Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thinking our Situations Through

I'm worried about Horsenoob and her bucking trail horse. Once again, looking at the big picture, I see a horse who has succeeded in getting to go home every time he bucks off his owner. Now there is an issue. The horse decided it works so well he is
refusing to go to the arena.

I think Horsenoob needs some serious work with her trainer. She needs to be riding through her issues with the trainer there to help. If the trainer is the only one who can ride the horse it isn't trained. Good luck with this one and keep us posted, OK?

When Sarah asked about her pleasure horse who worries when he gets off the rail I had to think a bit. Pleasure horses are trained to feel safest at the rail. So your horse needs to learn he can be safe in other places. I have had pleasure horses in training with me who I was supposed to "reprogram."
I just rode them. I ignored their worries, let them rest in the middle of the arena instead of on the rail and rode pretty randomly.
If the horse gets behind the bit I go back to a ring snaffle and ride two handed. When they get behind the bit I turn them, then send them forward with both legs.. We go here and there and I turn every time I need contact. I don't worry about leads, head sets, nothing but going and turning.The horse begins to realise the head ducking is simply a turn cue as far as I'm concerned and they knock it off.
It's fun to ride like a doofus once in a while and even more fun if you end up teaching your horse something.

I have gotten some really interesting comments from yesterday's post. I'm seeing a universal theme here. I keep getting questions about specific situations. What if the trails are too narrow, the trees are too thick, there's barbwire on one side and trees on the other (I hate when that one happens), the mud is too deep, the stupid horse can't seem to remember his herd mates are right over there and so on.

We're setting up walls here. Giant, 8 foot thick, concrete walls. These walls stop us from seeing the real issue. The horse isn't following his nose.

I'm going to say it again, hell, lets all say it together, the horse isn't following his nose.

If my horse will follow her nose I am going to get through the bad spots, every time. But there has to be a clear communication between me and my horse. When my hand points in the direction I want, my horse's job is to follow my hand immediately with her nose. Then her legs immediately follow the nose.

If you have been reading me for awhile you have heard this before and if not, well here we go. From day one my horse learns to follow my hand. When I start my groundwork I use my body language to help the horse to understand what I want.
I step in front to stop her and point in the direction I want her to go.
I step to the hip to send her out and point where I want her to go.
It's kind of like an invisible lead rope.
It doesn't take long before I switch and use my hand first and then finish the task with body language. Most of the time the horse reacts to my hand signal right away. All of them do eventually.
Then I'm able to stand in the middle of my arena and not work so hard, which is always my goal.
I use the same direction whether I'm longing them with a line or free in the pen.
It's not complicated. I just point where I want my horse to go, then I make it happen.

Once I start riding the horse, I ride two-handed and make sure my cues stay quiet and clear. I bring my guiding hand out, the horse can see it before I make contact and pull.
Pretty soon said horse is turning the direction my hand points.

So my horses learn from the get go to follow my hand. By the time we're in a full bridle they can feel my hand move and off they go.

The key is to be consistent. This might make it a little clearer why I don't use a one rein stop. I want the feet to be working to get under my hand immediately.

When Kinsey talks about ground driving your horse I think he's after the same thing. Teach your horse to follow his nose. He is not suggesting you get off every time you have a problem and drive your horse around. He is saying work your horse at home, teach him what you expect and then, in increments, work towards your goal.

John Lyons said once, "If you can't do it in the arena you have no business going out on the trail."
This has stuck with me throughout my whole training career. He doesn't mean you have to set up a narrow trail or a bog to cross in your arena. Those would be walls. He means have your horse trained well enough to listen to you, then go tackle those walls.

I'll give you a few examples. The first one might as well be Loki. I told you yesterday how freaked she was. I told you how I felt like I was riding a powder keg. But she didn't do anything.
She stretched way out at one point, like a dog trying to get you to play, I was sure I was dead meat. But she straightened back up and we went on our way.

I was extremely clear in my communication. The only time I got my legs into her was when she didn't want to go where I told her. I breathed deep and stayed loose when she was going quiet. The key to what saved my bacon was Loki knows to follow her nose. She has been expected to do this in every interaction she has ever had with people. So she did. She's a good girl.

