Friday, April 18, 2014


It is no secret that most people who are close to me think that I should send Trax down the road.  The number of people who even have an inkling of what it is that binds me to this horse are few and far between.  To be honest I am not even 100% sure if I know what it is.

The one thing I know for sure though....IT IS.

When I first got Trax, I was convinced that he was the coolest horse that ever lived.  I still don't know that he isn't, but I have come to recognize that he is broken.  Perhaps that is what connects us. I know how it feels to be broken.  I know how it feels to have every one you care about completely give up on you.  I know how it is to be on a road of self destruction and wanting to stop but not knowing how.

Sometimes that is how he seems to me.  Like he is on a road of self destruction.  Of course in his mind it is probably more like a road of self preservation.  But do you suppose it is possible that he is, in his own way, addicted to the fear?  When I read the words, or hear them come out of my mouth, I know it is a stretch. I know that horses can become "addicted" to certain things...cribbing being the best example, but I wonder if horses can get addicted to that rush of adrenaline that comes from the natural fight or flight response?  Just something to ponder on I guess.

It has been said that some horses use fear tactics to get out of working.  I suppose that he could be one of those horses.  In fact it could be very likely.  He has learned how to cope with anything he doesn't like by blowing it way out of proportion and losing his rider in the process.  Unfortunately for him, he did not count on someone like me who refuses to give up. I refuse to give on him and on me.  Lately his fear responses get him more work instead of less.  Calmness gets rests, blow ups get work. I wish I could tell if he is making the connection.

I was telling BEC once that sometimes I feel like Trax and I are in an abusive relationship.  I have been in one before so I know what the cycle feels like.   There is the big blow up, where someone gets hurt. Then comes the false apologies and empty promises of change.  After that is the honeymoon phase where everyone is all lovey dovey trying to make up for the hurt. Then there is the tea kettle phase where the heat slowly rises and the tension builds until they are back in the blow up stage.

The difference is Trax doesn't know how to say he is sorry.  He only knows that "this" is what happened and it was scary.   I also don't think he is capable of making false promises.  The best he can do is promise to try to not be so afraid.  Truthfully though I don't think he would even promise that. After all, all he knows is that he was trying to stay safe.

We do have our tea kettle phase, and then the blow up comes.  I do believe that it is more my fault than his.  I get him to a point where I think he is past something, so I don't worry about it much, and then introduce it again and he isn't ready.  It has happened that way more than once.  I get complacent and bad things happen.  He does usually try to warn me before the blow up happens, but I often don't recognize what he is saying to me.

Trax is who he is, and who he is today is not the horse he was when I got him.  When I got him he always had a crabby look in his eye. Especially when work was involved.  He did not care for human contact at all.  He just wanted to be left alone.   After I had had him a year or so, I noticed a change in him.  He started following me.  I would be in the pasture doing stuff and would turn around and he would be about 20 feet behind me. As soon as he saw me look he would turn and go the other way.  Once I went back to what I was doing, he was on my tail again.  No horse has ever done that to me before.

Now he doesn't do that as much. It is different now.  If I am in the pasture and he is too, he looks up and sees me.  Sometimes he steps my direction, but usually he just stays put.  Usually I can go out to him and pet him and love on him and he just lets me.  No running away any more.  Occasionally if I am going to ride him and he is in the pasture, He will make a half assed attempt to not be caught, but all I am required to do is step in front of his eye, and he knows I'm not going to give up so he stops and waits for me.

Even in the round pen, in the beginning, he was just running away from me.  He would not even put an ear on me.  Now there is always and ear cocked my way, and even if sometimes it takes me a bit to stop him from moving his feet, the mean, crabby look in his eye is gone.  It is replaced with something that remind me more of curiosity...."What is she going to ask me to do today?"

When I trailer him up to go some place, as I tie him in, he always rests his head on my shoulder and looks me in the eye.  I guess he is asking where we are headed, so I always tell him.

The other day I rode Killian and I swear Trax stood in his pen and looked at me as if I was a traitor.  The next day when I went out to ride Trax, he saw me coming with the halter, walked to the opposite corner and turned away from me.  It wasn't a "I don't want you to catch me" look in his eye.  It was more of a, "Well if you'd rather ride that old guy, then what do you need me for." sort of look.  (he usually comes to me as soon as I go in the pen, I rarely have to go to him)

I said, "Trax, turn around."

