Monday, February 24, 2014

Getting to know my horse

This is going to be short because I'm feeling pretty peaked today and also it is harder to type from my phone. 

I am coming to recognize what is going to hurt Trax the most when it comes to doing RV. 

I think this is directly related to his past and although I'm not saying that we will never get past it. I can see where it is a huge problem for him right now. 

Trax 's automatic transmission is broken. 

In order for a horse to do well in these kind of competitions it is important to be able to shift gears smoothly.  It generally doesn't take a ton of energy to do the reining, in fact calm is better there. Calm is vital in the trail portion. But cow work requires energy. 

It requires a horse to be able to be quick on his feet and mentally ready to go as fast or slow as needed to keep up with and control the cow. 

Yesterday I rode Trax and we did a little work on our imaginary flag again. This time he was doing the same as before. Slogging along like we were pushing a Dairy Queen. 

So I thought I would do just like I did before and give him the tap on the shoulder to wake him up. But he knew what was coming this time and I barely even got my hand on the rein and he lost it!!! 

He took off at Mach 9 and nothing I did would slow him down for a bit. He did not buck but he ran pretty wildly for a while. I rode it out and tried to talk to him. 
Pretty soon his ears flicked back and he relaxed a little.  Then I ran him straight into the fence. He stood there with his sides heaving and his eyes as big as saucers. 

I turned him slowly and asked him to just walk until he would put his head down. 

Then we went back to the flag. I asked for the lope departure, the stop and the turn and we did it several times but I could feel him getting ready to snap again. So I quit before he did. 

Then We just long trotted those circles and figure eights again until he relaxed. 

So here is my problem. 

It is as if he is missing a gear in his tranny. Because he has first and second, but no third. 

He does have overdrive though.  And that play on words is more accurate than you may think. 

He can go slow and easy. He can pick it up enough to lope some nice circles, he can not pick it up enough to be quick on his feet but just jumps straight to race mode and spins wildly out of control. 

I believe there is a way to fix this. I just have to find it. I have no doubt that I will but it is going to take some time....and that is ok. I am not on a deadline with this horse. I've got all the time in the world. 

I do have some ideas which I discussed yesterday wth a friend. One of them being magnesium supplements to get him to be just a little less reactive and looser in those muscles.  

When I got Trax his rubber band was wound up as right as it could go. He only knew overdrive. So the fact that he has some lower gears now is great. Now I just need to find that gear that is missing. 

In other news there is a lot of up coming stuff right here in my neighborhood. Including the trim clinic, an extreme trail course, perhaps some lessons for simon on Killian and maybe me on sassy, and the chance to do some free cow work at my own pace. So I am very excited about that. 

The trimmer was here yesterday so I will have some pics to post soon. 

The chiro/ dental gal will be here tomorrow to asses all the ponies. 


  1. You are definitely getting to know your horse.
    Just curious, does he do the race mode when you aren't in the arena or is it strictly arena related?
    You are on the right track in working with his mind, he will end up trusting you although it may be a long haul. Perhaps you might scale back your goals for him, not focus on preparing for competitions but on just helping him to be the best horse he can be? I know you are doing this already but when you have that long term goal in mind, I think they can sense what you want, and where he is right now that might be a little mind boggling for him. Not sure if that makes sense to you, lol!

    1. That does make sense to me, and yes he will do race mode at any time. It doesn't matter where we are or what we are doing, if there is something going on that worries him he just leaves. I mean that he leaves mentally and then the feet follow.

      This is who he is, it is how he protected himself from the harsh riders before, and he is not afraid to resort to it now if he feels unsure of what is going on. Luckily for me, he only runs and doesn't blow up on me. Because you can trust me when I say that when this horse lets loose, there will be no staying on. I have only seen him do it from the ground, but I have witnesses who have told me more than once, "I'm so glad he did that when you were still on the ground.