If I had been driving her I could have worked her through the problems she was having and probably gotten her feeling better sooner. Driving a horse is all about following his nose after all.

My other example is my gelding Pete. We had a bit of a smack-down last week. I got him out to be a buddy horse for my BO's new horse. He had legitimate reasons to be grumpy. I pulled him off his dinner. He didn't have hind shoes and was getting pretty foot-sore. Did I mention I yanked him off his dinner?

I didn't know he was foot-sore yet. I didn't care about his dinner. So I saddled him up and we headed down the road.

We got about 50 yards out and I turned around to talk to the BO. Pete did a lovely roll back (ahem) and started walking back to the barn. I turned him back around and booted him into a trot. He shook his head at me, roll-backed again and started home.

I'm going to be the first to admit, the head shake should have told me he was sore, but he pissed me off.

I started to work him a bit, nothing crazy, just some leg yields, and Pete kept swatting his tail and threatening to send me to the moon.

Again, in retrospect, he was trying to tell me his feet hurt and I needed to hoist my big self off him, but I was mad. He was being a total jackass.

After about 10 minutes of this I stepped down and knocked him around pretty good. I mean jerked him around and slapped him with my eight foot reins.

This is not training method I recommend, by the way, but I am not always the professional I would like to be.

The BO was sitting there staring at me, pretty horrified, I think. Oh well.

Pete gave it up, dropped his head and relaxed. I got back on and we went on a very short trail ride. Because he started to behave, I started to pay attention to him and figured out he was sore. So we did a short loop and went back.

If Pete had been trained to drive I might have gotten down and driven him, instead of whacking on him. I would have seen he was sore right away.

This is why I think Kinsey has some interesting points to ponder.

That being said, we need to talk about small victories. When I started Pete on trails he was a total arena baby. He had been hauled over a mountain or two, but since he was in a horse trailer it didn't make much of an impression.

When I first started taking him out alone I simply rode him to the top of the first hill out of sight of our barn. He was nervous and fussy, but he went. As soon as we got to the top of the hill we rested a minute, he got to look around a little and we went back. I always dismount, loosen his cinch and lead him the last 100 yards or so before we get to the barn, at least at first.

As soon as we started getting to the top of the hill without any nerves we went on to the next hill. Then the next. In the mean time I was going out on rides with my daughter and some of the boarders. He crossed some scary dark mud with the group. He followed his nose like a good boy and he jumped the whole thing. I didn't worry about it. The next time he was better, and the next, and now he tromps through mud nicely. He's still cautious and puts his head down to sniff, but he goes.

If he had been more traumatised I would have taken even tinier steps, but I didn't need to. If I had a horse that drives I could start out with walks around the barn. I might like it. I would probably enjoy the safety of it. It would be good practice to get the feel of driving my horse.

The biggest point I'm trying to make here is you can't get too specific about the problems that arise. The horse has to trust you to get him through the scary things in life. Then you will be able to get him there.

Backcountry Basics has a ton of good information in it, no matter how you choose to use it.


autumnblaze said...

I'm glad you said this. Honestly, I'm sitting here thinking about the new narrow trail, being nervous about it. No good reason really.

Absolutely a wall I'm building myself thought by thought, brick by brick, in my own head.

I had started thinking, maybe after an arena ride if we don't have buddies we'll go X far on the trail (no hills here :( ) and turn back and add to it a bit each time. That made me feel less nervous.

It's pretty much what you're sayin'. My plan wasn't as wussy as I thought!

We'll get there. :) Thanks mugs!

mugwump said...

autumnblaze - It isn't wussy, it's smart.It's exactly the same approach we take in the arena when you think about it. Ask for a small step and build on it once you've got it.
If we expect too much at once it always blows up in our face.

milwaukeecob said...

"you can't get too specific about the problems that arise"

Thank you for that statement. Got it. Small, specific steps. And for those of us who are still dealing with a teensy bit of fear: baby steps.

horsegenes said...

