Friday, February 21, 2014

Back on Track with Trax

I only have a bout five minutes to replay my ride so bear with me as I speed type my thoughts down.  I really can speed type...about 75-80 words per minute if I am totally focused, but a whole heck of a lot of mistakes too.

Anyway, I decided that since they are pulling the insulation for the shop out of the semi trailer it was a good time to get in there and pull out my 4x4's and get my trail stuff set back up.  You can just imagine my dismay when I found there were only 3 left.  I did resist the urge to start screaming at the crew, but did find most of my logs....cut up in to nice neat little usuable pieces.

Unusable for me but perfect for them.

So I spent a good 20 minutes scouring the property for any all pieces of wood to be used in my arena.  I managed to round up a few more but ARGH!  Damn non horse people are driving me crazzzzzzeeee!

I also brought out my rope and dragging log, and my bridge.

I've decided that it is past time for Trax to remember that ropes are his friend...well that ropes are not his enemy.

Ground work was good, no crazy antics even when I threw the rope around his butt and made him move.  I was surprised. We dragged the log from the ground, and he was pretty good about it.  I was surprised again.

So we went to riding. He did much better today and I can see that we are making progress.  Real progress.  He is getting better about leading with his shoulder instead of dropping the shoulder.  I never truly understood that until recently.  It wasn't until he began to do it right that I could feel the difference.

Score one for the green horn!

Our stretchy trot is getting better, he is willing to hold it a little longer for me, and we trotted over poles quite a bit today.  We also trotted over the bridge which I have never asked him to do before.  I always let him walk but have decided that if he is used to trotting over it, then walking over it will always seem like cake to him.

He is also getting really good at turning on his hind and moving the shoulders across.  As long as we do it slowly.  So today I decided to work the imaginary flag.

I started at a trot and he was lollygagging along and starting to annoy me...


I reached down and smacked tapped him on the shoulder with one of my reins.


You'd have thunk I beat him with a baseball bat.

Or called his mother a plow horse or something.

He didn't come unglued but I could hear his thoughts plain as day.



"Well perhaps you should quit being lazy"

"I thought you loved me?"

"I do love you.  I love you enough to teach you to get busy and do your job, and quit acting like your plow horse mother. Besides I barely tapped you."

"I still felt it and my mother was NOT a plow horse!"

"Well good, now lets get a move on."

He remained indignant for a bit, I could tell because his nose was straight up in the air.

I didn't argue that particular point too much, but I did ask that he stop when asked, turn around quickly, and ride out quickly. This time we did it at a lope...about 6 times.  Lope 30 feet, stop, back 3 steps, turn the shoulder, lope out.

Although he was a little high in the head he did pretty darn good so I ended that exercise and moved on to some trail work.  I didn't ask it of him again because I am trying to not drill drill drill until he is sick of stuff.  

We backed through our L and apparently he forgot all about how to do that so we did it about 4 times.  He never did get it right but after a bit I went back to stretchy trots and forward motion spins.  He is plenty soft to the right, but man, he just will not relax that jaw to the left.   I do feel like he is trying to get it right but until he can really give those shoulders I think we will still struggle with it.

But I can be standing still and ask him to spin a full circle and he will do just that.  Hind end in place and move his shoulders in either direction for a full 360 turn.  I'm happy about it because it has taken a year to get that.  Unfortunately, he doesn't do that nice forward cross over step in front like he needs to be doing.  It is more like a crab-walk or crossing behind.

Oh we did drag the log with me in the saddle. He never bolted on me, but did get a little "ify" a couple of times but I just stayed calmed, kept him in check, and talked him through it. By time we were done he was dragging it around in any direction with his head down like he was just on a summer stroll.


We also did the regular gate from both directions.  He has that pretty much down, and no leg crushing today.

The last thing we did was go back to the L and back through it again. This time I really took my time, remembering what I learned at the trail clinic last year.  Break it down into foot falls.  If I ask for one step at a time and really watch what I am doing, I set him up to be successful. He completed the task with one minor fault of tapping one log as he turned the corner.  But since he just tapped it and didn't step over it, I called it good.

We ended our ride there and I loosened his cinch.  Then we played the Clinton Anderson game.  I threw the reins over his neck and asked him to follow me, which he did. Then I moved his shoulders with out touching him and asked him to back up as well.  It wasn't quite as pretty as CA but it was fun to do and good to keep him mentally tied into me even though we were done riding.   I could tell when he was getting tired of the game so I ended it before he had time to blow it.

Jay used to tell me that if you know your horse is going to leave in 4 seconds then move him out at 3 so it is your idea and he succeeds.

When I took the bridle off, I gave him his favorite reward, before putting on his halter.  I gave him good head scratches in all his favorite spots.  He loves that.

As I was riding I came to realize that the thing that is killing us the most in our progress is me.  Not my riding, because I can feel myself getting better. But my schedule. If we were riding 3 times a week instead of just 1, we'd be getting a lot further a lot faster.

