Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Think Fast

I love the way life works out sometimes.
Talk about different horses in the same place!
I worked my newest horse to come to my barn yesterday. Yet another middle aged, rock solid in mind and body, mare. She belongs to Peg.
Peg is kind and quiet, a little on the timid side. Her goal with every horse she owns is to be its friend.
She works hard to not let them run all over her, but works with them, not at them.
She makes sure their feet are good, their weight is up, and has the chiro out enough to make me wish I were her horse.
Peg makes sure her horses have plenty of the big four.
All they can eat, lots of time to doze in the sun, room to run, and all the pooping they can dish out.
When Peg brought her mare to me, she started with a gentle admonishment.
"I've worked really hard with Uma. We're developing a bond."
"Afraid I'm going to screw her up?"
"It's just that we've progressed really far. We're building a lot of trust."
"She'll be fine."
Peg looked anxious.
I looked crabby.
Peg went home.
The thing is, I know Peg pretty well. She has been riding with me for several years.
I also know that Uma's name was B.O.B. when Peg bought her.
That stands for Big Old Bitch.
She is an ex-ranch horse, turned trail horse, turned Peg's latest project.
I saw her a few times when Peg first bought her.
She liked to throw her head and jump when Peg tried to catch her. She liked to rear and buck on the longe line.
She is a great, big, drafty thing.
She is intimidating.
She bucks really high.
She lands really hard.
I also know the owner before Peg. She is a realistic, no nonsense kind of horsewoman. She had no problems with Bob.
She told Peg that sometimes B.O.B. could be tough to bridle.
"Just whack her one and she'll stop it."
Peg just can't go there.
Now, a year later, B.O.B./Uma is with me.
Guess what.
Sometimes talking with the horse just doesn't work.
Uma doesn't want to talk to me, or anybody else.
I see where Peg got pulled into trying to communicate with this mare.
Walk into her stall, she snorts and jumps back into the corner. Back her out of your space and her legs become cement posts. Put on a halter, and she waits, big ol' B.O.B. head high in the air, until you reach to buckle her, then she blows and snaps her head away.
Go to saddle her and she stands, tied in knots, eyes rolling.
Uma is not frightened.
Uma is a butt head.
She glares at me, as indignant as my third grade teacher, Sister Mary Helen. (Don’t ask)
My approach with Uma has been pretty different than the one with Jerry.
I'm not asking Uma anything.
I'm telling.
I started by opening her stall door and waiting. She snorted and blew and sunk back in the corner.
I just stood there, blocking the door.
Uma decided she wanted out, and walked up to get her halter on.
It had been replaced with a heavily knotted rope halter. (What's in your trainer's tack box?)
When I put it on I was ready for her.
As she snorted and slung that big old Bob head around, I just hung on.
We swung around a little, but like I said, Uma is not scared.
As soon as she realized I was going to stay put, she stopped her crap, and let me tie the halter.
I didn't just tie it; I slid it around, and pulled and yanked every part of that halter. I rubbed her ears, I knuckled her poll, I pulled on her lips. I mocked her heavily.
She lowered her head.
I have so got her number.
I took her to the tie rail.
I let her hang out for a couple of hours.
When I saddled Uma I just tossed it on.
No problems there.
I took her to the little arena and longed her.
Man, can she buck.
Except this time, at the first buck, she met the end of my loose snapped longe line, and my heavily knotted, well tied rope halter.
Crack! went the longe line.
"Hey!" said Uma.
She stopped and glared at me. She was truly pissed.
I sent her out again, asking for some forward.
Boom! She started to buck.
Snap! Went my longe line. Uma glared.
Crack! Went the longe line on her big fat resistant butt.
She ran forward, I relaxed, she snaked her head, Crack!
She didn't buck this time. She kept going forward.
I longed her until she thought she was in a round pen demonstration.
She only made a few halfhearted attempts to buck. She got the same discipline every time.
We stopped, I bridled her. She tried to sling her head twice.
I pulled on her ears, I knuckled her poll.
I yanked at her lips.
I hung on.
She lowered her head and took the bit.
I checked her head a few times.
Her eyes were quiet.
Her lips were relaxed.
I got on, no muss no fuss.
We ended the day there.
I should have taken her out and rode for ten or twelve hours.
I was out of gas.
How did I know Uma wasn't scared?
I know a little of her history. She has always been a workhorse.
She shows no scarring. Her muscle tone, coat condition, and build, show a life of nothing but hard work and plenty to eat.
She never tries to leave me.
She is simply in my face.
She is a righteous mass of irritation.
Her eye rolling, quivering, head slinging is a shout. "Get off me!"
When I shout back, she says, "Oh hell, go ahead."
Uma is kind of a bully.
As with most bullies, she's pretty easy to handle once I stand up to her.
I think Uma and I will do fine.
I don't know what to do with Peg though.
Sometimes you can't whisper.
Sometimes you don't get to be their friend.
Sometimes you have to tell it like it is.
I'm going for mutual respect with this mare.
If Peg will do the same, I think they'll be fine too.
The friendship might come later.