Along with with mugwump posted...what I have also found is that if you are even the least bit intimadated by an something on the trail, your horse is going to so pick up on that and he is going to be boogered by it. When I see something that I am not sure how my horse is going to react, I stay as calm as possible and try not to look at it. I know it is there and I am ready to deal with the spook or whatever, but I want him to think that it is no big deal. Mugs is right that we put up walls... and we do it sometimes without even realizing it.

I ride with a friend and she has a horse that when out on the trail decides when he is done with the ride. He turns around and starts back to the trailer. She used to get off (because some of the terrain that we were in wasn't suitable for for schooling)and then she would turn him around, kind of get after him and get back on and he would turn back around and start home. So she would lead him down the trail for a couple 100 yards and get back on and he would go o.k. for a while then he would start all over again. He was in essence getting some relief every time and he knew it. What we came up with was to take him somewhere that the terrain at any spot she could stay on and give him the ass kicking he deserved. He isn't a horse with a lot of try, when he is being good or bad. So we rode along until he decided he was done and when he turned, she stayed on, turned him back around and gave him an over and under and sent him forward. He threw his head, tried bucking and rearing (this horse isn't into work, so bucking and rearing weren't something that he put alot of effort into, thank goodness) he backed up, went sideways, he tried every thing his little pea brain could dream up. She stayed with it and kept sending him forward at the trot and when he was going forward willingly and politely we let him walk. This went on about 3or 4 times until he finally got the picture. He has tried it a couple of times since, but she stayed on, turned him around and sent him forward. Each time he gave up easier. I am all for setting them up. Putting them in a situation that you know they are going to misbehave but you will have the time and / or area to address the problem safely.

Shanster said...

Hey Mugs - how co-inky-dink your last posts have been! 'Member my big, red, turd gelding that I took to the cowboy trainer?

He's figured out I'm not the cowboy.

He threw me twice intentionally.

First time I gave him the benefit of the doubt... second time I knew it was evil, bad behavior and will be treated as such.

I got back on both times and rode hard... but uh - I'm not in the habit of coming off and I won't get on him without a plan in place cuz I don't need him "knowing" he can mess with me. My trainer and I have a plan... involving a 60lb western saddle and him learning to respect ME.

I can take him to trainer after trainer but if he knows he can pop me off his back, what good will he ever be for ME?

Luckily I'm more pissed off than skeered, I'm not hurt and I'm VERY determined to fix this and NOW.

I have an excellent friend/trainer to help me!

As she said - if he wants to act like a dirty bronc he will be treated as such and when he wants to be a nice dressage horse, he will be treated as such.

But yeah - your posts hit home with me today! Thanks! Wish me luck!

GrouchyBayTB said...

Ok, this may be a dumb question, but what is ground driving? Is it the same thing as lunging? (I'm from the dressage/English world ...)

Cowgirl Rae said...

I like this post as it describes an all too common 'offense'. Mugs used the term 'walls', I use the term 'excuse'.
I love the fact that a horse is my method to do things I cannot do on my own, he is a tool of sorts. I need the horse to go when I say go, stop when I say stop, listen and respond adequately to my lead. A fence, or barbwire, or narrow trails, or rocks, mud, trees, cactus, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds..... I digress...... not my problem. Its the horses job to make me able to get the job done.

Any time I find a hole in the training, or a fear and bad reaction to a circumstance, I give it to the horse ten fold until it becomes yet another skill in his arsenal of confidence.

Making excuses for the horse is a sure road to ruin, there is simply no substitute for making it happen. That may mean using the arena or other secure environment until horse is reliable enough for the next level. But to not take him to the next level and the next and the next is doing no favors to the horse and certainly not a favor the the sucker that may ride him in the years to come.

Some years ago a friend and myself decided to ride in a winter parade, the theme was umbrellas and galoshes.... after learning the theme my friend became afraid to ride her horse she was afraid to deal with his possible freak at the sight of hundreds of umbrellas, afraid he would get cold and wet, afraid he would be too stressed..... I already entered us as a pair so I talked her into riding an old gelding I had. The days before the parade turned very cold and nasty and washing the horses wasn't possible as they had heavy winter coats, so we brushed them good and I blew their coats out with compressed air, they looked great. After my friends near panic attack at what I was doing, she was impressed that the horses accepted it and were fine. The day of the parade came, as you can imagine there were literally thousands of umbrellas and the usual marching bands, fire trucks, running clowns you name it, the horses were fine and despite getting frozen and soaked the parade was a success, we got blue ribbons for our presentation and the horses demeanor.

