Because I like to go fast. Not a dead run fast, but I don't wanna dawdle either. So I love that pace of his, not too fast not too slow. I can sit that gait without much thought, he can give it without much thought, it works for us.

    Perhaps we both are better suited for endurance riding.

  3. Pony is the same exact way. It's REALLY hard to trail ride with people, because her natural walk is a lot faster than other horses. If I try to hold her back and make her walk slower, we just both get frustrated and end up realllllly irritated. Instead, I do a lot of circles. If her feet are moving, then she is happy. I circle around other riders, I walk back and forth. I keep her feet directed where I want, and generally I can do this on a completely loose rein, because its not that she wants to go or run or anything, she just gets frustrated when I ask her to slow down her normal walk. It's like when I walk with little kids, they walk so slow its irritating for me to have to shuffle along next to them!!!

  4. Sorry you two had an off day, but they just come with the package. I like what Marissa said about not fighting his natural tendency to be quick, but instead direct his energy and make it into something positive instead of forcing him to match someone else's pace, which is not natural for him. I wouldn't over-analyze every single ride is, what it is. Just forget about it and focus on your next ride. Stop worrying so much. Remember, we ride because it's fun!! Are you and Traxx having fun???

    1. Yes Lorie, we are. At least I am. I'm not sure that he is, but I think so. There are changes in him that lead me to believe that he is enjoying finding things he is good at.

      You are right, over analyzing each ride will drive me crazy.
      So this is me....mooooooving on! :)

  5. It sounds lie an exciting ride. We all have bad days. I'm sure next time he will behave himself :) well, I hope he does anyway.

  6. I think this is one of the hardest things that we ask of our horses, especially the ones whose natural speed is fast. I have this trouble all the time with my 2. Tessa has a very long swinging stride that covers a lot of ground very quickly with no extra effort on her part. She is totally relaxed, but still moves twice as fast as Gabe.

    Gabe is a typical QH type who wants to mosey along very slowly. I find it is easier (although it does get tiresome!) to push Gabe to move faster then it is to slow down Tessa even though she is more willing and tries harder. She actually has to move in a very unnatural and constrained way in order to match Gabe's pace, which is a lot to ask for any extended time. I actually have a similar kind of problem when I hike with people who move much slower then I normally do. I find that forcing myself to keep to the slow pace is exhausting and stressful, which is why i usually just go out with my dog:).

    Add in the stress and excitement of being out with a strange horse in a strange place and it would be a lot for Trax to deal with. I think that this may always be an issue for him, but the more you get him desensitized and comfortable with new places and strange horses, it will be easier to manage as you would only be dealing with one issue instead of 4 or 5 all at once.

    1. That's funny that you mentioned about hiking with people who walk slow. TC is a slow walker and I am a fast walker and it absolutely drives me crazy to have to match my pace to his.
      So if I apply that feeling and put myself in Trax's hooves, well then I can absolutely understand how he felt. Poor guy!