      The best way I have heard it put is that all horses have a rubber band in their brain, some have nice long ones and some have little short ones. Trax's is short....very short. His gets wound up to the point of snapping very quickly, especially if put in a situation that reminds him of his past. When I got him his rubber band was wound up so tight it was in fricking knots. Today he is a different horse, but it doesn't take long for him to revert back to that angry little guy. It is going to take a long time to undo what was done to him. I may never undo it completely, and that is okay.

      I do agree with you about changing my focus some though, I do need to get him out to the desert next time so that he doesn't get two wrapped up in "Oh my god she is making me work!" Not that he doesn't work in the desert but it makes more sense to him out there I think.

      I will continue to do a little bit of flag work each time we ride, because at the last clinic we were totally unprepared for it and it was a wreck, and it was hard on him. I want him to be just a little bit more prepared. I never do it for very long, just enough to get his feet moving a little once he gives it to me once or twice, I quit and do not do it again for the rest of the ride. I want my horse to be successful and I do always try to ride with that in mind.

    2. I've told you this in person as well...I think you have realistic goals in mind for Trax. You are in a good place mentally to make happen what you want to happen. You are realistic about what he is and what he can do, but also understand that there is no reason why he can't do the basics correctly and build up to maximum potential from there.

      Every time he has one of his mental meltdowns and you work him through it, you are building the stretchiness in his brain. Horses don't come out of bad experiences by never having anything bad/stressful happen to them again (even if it's just in his own mind), they come out of it because something bad/stressful happened and there were no negative repercussions.

    3. I agree which is why we did go back to flag work even after he lost it yesterday. And he did it and I was happy with his effort.

  2. So here is a little update for you all. I was talking with my friend Jay about this today. Jay was there when I got Trax and was the first one to really help me start to chip away at that wall. So he does know my horse pretty darn well. I mentioned that we are missing a few gears and he suggested I try working more on transitions. Which got me to thinking. Trax has all the gears when it comes to "forward". I can move him at any speed I want easily and he is perfectly happy to do so at any speed, but forward is the key. So when we add in the factor of needing to be really athletic and moving feet in this direction or that direction really fast, the pressure becomes to much for him. I used to think that Trax was an athletic horse, but I can see now that he really isn't. Not in the quick catty sense that the term is used in many western disciplines. Sassy is super athletic. Trax is only moderately so, and Killian even less than Trax.

    So I also mentioned to Jay that I am going to be checking out some extreme trail courses in the near future. His response went something like this. "You have the perfect extreme trail horse! He is more go than show, and he is a thinker. I'd be willing to bet that he would blow your mind with his ability to excel in extreme trail."

    So to me that was an interesting assessment. Wouldn't it be great if I could get Sassy going as my cow horse and Trax as my extreme trail horse? I'd always have something to do. I would try Trax in endurance except that I can't go the distance without my knees killing me.

    1. Sounds like he gave you some good advice!

  3. Have you ever tracked a cow on trax? be interesting. but now you mention the extreme trail that sure could be perfect for him!

    1. I have Crystal, in a couple of different situations. The first time we were herding cows across country and he did great. We actually caught a cow that was headed for the hills and he stopped and penned that cow on the fence and moved her back to herd with such ease, I thought for sure he would make a great cow horse. The next time was at my first ranch horse clinic and we managed to pen that cow also. The clinician told me that for our first time we did great and it would have been a scoring run. At the Ranch Horse Show last year, we did get the job done, but what I am learning through all of this is that he tracks like a rope horse (because he is one) and not like a cutting horse. We can get the job done but when being scored, the way we do it is all wrong. The part we are struggling with is doing it properly. Instead of moving his shoulders to follow the cow, he moves his hip and turns on his shoulder. It costs us time and points.

      All of our problems go back to the basics which we still cannot get under control. The basics being soft in the face, responsive to my cues, moving the shoulders, etc. He is fine if we are moving at a snails pace but if I ask for any energy he.....can'

      Aw crap...I just figured it out.