I told you that to say this, in the months following the parade my friend got busy with her horse and decided he was only useful to her if he could be used as she needed.

He got out of the stall, and out in the rain and the mud, clippers, spray bottles, tarps, umbrellas, air compressors..... you name it he got it, she literally spent days trotting and loping him until he melded his mind and his body to her will, they turned into a great team and she helped him become a great, really great horse.

Never make an excuse for the horse.

Thank you mugs for your discussions, they make me think.

HorseNoob said...

I'll be sure to keep you posted. The thing was it took me quite a while to recognize what was going on in his brain. That's why I originally went back to the site. The first time I thought there must have been bees or a hidden stick or SOMETHING- it's not like him. Others thought it was the horse rejoining the group etc. A fluke.

Second time I figured it was maybe a first trail ride of the season thing. Some of the other horses were acting up so I chalked it up to that.

After the move and he'd go anywhere with me, I remained clueless as to the cause of his events. I didn't realize it was because he had no friends to miss.

Then he made friends.

I tried the whole longing near the friends chilling away thing. Meh. It seemed totally undone by all the rest of the day he spent not working near his friends when I wasn't there.

He's really NOT a spooky horse. He did try pulling it on the trainer at first (the backing), but the trainer just let him back up into the wall and rode through it. The trainer can also sit a buck better than I can should he erupt in response to what he's backed into.
He always seems to back me into something more... vet bill-ey.

I can walk him down to the outdoor arena and we're fine. It's a bit remote, a good field or so away from the mares, two fields away from his friends.

Whenever he got me off, I always got back on and made him do some work, albeit in a nice soft dirt arena.

He's only been in training about a week. We're still working on things. :)

As far as today's post, I too have had to hop off and give a boot to the belly (with my toe pointed, like how you kick a soccer ball). Not my proudest moments either, but he alwsys seemed to be a lot more considerate when I got back on.

Redsmom said...

Per what Shanster said, do you think a heavier saddle would help with behavior in a spoiled horse who likes to play mean tricks and buck? I have a heavy saddle, now - 45 lbs at least. Hehe {rubs hands together with evil glee}.

Laura Crum said...

Shanster--I think the western saddle is a great idea. But hey, I'm a western rider. Here's a funny story for you. Many years ago I was out on the trail alone, riding a paint horse called Simon. I came around a blind corner and met a gal riding in an English saddle. For whatever reason, this gal's horse and Simon had not sensed or heard each other coming. Both were completely suprised. Both sucked back and did the exact same "swinging door" spook. I grabbed the horn and stayed on. The other gal went flying off, landing on her back--but still keeping hold of the reins. In the course of making sure she was Ok, I discovered she was a very experienced rider. The difference between us was just that western saddle. It can really be a big help if the horse gives you any kind of grief.

As for the trail stuff, I have done a lot of riding on trails--still do. I totally agree with Kel about not focusing on something you think might be a problem. Be aware of it, be ready, but keep the body loose, don't pull on the horse, and don't stare at the "problem". Pretend its no big deal and it often will be.

When I go solo on the trail, which I do a lot, I try to pay attention to my instincts. If I feel nervous or anxious, even if there seems to be no resson, I give myself permission to cut the ride short. Or not go at all. Hey, its supposed to be fun, not torture. Interestingly, I have, in the past, ridden to my front gate and decided I don't feel like going and ridden in the arena instead. You might think this would make it harder to go the next time, but I find it doesn't. For me, the next time I usually find I am ready to go out the gate and ride the trails. Taking the pressure off myself makes me feel freer, somehow.