He turned his head and looked at me.

"Come on, don't be that way, Killian needs exercise too. You are still my boy."

He let out a big sigh and turned towards me again.  I went to him with the halter and he put his nose down in it.  I gave him a big hug and whispered to him.  "You will always be my favorite, don't ever forget that."

And then we went to work.

I love this horse more than any horse I have ever known. I have known quite a few.  I think the next year will be a defining year for us in which path I choose for us. No matter if I bring Melody home or not, Trax is still my boy, and he will be with me until one of us kicks the bucket.

I still don't think I managed to explain the connection....but I guess it doesn't really matter.


  1. You explained it very well. Here is how it looks to me; this horse, since he came into your life, is starting to live more in the present than in the past. You do challenge him, and that's a good thing- and he challenges you- another good thing, because your horsmenship is improving, and your connection with him will keep you hooked on getting both of you better and better. All your horses will benefit from your relationship with Trax.

    1. Thanks Shirley. I believe I am getting better. I have to be, at least I know what "leads" are now! LOL

  2. Sounds a lot like Dixie and I used to be, actually. I don't comment much because stock breed geldings have such wildly different temperaments to what I'm used to (bossy TWH mares and Arabs), but I am always cheering for you. :)

    And yeah, horses are adrenaline junkies too. Why else would they go bucking and snoring across a pasture for no reason? Because it feels good to run, and because it's fun to spook. Your job is to channel the adrenaline into something that works for both of you.

    1. Thank you.....its funny you say that because you and Dixie are kind of my heros!

  3. Hello I am popping over from Feral Woman's blog your blog title caught my eye. I do not own any horses but I had rode horses most of my twenties even though I don't have any now I remember breaking horses and the connection. That being said I LOVE the way you described the connection between Trax and yourself and wanted to tell you this is well written. I could understand it. Thank you this was a good read. B

  4. I think some horses come wired with either a fear based response or a curious based response. Mark Rashid talks about this is in his books. Horses that are fear based are going to react that way in times of stress. All you can do is continue to offer a soft place for him to feel safe, so that when the fear comes he looks to you, rather than exploding.

    1. I should probably do some reading of Mark Rashid. What little bit I have read was super interesting, and I say I'm going to but it all gets set aside in the hustle and bustle of things.

    2. Mark Rashid is my fave. I also love Linda Tellington-Jones's TTouch stuff, especially the exercises, for helping fearful horses learn to use their thinking before they cue in the lizard-brain reactions. I like to use clicker training for that too but people either love that or hate it.

  5. Sure they can be adrenaline junkies. Kat definitely is when it cones to cones! As if that isn't obvious lately huh? Hahaha

    Relating to the horse and where they are mentally, is a step towards understanding them. The teakettle analogy is a very good one, but it shouldn't come to the boiling point. We all have our days and they do as well, but when you sense things heating up, those are the days that you need to back off and keep it all low key. Just lunge him, ground drive him or go for a trail ride, sans the long trotting, loping, side passing, spins and anything else. Difuse it before it gets anywhere near warm, let alone hot, steaming or boiling.

    When was the last time you went for a ride and only walked the entire time? It's healing for both you and the horse. Enjoy the peaceful calm of going slow. It will do wonders for your minds.

  6. you explained you connection just fine, and many of us have had that similar thing so we just "get it" As for addicted to the fear? don't know but its worth thinking about , some horse love competition, that can be an adrenalin surge so maybe

  7. What a beautiful analogy of a real-life relationship!!! :) I totally get this....and most of your readers, they get this too. None of us will ever be perfect. No human and no horse. Ever. For what it's worth, I think you and Trax need each other. He's teaching you, and you're teaching him - you're both going to become better because of this relationship. I really agree with what CutnJump said - some days forget about the "training" and doing everything right. Just ride. Relax and let your boy relax. Enjoy each other's company and the ride. Remember...that is why we ride - to enjoy. When you have fun, that's when Trax will have fun too! :) LOVED this post!!!!!!