Monday, March 17, 2014

1.25 Hours and the Eleventh Commandment

I rode Killian this morning, and in exactly 1.25 hours I was able to fix all of his major problems.  It only took one time of pushing him sideways about 30 feet for him to stand still for mounting.  He now stops when asked at any speed, backs up straight, lopes out the minute I ask (although almost always on the incorrect lead), moves off my leg, and does the most beautiful rollbacks of any horse I have ever ridden.  I can move his hip from right to left, but cannot budge it from left to right.  I personally could care less.   He did however have an epic fail at the gate.  We did eventually get it done, but it was never right.

We will however visit that again.  The sad part of all of this is that the first time TC or Simon get on him, he will be ruined again.  But such is life I guess.

One thing I learned with Killian is about why he backs up crooked.  It is because he is anticipating the push on his shoulders.  It was the easiest fix in the world.  If he backed to the left, expecting the roll back to the right, I promptly rolled his shoulders the opposite direction.  Once he realized that it was going to be like that, he backed up straight every single time.

He did well so I hosed him down (which he hates) and then put him away.

Then I got Trax out.

I shall refer again today to the book "Healing Shine" by Michael Johnson. (

I'm sorry if you all are sick of hearing about it but there are just too many real to life things that come out of that book. Or at least real to me.

Those of you who have read the book will recall the 11th commandment.

The 11th commandment states, "Thou shall not let the horse win."

In his book he goes on to tell how all good little christian cowboys and cowgirls know this commandment by the time they are 10.

Today we broke that commandment into a gazillion little pieces.  It is shattered all over my arena buried in the dirt, with mismatched hoof prints stamped all over it.  It is also covered in sweat and tears.  Sweat from both of us and tears from me.

I am exhausted.

On the bright side, some good things did come to light for me today.

If a person could ever gain control of this horses feet at any speed other than a walk, they would find themselves with a horse who contains a gold mine in untapped energy, stamina, speed, and potential to do anything they wanted him to do.

The only down side to this realization is the other realization that in order to get control of his feet you have to get into his brain, and that brain is locked inside a cast iron shell with an unpick-able lock and I have yet to find the key to open that lock.  I know there is one, but its location still alludes me.

We rode for well over 2 hours.  Most of that 2 hours was just spent racing around the arena.  Although in the beginning it was just walk, trot and obstacles and he was great. Then I asked for the lope and the race was on.  I finally got tired of just being along for the ride and started asking him to slow down. That didn't work so I asked for more speed.


All I did was squeeze just a little and he took off like a shot, stretched out and just flew.  I managed to hold on and kept waiting for him to get tired, but it never happened.  He never did slow down, nor did he get tired.  I finally did get tired, and started trying to pull him into smaller circles to slow him down.  His circles got smaller, but never got any slower.

Finally I touched his nose to his butt and he spun to a stop, dang near throwing me off to the side in the process.

From that point forward there was nothing I could do with him.   Finally I just asked him to walk.

At one point I reached down to adjust my reins and he tried to bolt. So our next lesson was strictly getting him to stay at a walk, while I played with the tail end of my reins.  Once he came back to reality to recognize that I was still there, we did some trotting. It was pretty much a fight the entire time.

Finally I got sick of it all and just took him out and walked him down the road, doing lots of stops and back ups.  Then we came home and called it a day.

He won today.  He won big time.  I'm going to have to do some thinking on this and figure out what I need to change up.   If I never asked him to go faster than a trot, then we would not have these issues.  But that is not how life works unless you are a horse on a dude ranch.  He is not a dude ranch horse though, he is my horse, he is a broke horse, and by golly he needs to act like it at least once in a while!

I just might dose him with some mare-calm before I ride him next time.  Just to see what happens.

Here is the thing I noticed about today.  Usually after a while, Trax goes to his happy place, he slows down naturally, drops his head and from that point forward the lines of communication are open.

Today he never got there.  I honestly would like to know why.


  1. That sounds very frustrating. Wish I had some suggestions.

  2. Sometimes they just get a wild hair up their ass and there's nothing you can do about it. They aren't in the mood and trying to bring them around, just sends them further down the road.

    Sounds like he had a bit of a relapse back to the days of his previous life. Running seems to get him away from the demons inside, even if they are still with him at every stride. Horses like him will revert back to square one when things come up. They go back to their old ways of what worked to bust them out of whatever is stressing them out. For Trax it is running, some horses go all out NFR, some flip over, some check out. Some horses you may never know what sets them off, others will give you warning signs of the impending meltdown. The warning signs may be subtle and difficult to 'read' and others will be blindingly obvious. Every horse is different and why or how they go off.

    1. Come to think of the warning sign was there, and I even recognized when I saw it, but then promptly forgot about it when he calmed down. On the lunge line when asked for the lope, he hit the end of that long lead rope and about yanked me off my feet. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't get him to lope the circle. I had to switch directions, ask for it, get it, and let him go at it for a while. Then we switched directions again and he was fine. But that was my warning sign.

      So perhaps next time when he is like that I need to recognize it for what it is and make that days lesson about anything other than loping.

    2. CnJ is 100% right on this one.

      However, you shouldn't feel like you 'lost' today. You stuck it out with him until you came to some sort of terms and tomorrow he may be all sunshine and rainbows. He didn't exactly get what he wanted out of the situation either, which was probably getting you to give up.

      Today was just a day. ONE day. It was a bad day, but still...just a day.

  3. I just have to keep telling myself that it took 6 years for Michael to break through to Shine, I have to let go of my urgency.

  4. I have never seen Trax act like this, so I am uncertain if this would work with him or not, you'll just have to use your best judgement...