Another thing that helps me in those tricky situations on narrow trails is to two-hand the horse. Obviously this is no help to those who ride English, but it might help western riders. I can steady, reassure, discipline and block a horse from turning around, a whole lot better when I two hand him. I can prevent him banging my knee on a tree better that way, too. If he is purposefully misbehaving and knows better, and there's no room to double him and/or its too tight or dangerous a place to spank him, I will rip him hard in the face with one rein. I only do this if I'm confident he's not truly scared. I wouldn't do it to a young horse (mostly). I expect the horse to throw his head. I mean it to hurt. I am getting his attention and telling him that I'm the boss here. This has helped me in quite a few situations.

Hope some of this is helpful. I love trail riding, but I am the first to admit it can be scary, especially when you're out there alone. But it can be really magical, too. So, for me, its worth it.

mugwump said...

kel- extremely good point. The time to school is not at the tip of a rockledge with a barb wire fence on your butt.
Go Shanster! I like it you're willing to get tough. I love it you're going to have a safe, sane horse person with you when you go for it.
GrouchyBayTB- driving with two reins, like pulling a carriage, but you're on the ground.
Redsmom- I think having the horn is more help than adding weight.
I was talking to an endurance rider one day and asked her what kind of saddle works best on the trail. Now that I'm thinking about it I may have asked that on the blog, anyway, the answer was, whatever you feel safe and comfortable in.

HorseOfCourse said...

"The horse has to trust you to get him through the scary things in life".
I totally agree with you on that, Mugs.
The problem is that you have to earn that trust first.
And if you have problems, the trust isn't there.
There are many horses out there that are not as well educated as yours, and most of us don't have the same experience as you have.
So I believe that any tools we can get in our tool box to handle situations that might occur, without jeopardising the health of the horse or the rider, are very welcome.

I misunderstood first, thinking that ground driving was the same as longing. Not easy for us non-English/Americans...
Personally, I would prefer to sit on the horse instead of using ground driving. I find that the horse and the long reins often end up in a tangle when there are some extra entertainment along, but that's me. I have not much experience with it, and feel more comfortable on top.

What has worked for me with the young horses is to walk beside them when out on trail. Not as in jumping off when things start to brew, but to walk at least half of the ride. It saves their back - and it builds trust, especially in the period when you are letting go of a following horse. It's easier I believe for the horse to trust and relate to someone walking beside them, compared to one sitting on the back. And I can sure use that extra exercise!
To me, that is easier than ground driving.

mugwump said...

HOH- Again, I'm sure, as in absolutely positive, the intent this trainer had when he talked about driving his horses was to use it as a tool to get them to go where they are told and respect direction. Not in one single place in the whole entire book did I see a mention of driving a horse through a mountain pass.
I read about him driving young horses over a bridge he had built in his arena. I read about him driving a barn sour horse away from the barn, but only after the horse had learned to drive in the arena.
I did not, I repeat, did not, see a single suggestion to drive the horse along the trail or to bring your long reins with you on a ride.
By the time you are out on the trail, driving should be a thing of the past. It should be a training tool which helped you train your horse to accept your direction.
Do I sound sarcastic?
I'm getting there quick.
This topic is open for discussion, but it only works if it is used in context.
I'm outta here.
Gonna go ride Pete.

gtyyup said...

"If the trainer is the only one who can ride the horse it isn't trained."

I can agree with this to a point Mugs. When I had thought my Colt was sold, the owner had him at her place for about a week and a half while waiting for the vet check (long story). But, what she found was that her and Colt were not going to get along. She did not have enough confidence in herself to help him if he got worried over something and it escalated quickly.

I would never had thought Colt was dependent on me to give him confidence, but it was true. He tried stuff with her that made me ask "where's my horse?" Colt had never given my any of the problems he gave her...and in only a week and a half!

The first day she rode him for the test ride, he was perfect for her. She said she had never rode such a well started 4 year old. But, after getting him to her place, she started watching for problems and her lack confidence won out.

I had to fix him when he came home. Nothing too serious, but he tried the same stuff he'd gotten away with with her. After a couple of rides he was back to his old self.

So, is it really because the horse isn't trained or is it that the rider is not advanced enough for some types of horses...some with maybe hotter temperaments?

But, I absolutely agree with the John Lyons statement 110%.

mugwump said...

