Sunday, December 10, 2017

"Counterfeit" or "Surviving our worst fears"

After our very pretty but very slow run on 12-2 Trax and I went back to the practice pen.  SS had told us that our patterns are really nice but that it was time to start riding more aggressively.  So that is what I decided to do. 

Sometimes my neighbor uses my arena-vator and whenever he does he works my arena too, which is super nice. However one of the last times he did that my barrels somehow got moved down towards the middle of my arena.  Due to my extremely busy schedule, they have just stayed there.  But at the gate end of my arena there is also a wooden trail bridge.  So "riding more aggressively" has almost gotten me into trouble when that bridge comes up so fast.  SO, I took the time to put my barrels back at the far end of the arena where I like them.  That gives me an extra 20-30 feet to stop before we are forced to jump the bridge. 

It was 6 am last Tuesday morning, there was  pretty good chill but it wasn't even cold enough to need gloves or a jacket.  Just a hoodie kept me plenty warm.   I pulled my mighty steed from his stall, and gave him half a flake of hay to munch on while I tacked him up.  I never work my horses on a totally empty stomach. 

We did our usual warm up routine.  We WTC until he feels soft and relaxed and lopes with his head down.  Then we work on our smaller circles and my body position.  We work on posting, on me relaxing my rib cage so he will relax his.  You know, all the things my great trainer has been teaching me to be a better rider.

We did our usual trotting of the pattern, and then a slow lope of the pattern and every thing was right on the money. 

Now before I go any further, let me back up just a little.  One of the reasons I have always been trepidatious about letting Trax run full speed, is because I have seen him buck.  I'm not talking like out in the pasture buck.  I'm talking about in the round pen, full on blow up and rip the lead rope out of my hands.  I have seen back feet higher than the top of the round pen.  I have always been just a little bit afraid that if he ever took to bucking when we were at a full run, he would kill me. 

Over time and as we have been practicing our sprinting around the arena, I have gotten over that and was finally at a point where I was beginning to trust that he wasn't going to do that.  Granted there are time when he will do a "oh I think I want to buck" crow hop, but he isn't dedicated to the buck and I can always bring him out of it very easily. Usually it is coming out of the 2nd barrel and he is usually telling me to get my spur out of his side.  The fact is, I had laid aside my fears and begun to trust my horse again.

Now back to that morning.

So we were at the point that I was ready to "go for it".  I felt good.  My horse seemed to feel good to me.  We were working well together, the time had come to just do it.  We trotted a circle, and I took a deep breath and pushed him into a left lead lope.  We lined up with the center barrel and I pushed my hand forward and asked him to go. 

We came up to the first barrel, and I waited till the perfect moment to sit down and say "easy" and then we powered around that barrel with what felt like a text book turn.  My hand was right where it was supposed to be and it was flat like it is supposed to be.  My butt was in the saddle and I drove him forward with my seat.  We exited in the correct lead and completed the second barrel just as nice.  We committed to the full turn, powered around the barrel and raced off to number 3.  The 3rd barrel is usually our best so I was very excited for our progress!  We made a beautiful turn and I let go of the saddle horn and we raced for home.

Right about the time we past the barrels my 18 year old broke freaking horse blew up.

This was not "Oh I think i might buck"

This was, "Oh yeah, I'm bucking!"

He bucked all the way to the end of the arena.  Including the extra 20-30 feet I added by moving my barrels. 

I did not come off, but I just barely stayed on.  Luckily it wasn't the 2 hind feet over head buck, but it was the all four feet off the ground buck. 

I finally got him stopped by running him into the fence.  I should have pulled his head around, but to be honest I was just trying to hang on at that point. I yelled at him to knock his shit off, and then took him around the arena at a fast trot for about 20 laps.   Meanwhile I am doing the instant replay through my brain to figure out what it was that set him off. 

I had spurs on, but they are short shanked ball end spurs.  Very mild.  Just enough to get him off my leg when I need.  Maybe my leg went back behind the rear cinch.  Maybe I kicked him to hard (no I wasn't kicking- I don't think).  Maybe it is the cold.  Maybe his shoulder hurts.  Maybe he stepped on a rock. 


Maybe he is just a counterfeit SOB who will never be able to be trusted. 


That one hurts.  It hurts my heart to think that about my favorite horse.  But lets face it, we are not talking about a 3 or 4 year old green horse. 

I stopped and took my spurs off.

Then we kept riding.

When my hands quit shaking we went back to the pattern.  Not quite as aggressively, and we did not race home anymore that day.  He was fine the rest of the time. 

On the bright side I know that my biggest fear just happened AND not only did I survive it....I rode it out.

On the down side, my trust level with this horse took a serious step back. 

Today is Sunday.  I have not been back on him since. 

Of course that isn't all due to trust.  Part of it is time related, and to be honest, he jacked my back up a little bit and it took me a few days to get over it. 

I had planned on racing him yesterday.  The only reason I didn't is because BEC texted me and reminded me that there was a buckle run at my favorite sorting facility that day.  So I scratched the race and went and chased cows instead. 