hope4more said...

Oh boy. Do you think Peg will listen and follow your lead? I hope so. I know I would.

Since I am do you tell the difference between fear and just stubborn in your face attitudes? I think a lot of people confuse the two and I am probably guilty of that on a number of occations.

mugwump said...

A frightened horse will be trying to get away. Be it out from under you, out of your space, away from being caught.
You have to realize that I'm not that different in how I approach these things.
I'm quiet and business like no matter what kind of horse I'm working with.
I take smaller steps with a frightened horse.
But I move around them the same, and expect the same things.
I make sure I clarify each move.
This mare is well broke and has been around the block.
Peg has made sure she is in no pain.
I haven't hurt this mare in any way.
I'm just letting her know she has to mind.

in2paints said...

I sound an awful like Peg! I've always been kind of rowdy with my geldings, but ever since I bought my mare, I've turned soft. Not sure what it is about that girl, but I just can't get mad at her.

She's my BFF! LOL

mugwump said...

Oh, and as far as Peg goes, we've been friends for a long time.
She'll take what I think into account, and make her own decisions.
That's the way it should be!

loneplainsman said...

Fantastic story, mugwump! I'm loving this blog!!

I do have to say that as much as you don't like him, you sound an awful lot like a NH guy - and I mean that in the best possible way.

Just goes to show that there really only two types of horsemanship: good horsemanship and bad horsemanship. No matter what the flavouring or advertising or following, training is going to be either good or bad - and that's it.

What's interesting (to me) is that some methods can be BOTH, depending on how they're used. Like some Parelli people have good horsemanship and do good things and some Parelli people have BAD horsemanship and do bad things with their horses. I'm sure it's the same for your line of work, too. You can do it in a way that is good horsemanship, but one of your clients, or another trainer can do something wrong and turn it into bad horsemanship.

Very interesting!

Thanks again for sharing!

ezra_pandora said...

I think this blog kind of ties in with yours from yesterday and your friend Sharon's horse. You get the feel for if it's something valid or if they are just being a B.O.B. and work through it accordingly. Unfortunately I am the same as Peg. It's hard for me to be loud and be stern when necessary and it drives my trainer insane. I'd rather (well not really, but I end up doing it anyhow) chase her around for an hour trying to get her to stand still instead of being stern or clear about what I want from her. Right now I get the trainer on an as needed basis and he just laughs at the little things I need him for. Nothing big or serious problems.

I too would so love to have you as a trainer. I love your accountings of what happened and your stories of old (not in age) horses as well. I'm addicted and feel like I understand things when you write them. :))

in2paints said...

*I sound an awful LOT like Peg...


In any event, I really enjoy reading all of these stories. You're a great writer, mugwump and I feel like I'm right there watching it all unfold.

fssunnysd said...

B.O.B. sounds like one of those classic "not a kid's" horses -- you know, the kind that a determined 10 year old with horse experience will ride the hair off of with no problems, but the timid, middle-aged woman will be run right over by?