    When he takes off running like that and blocks you out, can you sit down on him and make him rollback on the fence...Even if he just wants to take off the other direction...Just sit down, pick up that rein that is closest to the fence and just pull him right into the fence and make him change direction, when he does, just let him decide what he wants to do once he changes direction. If he wants to take off again, let him run around to the other side of the arena and roll him back on the fence again. Rinse and repeat, more and more often until he decides that running off and having to rollback is just too much work.

    If he doesn't want to run off, then you can work on some more bending, flexing, moving shoulders and really get him to soften for you before you ask him to lope again. But definitely ask him to lope again. If he is nice about it, call it a thing. If he wants to run off again, repeat the fence work.

    Like I said, I don't really know what happens to him (in his head) that cause him to do this with you, cause I have never seen him really do it...But it almost sounds like he is using the tactic to get out of work. I know that doesn't seem like a logical reason to a person, because we view running willy-nilly like that as harder work than the little bit we are asking them to do...But to a horse, running is easy. It's the mental work you tax him with...and I do not mean that you are overtaxing him mentally...I mean, he is just not real fond of having to mentally work through things, it's mentally taxing for him to do he just locks that brain up and runs away. The perfect horse response. I can actually say, without sarcasm, that Trax is the prime example of a horse engaging his 'flight' response. Through previous owners he has learned that 'fight' is futile and you don't really put enough pressure on him to warrant a full-on fight on his part, but he's still not wanting to willingly participate, so he is like, F* It...I'm outta here. The brain shuts off and the feet move.

    The 'key' is making this running off business more physical work than it's worth to him. This has been his evasive tactic for a long time now and you have made a lot of progress with him in regards to it and now it's just time to clue him in that enough is enough.

    1. I am sure willing to try it. I'm pretty much willing to try anything that doesn't involve endangering me or him.

      When we started, before I asked for any "forward" at all we did side passes, leg yields, back through the L, side pass over the L, and lots of moving the shoulders. He was soooooo focused, it was crazy. I even thought, wow we are going to have a good day. He was even very nice at the trot. When we first asked for the lope he was just loping, not really running away, but not really with me either. Usually we can do that for a little while and then he softens down, is ready to work and we are good. But today he never softened down, and it seems to me, now that I think about it, the last time we rode it took him a long time to come down too. So maybe the problem is that I am allowing him to disconnect in the beginning assuming that he is going to come back on his own. He is recognizing that I am leaving it up to him to come back to me and he has decided he does not want too. Probably because like you said, it gets him out of doing the hard stuff.

      When I rode with Mark he didn't love it when I let Trax run himself down. I guess maybe this is why. Perhaps if we do like you said, lope around but never make that full lap, do our roll back, and then go out again, he will get the message that checking out is not okay.

      Perhaps he feels that by leaving it up to him to come back to me, I have let go of my leadership and given it to him. If given the chance to lead he will always choose to lead at mach 9.

      Thanks guys! your input has really helped me think this out and given me some things to work on.

    2. This sounds like entirely plausible reasoning for why he is doing what he is doing to me. If he isn't wanting to lope nicely, start working on things to engage his mind...Big circles, little circles, straightening out, moving his ribcage this way and that way (into and out of your circle). If he takes off...

      Fence work!

      I'm not fond of the 'letting them run' thing either. It's one of those things that may be beneficial initially...and maybe even the one-rein stop thing. But after a certain point, they have to start learning to stay checked in and building on that mental stability.

      That's why work with Jet was so slow for so long...and I still can't push him too hard...That horse was mentally ready to check out at the slightest thing. I just had to keep working him and building on his mental stability. That has meant keeping him 'with' me and mentally engaged every.step.of.the.way., cause when that big horse checks out...It's game over and I know he can hurt me real quick. BTW-I'm not comparing the two horses really. They don't have anything in common outside of the propensity to 'check out'. Trax's is a learned behavior. Jet's is...Well, I'm kinda guessing it's something he's lived with from a young age or was born with, because he has always been 'different'.

  5. Sometimes you will get the warning signs like you did and that is all that comes of it. The horse throws a few of them at you, they stick with us or bounce off and we change things up a little, just enough to delay the meltdown. But it is still there, still building momentum, until the day it finally happens.

    I agree with BEC on this one. He's been mentally challenged by the work and found a way to avoid it. He's been given the option of running and started taking advantage of it. I think the rollbacks may work, but instead of letting him check out, it will be putting his mind to work and keeping it engaged. When is the next rollback coming? To keep him from anticipating too much with the rollbacks, you may just try working on your canter departs on the correct lead & stopping straight. If he anticipates the stop & canter depart, throw in a rollback. Keep things interesting to keep him focused. And above all else, don't forget to praise him excitedly when he does things right. If they never know what is right, how can we expect them to repeat it?

  6. My first guess would be feed. You've been changing it around and maybe you've hit on a combo that would be fine for an endurance horse but is not so good for Trax at this time. :)

    1. All it took to turn my clydey cross mare from a quiet ride to a skin-twitching explodey-horse was a new load of hay, same sort but maybe higher in sugars or nitrates or something. Not sure what but it took her only about four days to turn into a fire-eating monster. It doesn't take much with some horses. In her case I had to soak that load of hay for 20 minutes before feeding to get my sane horse back.

      Have you ever had him tested for EPSM (PSSM)?

  7. Some great ideas bouncing around here in the comments- and I sure agree with what you said in your last comment. At any rate, it sounds like it will be an interesting way to work him and I hope to read some good reports on it. Also, since you have his teeth done, it should also help.