Today I will ride him.  I have decided that I will go back to round penning him before we ride for now just so he can get any of that crap out of his system before I get on.  I used to do that before every ride.  But he has been pretty good so I stopped.   Maybe some horses always need that.  I don't freaking know. 

I will try to figure out what caused it.  If he pulls it again.....I just don't know what I will do. 


  1. Blogger ate my comment twice now. UGH! There will always be both sides of the debate for lunging and/or round pen work before riding. Just like the debate for shoeing and barefoot. If the horses learn they can get their Yah-Yah's out and relax before we get on, they're in a better frame of mind to learn when we ride. I wouldn't say at his age he needs it every day, before every ride, but if he's feeling a bit frisky? It's always a good option to let him get it all out before you get on.

    As for him losing it and going all NFR on you, that can certainly be a Confidence Killer. That WB mare crowhopped with me one day at the lope. At 16.2 that's a long way down, so asking her for a lope after that was intimidating. Glad you were able to stick with him and ride it out. At least you were'nt looking down at the saddle between your feet. (True story! different horse)

    Not knowing what set Trax off, but sometimes horses get scared too and maybe hitting his extra gear freaked him out and he lost it. Horses with a hitory will always go back to square 1 when things get down and dirty. Gotta Go with Whatchya Know! Getting that out of them and reprogramming them Not to respond that way can be long, drawn out process. Some of them never completely get over it. Unless you figure out what set him off, maybe try loping the pattern several times and wearing him down some before finally letting him dig in and tear it up.

  2. Oh Trax.....
    Good on you for being able to ride that out, I"m pretty sure I would have been of by no later than the second jump. Bucking at a full gallop is one of my biggest fears. I have fallen off so many horses so many times I and quite familiar with the hardness of the ground and the brain-sloshing bounces.
    I think speed scares him. At least, that's my take on it, given his history. And I really don't have any advice about that other than what Cut N Jump said about warming him up good. A tired horse who is a little slower is probably safer. Even if you warm him up in the round pen until he gets a soft eye, and slow lope the pattern a bunch before opening him up.

  3. That sucks. I know that feeling of losing the trust in a horse you thought you had. Mine was different but even tho now I still ride the same horse I do not trust her like I once did. Made me think real hard about letting my horse down now that she let me down when I did everything right. But anyways that was off topic, but I think Shirley may me right, he sounds a lot like Razz (except she doesnt buck) but I learned this summer she never learned how to relax going fast and her response is go faster and faster and faster. How I never figured it out sooner I dunno but I guess cause she always stopped when I asked I never worried about it. But had a trainer and thats what he said so we went back to walk and trot so we could get her to relax whenever I asked no matter the speed. I haven't done enough to get it at the lope yet because of winter but every time I ride her now it makes a big difference.
    I'm not a lunger/roundpenner unless they are being stupid cause I don't think a tired horse won't buck but sometimes it does get thier brain going. If it works with him I sure would try it, or try anything cause that's so dissapointing when you think hes over it and hes not :(

  4. "I yelled at him to knock his shit off"

    Oh yeah. When I do it, I use my angriest Darth Vader voice and it is often (if I have a free hand) accompanied by a solid thump on the neck or the chest or wherever I connect. I guess a regular person might think I'm abusive, but horse people 'get it'. Funny how every single cayuse I've ever had has KNOWN DAMN WELL what I'm saying, & why, & has wisely (mostly) given up the shit before I actually get MAD. ;-)

    1. Amen to that! My go to phrase is-> "Knock it off or I'm gonna to kick your ass up between your ears where it belongs!" Sounds brutal, but like you, if any further reminder is needed, it comes as a whack of the hand. Hardly enough to hurt them but it gets their attention and they straighten up.

  5. p.s. That Mare On Fire portrait is wonderful! I assume it's one of your horses, but please tell me, Who is the artist?

    1. The "Mare on Fire" is just a photo of Melody that has been filtered in a program called Artisto. It helps that she rarely ever takes a bad picture. LOL

  6. With Trax the lunging has never been about wearing him down. The truth is, up until recently his stamina always far outlasted mine. When I first got him, it was clear that his round penning experience had always involved just that, running the crap out of him. We all know what that accomplishes. It only makes them stronger and able to run longer. I would take him to the round pen and he would immediately start to race around the pen. The entire time he had a shitty look on his face and would barely look at me.

    I spent a good amount of time with my WY buddy J, working on a different scenario. With Trax the goal in a round pen is to get all 6 transitions. It is walk a few laps, then trot, then canter, then trot, then walk, then disengage the hind end away from me and stop facing me. The trick is to get all of this from him without having to do anything more than raising or lowering my energy. If I have to step in front of him to slow him down, there is a problem. We do this in both directions, and once it is successful we go to the arena or the trail.

    Sometimes it is a quick process. In fact, these days it is almost always a quick process. Occasionally he has to work some things out.

    He never really gets a soft eye in the round pen. But of he loses the shitty look, I am usually happy.

  7. dang! I am with the "warm him up good " theory, not so much to tire him out but to engage his brain. Way to ride it out though girl! you got through it, and it sounds like to me you nailed it including the "cut your shit out" that is not a scared response its an authoritative one.