I know I used to be the former, but I'm turning into the later... Sigh. Peg has my sympathies. B.O.B is doing just fine without them, lol.

verylargecolt said...

The whole time I was reading this, I was thinking about the Crabby Old Bat and her daughter the Younger Yellow Bat.

When I met these mares, two years ago, I tried to walk past the COB to feed another horse in the pasture. The COB pinned her ears and snarled at me. RAWR. I whapped her upside the head with the hay flake I was holding and growled "BACK OFF!". We have been fast friends ever since.

The YYB decided I wasn't going to catch her. I walked her down, calmly and consistently, until I could. We have been fast friends ever since. (OK, they are both still bears for me to deworm or medicate, but for the most part, they like me)

I hadn't really realized the extent of their ability to cow humans they believed to be lesser species until I watched, with great amusement, the YYB chase a grown man out of the arena. I mean chase. The dude, and he was not a small guy, jumped up the panel to get away from her like a thrown bullrider trying to avoid a bull. I just about died laughing. Ah, the power of intimidation!

I was also thinking about a horse I will call Badass Ex Schoolie. We got the BES off of the COTH giveaways for a 50ish re-rider friend. He was drop-dead beautiful and trained to the hilt. Unfortunately, he also had the bully personality. The friend is very sweet. It just did not work. She could ride him, but on the ground, forget it. He pushed the boundaries daily, in a million small ways, and she didn't notice and/or didn't correct it until it was too late. One day she called me.

Friend: Did you work with BES today?

Me: Yeah, he was great. Why?

Friend: He chased me out of the paddock tonight.

Me: He WHAT? And what did you do?

Friend: I ran!

You know what, I was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. She didn't have it in her to clock him. He knew it. It wasn't going to be a love match no matter what I did. We found the BES a new home with someone who takes no crap from him, and actually has him back in the show ring. The friend got a much more honest minded AQHA mare and everybody lived happily ever after.

There is only so much that you can do. I often think training the rider is much more difficult than training the horse!

loneplainsman said...

Friend: I ran!

ROFLMAO - brilliant! : D

Justaplainsam said...

ah the horse training is always easer than the people training!!!

Maybe we should start a topic on horse names and how they got them. :) My fav? A pony I named DW as in dumb wit..... her new owner calls her dixy west, and has just started cantering the ENTIRE ring.... 8 years later....

Looking forword to reading more as always!

Laura Crum said...

mugwump, I was so tickled to read this post. I almost left a comment on yesteday's post that with my little yellow gelding who sometimes doesn't like to hold still to be saddled, I don't ask him anything. I tell him, with a good whack with the end of the leadrope. After this he stands like a rock. (No, he's not afraid--he's one who will bully you if he can.) But I never posted the comment, feeling that you might take it as criticism, and I had no wish to sound insulting. When I read today's post I laughed--you beat me to it--some of them you don't ask, you tell. I am really enjoying yoiur blog.
Oh, and as for your question on the equestriainink blog about whether we would do some sort of writing seminar on the internet, well, I'm open to suggestion. But, at least as far as non-fiction goes, I think you write as well as any of us.

Laura Crum said...

oops--I guess you said "online writers workshop". What form would this take? I don't know much about these things--until I was invited to write this blog for equestrianink, I never used the internet for much besides email--I was too busy with my horses, kid, garden, and trying to write mysteries, too. Discovering all these horse blogs has been great fun, though my "real" writing (that I get paid for) is definitely suffering.

KD said...

I LOVE this post !! :) Sounds like you have BOB figured out;good luck with Peg.

mugwump said...

lonesplainsman- The only reason I remind you of "someone" is because the base of a lot western type training is the same. That guy was at the same Ray Hunt clinics that I was.
Ray taught you his concepts, and expected you to run with it. I ran my way, that other guy ran his.
fssunnysd- either a ten year old kid, or someone with a ten year old mentality, (ahem)
fugs-you crack me up. "I ran." hee hee.Email me, I have something to discuss Bwah ha ha....
laura crum-I don't know how to set up a workshop, I hoped you guys would...but I'll sign up if you do!
I want to write fiction.......

manymisadventures said...