Trax is not always the most willing partner but he does like strong leadership and he does like to get things right most of the time.  I know this because I can feel him trying to anticipate my moves. Now I doubt if it is so much because he is just so dang happy to make me happy, but more because he knows that if he does it right I'll leave him be.  I don't care what his motivation is, I'm just happy that he at least tries most of the time.

I think he was really feeling crappy the last couple of weeks, because he was definitely in a better mood today than he has been recently.  It doesn't change that he is still a hard horse to reach sometimes, but I do take a certain amount of pride in knowing that I have taken him further than anyone else ever has.   Looking back with realistic goggles on helps me to see and accept that I have done a lot with him, much more than some people ever thought I could do.   So yes, I realize he is never going to be a top competitor, I never expected him to be...well not really.  I also realize that there are some of these moves that he may never be able to accomplish.  But there is no reason for me to stop working with him or to give up on him.  I kind of feel bad for thinking that I should.  Not only is it all good for him mentally and physically, it is all teaching me to be a better rider.

Someday I am going to have one horse that is easy and that I can really go and compete on and not be embarrassed, and me learning how to work on this guy is only going to prep me for that horse.

Brown Eyed Cowgirl told me that in the long run if I can teach Trax this stuff, teaching another horse will seem like a piece of cake.  When I ride Sassy, I know that she is right.

Oh, I have found a gal in my area who specializes in equine dental and chiro, so I am going to set an appt up next week for Trax.  I don't know that he his teeth are bad. He was checked last year by a vet who said they were fine, but I do think the time has come to rule out any physical issues for him.

And now I am late for work.


  1. Have you considered that maybe someday Trax will be the easy horse you can go and compete on? I think it's a true possibility. You guys HAVE come a long way. Sometimes it's hard for us to see that for ourselves, trust me, I know. I am the queen of feeling like a failure with my horse, like I'll never get her anywhere...until I stop for a moment and think about where we were 3 years ago, 1 year ago, even 5 months ago, and then I remember that progress has happened. It's all baby steps!

    Your conversation with Trax seriously cracked me up.

    1. Mare, you have no idea how much I want to believe that is true, and I suppose there is a very slight chance that it could happen, but not likely. You have to remember that he is not a young horse. He is middle aged, and in fact many people would consider him to be old, although I do not. He is about 13 now. I am trying to undo 10 years of harsh riding which boarder lined on abuse. A horse like Trax does have the ability to do great things but only if they are started correctly from birth and handled correctly their whole lives. A lot of horses are very tolerant of humans and what they put them through, but there are some who react differently. They turn bitter and angry quickly and at that point when most horses would say, "holy crap! Okay I'll give in!" these horses tend to just say, "Screw you, I'm outta here and I'm leaving you behind." Which I am sure is how roper kid ended up face planted in the dirt so many times. He tolerates what I do with him because I rarely ever treat him rudely, and to him that counts for something.

      So yes I am undoing a lot of bad with him, and heck ya we are coming along pretty darn well all things considered, but the chances of me breaking down that entire wall are pretty slim. But you are right about one thing, it is all baby steps and he has come a long way and I will keep on trying and I will hang on to that tiniest little bit of hope for him to finally "give in" completely. But if it never happens, I will just know that it is who he is.

      I know that sometimes I complain a little more than I should, but truthfully my journey with him has been a ton of fun and continues to be more so every day. I have loved riding this horse since the first time I ever climbed up on him and I think that will always be true. I love that he has changed from being the "stay the heck away from me" guy, to the "Hey Lady, its nice to see you today." guy.

  2. The tough ones teach us so much, if you can get him to a good place, I agree that once you find one without the issues, it'll come much easier. I think that having to break down each manoeuvre to teach him, also teaches you the fundamental basic building blocks that you can apply to the next horse.
    Isn't it fun, really, when something goes right? Makes up for the bad days.

    1. Yes it really does make up for those bad days We have more good days than bad so I'm pretty happy with that.

  3. Shirley is right, the tough ones teach us the most. It isn't always about just sitting up there and asking for things. Sometimes you have to dig down, deep inside yourself and get to the nitty gritty that isn't always pretty. They usually end up teaching us things about ourselves that we may not have ever figured out otherwise.

    I agree that some horses get to the point of being mentally shut down and could care less about things. I have seen my fair share of them in show barns. Their whole existance is just plain sour. The become detached and lose that spark in their eye. You can snap them out of it though, I've brought a few of them back after many have deemed them "All hope is lost". When you get them back, they give you their best effort no matter what is asked of them. That is an awesome feeling my friend.

  4. I dont know what to say. rare lol. I do know but not how to share it. i too think he will become a horse you will just go grab for an easy ride, no not easy but fun. And true about the tough horses.
    I sorta feel the same with Jess, sure I could give up on her and get anew horse and it would be so much easier, I could be out and winning right away (and I have thought of this a lot) but instead I am sticking with her and all that I have wrecked (not really wrecked but I lost her stop somewhere) her and now its up to me to get her back to where she and I can just go out and win. Sure not an easy battle and though its different than yours it resounds me to stick with it.
    Do you have old videos of you guys? you should go watch some and some new ones and you will see the huge improvement there is.