It scares me when you start up with the bwaa ha has.

I would be interested to see you work with my mare. If you were closer I'd send her to you just as an experiment!

Sounds a lot like the way I try to deal with horses. If I know they know what I want, they're not hurting, and they're just making asses of themselves, they get treated accordingly. I'm considerably more gentle when they're learning new things or when they're actually scared.

Your stories are just downright fun to read. I'm really enjoying myself.

manymisadventures said...

By the way, I wonder if her first owner spoke Japanese?

Uma means "horse" in Japanese.

loneplainsman said...

...Ray taught you his concepts, and expected you to run with it. I ran my way, that other guy ran his....

And yet, even though you went different directions, you both ended up having a positive impact on the horses you handle.

Wheras other people have come out of Ray Hunt clinics with nothing but bad ideas. I find it fascinating! ; )

joycemocha said...

Oh yeah, Uma sounds like the mare I had as a teen. So does the COB and her daughter (for Fugs).

The Sparkle mare literally would run people out of the pasture. My parents got her on the cheap because the kids of the friends who owned her were scared to death of her--all she'd do is pin her ears, toss her head, and they'd run from her.

I didn't run. I was too accustomed to playing "wild horse" with my Shetland.

She didn't bully me out of the pasture. Oh, a few rocks were thrown, but the time she was racing around trying to avoid getting caught, and we came face-to-face and ended up in an intricate dance to avoid each other until I stopped and let her run by--then I knew it was a bluff, and she wasn't going to run me down.

By the time I sold her, I could walk up to her in pasture, scratch on her, pick up any hoof I wanted...she was a tough old bat. Never as compliant as my current well-bred girl, but she was that classic chunk stock horse.

And Mugwump, I agree with you that those of us of a certain age brought up by good Western training have a lot of that same foundation the NH trainers made popular. I didn't have anybody fancy, though. Just my parents, who'd been exposed to Colorado cowboys and the work horse whisperer (my grandfather made a living on the side rehabbing spoiled work horses--draft sorts).

mugwump said...

joycemocha-Thanks for backing me up.
I have been influenced by a lot of different people.
The main goal I have always had is to RIDE.
If I have to screw around on the ground too long with a horse things are going to get ugly.
The day you see me with a carrot stick, I'll be on a diet, and eating it.

Laura Crum said...

mugwump, you are my kind of gal. I was reading a lot of comments on the fugly blog about groundwork (not that all groundwork is bad, of course), and I just had to restrain myself. A lot of folks probably wouldn't appreciate hearing that, in my opinion, you can really overdo groundwork. And you know what, horses know when you're doing "extra" groundwork cause you're scared to get on them. I was trained by rodeo cowboys and old school reining and cutting horse trainers, and sure, we always do enough round pen work to make sure the horse is comfortable with the saddle and bridle and will give to pressure from the reins without being afraid. And then we get on them and ride them (and I have seldom had problems at this stage). Every horse is different, of course, but I think, in general, most of these folks are way overdoing the groundwork. I loved your comment about the carrot stick--I totally second this--and I should probably be eating them as well (!)

joycemocha said...

Laura, I'm so with you on the groundwork! My trainer basically believes that if you have to dink around before you get on, your horse isn't trained. I don't mess with lunging, round penning, or anything else with my mare now that she's solidly broke--unless I suspect she's got a soundness issue, a flexion issue, a time issue, or I'm too damn tired to climb on her (I may resort to more lunging in the cold part of winter, just because she's a little cinchy and it's a courtesy to her to get that back warmed up before I climb on). But I also consistently enforce manners and behavior on the ground. She comes to me at the stall door (hey, she's a treat mooch and I try to have a treat handy, best to encourage with food), she steps over at a cluck without being touched (and knows that if she doesn't do that for Mama, Mama gets mad and we spend a lot of time working on that), and she's quite mannerly about approaching me in turnout, even when I have a treat in hand. Consistency and firmness are crucial, and if you insist on good behavior when you're grooming, tacking, and other stuff, then you don't need to spend all that time on groundwork (although I've entertained the thought of teaching her to bow!).

Mugwump, thanks for the props. I was started by an old-timer all-around sort in the 60s who jumped in the classic double bridle and followed the old sequence of lunging at a year, then breaking to drive, then riding. I grew up thinking that all horses should be able to be driven.

Her jumper (actually, I think he was a hunter), however, went in both English and Western, depending upon her mood. He was a rehab Anglo-Arab who started out as a spooky, screwy beast but ended up fairly decent (until he fell through the bottom of her van, no, those tales about a horse putting a foot through a trailer floor are NOT old wives tales).

But she also had a lot of the old Western background in her. I don't know a lot about her background, but she knew a heckva lot. I suspect it was pretty close to that of my parents, Oregon-backwoods horsemen who were the sort who didn't want to get broken in the process of breaking the horse. I also learned a lot about the use of body language in working with my horses in the pasture while playing around as a kid. The pasture was my playground, you see, and horses learned that I'd be poking around out there for whatever reason besides catching a horse. And when you're out there picking blackberries, you have to learn how to deal with horses who think that whatever is in the bucket should be fed to horses (grin).

That old Sparkle mare taught me a lot, including the use of herding body language without getting hurt. Music Mount bloodlines, tough old bat who'd fight you hard if you were unfair, but who'd comply if you caught her out doing something wrong. I never realized that when she'd do that buck of hers where she would launch her forehand into the air, twist, and then kick the hind end, that I was learning to ride a bucker. I just knew I'd better sit it, or she'd learn I could get dumped, and she was good enough that she'd end up living the life of a bronc. Hey, I was 12. I didn't realize until much later, when I saw a dead ringer for her in a bucking string, that she really did buck like a saddle bronc. OTOH, she was steady as a rock when I needed it.

Char said...


I have BOTH of those horses! My gelding is easy going and very compliant - even tries to be long as you WACK him when he gives you shit.

I was busy for a few months and didn't have much time to spend with him last year...and my mom (whom they live with) is just like your friend. Needless to say, when he started chasing her out of his stall and one day hurt her when she was turning him out in the pasture, I had to intervene. He got the tar beat out of him a few times over the next month, but finally cut out all the bully-tude. (I also armed her with an 18" "attitude adjuster" and told her EXACTLY how to use it and when - this helped matters greatly.)

Mom's mare is the sensitive type, with feelings that are easily hurt. As long as you go slow, and are very clear, she will try very hard and is actually very smart.

HOWEVER, as soon as you fluster her...put her away, you're done. (She is also grey, which I'm now convinced is an EXTREME of blonde.)

I get along with my gelding much better than the mare, I just really don't like weenies or drama. LOL!

fssunnysd said...

Oops - sorry, mugwump -- didn't mean that to sound as if you're riding a horse that could be ridden by a 10-year-old, just that B.O.B. seems to be one of those horses who's figured out she can buffalo most people into letting her do what she wants. She knows what she's supposed to do, but... Reminded me of horses I've seen at shows & auctions advertised as "kid broke" with kids on board -- kids that could, and do, ride just about anything and make it look easy. They may have kids on them and ride nice, but they wouldn't be something just any kid (or any person period) would want to climb onto!

autumnblaze said...

A mare like that is your friend if you don't take her crap. I've come to the conclusion she's just taking charge and doing it her way b/c you're not making her do it yours and she's truly fine with either. Actually, they make great buddies b/c as long as they know you mean business they're game for whatever, even if they're not all snuggles and kisses.

trainingemmy said...

Thanks for this post. I loved it, and it really helped me with my own horse. I chronicle this transformation in my thinking on my blog. Hopefully that will drive some traffic your way. I'm an avid reader!

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