Gttyup- Think about my context. Horsenoob is paying a trainer to help her with her horse. This is completely different than selling a horse you have trained that someone can't ride.If you had been able to teach the woman who took Colt, either you would have taught her to handle him, or said, this is not the horse for you.If only the trainer can ride it the horse isn't trained. I have to stand by what I said.

quietann said...

I figured out, not so long ago, that when I make an excuse, it's for myself, not for the horse. She's a lot of horse for me; she can be spooky and argumentative... and then willing and nearly push-button. I never know quite which horse I am going to get.

Right now, my only way out of the dressage arena is to take her on the road. I'm comfortable doing this for very short rides, so that's what we do -- though if things are going well and we're both calm, I'll take her a little further down the road than I did the last time. If I want a longer ride, we just go back and forth between the two ends of our comfort zone. But I have also cut things short simply because dealing with a spooking horse on a road isn't exactly safe!

The victories can be very small -- like getting her to stop freaking out, stand still, and look at some scary trash cans, even if we don't actually get past them, or having her take 3 steps through a puddle when she doesn't want to get her precious hooves wet. (She's a bit of a diva!) I talk to her a lot in the process, too. We do have a trainer, but the road time is ours alone.

Deered said...

Horsenoob said "He's really NOT a spooky horse. He did try pulling it on the trainer at first (the backing), but the trainer just let him back up into the wall and rode through it. The trainer can also sit a buck better than I can should he erupt in response to what he's backed into.
He always seems to back me into something more... vet bill-ey."

I'm going to get hell for this possibly, but - one of the things I was told was if a horse is willing to hurt itself to evade you it's dangerous. (a minor scrape or bump is fine, the smart ones only do it once). If a horse is going to spook/buck/throw itself into a gully/off a bluff to try to go home I don't want to have anything to do to it. The same with baking into things - if he backs into something that hurts a bit, maybe he'll listen better next time.

SomePerson said...

If I get the chance i'll have a look at that book and could you tell me more about the Monte Foreman book please? Is the information in it about training or is it more about the research that he carried out, is it still applicable today?

My gelding was broken in by a "natural horseman" person, he was only ever ridden in a halter, never really told do anything and hasn't got a whole lot of training under his belt. So anyway this horse is 6 and i've had him for about a month or so.

What i've noticed is that he is resentful of being told to do something and will swish his tail whilst doing it. He also used to buck going into a lope. But that is getting better with a no buck under saddle policy. :)

So anyway i was wondering, will his pissy attitude go away with time and work? Will he stop working his tail or has it become a habit?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thanks for the reminder to remember the big picture. I get lost in the forest of details too often.

Thanks for this specific, too: "If the horse gets behind the bit I go back to a ring snaffle and ride two handed. When they get behind the bit I turn them, then send them forward with both legs.. We go here and there and I turn every time I need contact. I don't worry about leads, head sets, nothing but going and turning." The trainer I used did this with my horse, and I never understood why, and he never explained. Another little mystery solved, another tool gained.

Unknown said...

I had a bit of a problem with my horse wanting to take me home this year- I could stop him taking me anywhere and sit through the fuss he put in, but it was stressful for him, it was hard work for me and nobody was having any fun.

In the end I found a two-pronged approach to it, the first was that I got a big old buckaroo saddle instead of the little treeless one I had been riding in. That's a lot more secure and if you do tense up a little it doesn't communicate it quite as directly to the horse. The second part was that one of my teachers suggested that if my horse wanted to go home then we could go home, but when we got there it wouldn't be as great as pony expected- we'd go straight into the arena and work hard for a little while. Then we would have the option to ride out again more quietly.

Between the confidence I got from knowing he was going to be hard-pressed to shift me from the saddle and him learning that if he brought me home he was going to work hard the problem was pretty much gone in a couple of rides without us having to get into any big fights. I'm taking it easy and not pushing him far enough that he gets scared, just building up that confidence for both of us, but it's working pretty well so far.

It all comes down to the same basic principles the whole time but there are just so many ways they can be used and most of the time it's way too easy to get wood-for-trees about it...

Sarah said...

Thanks a lot Mugwump. I'll give all that a shot the next time I work him in the ring =) Today we're gonna head down the trail and take a much deserved break from drilling.

I actually have an interesting story about building walls. When I started riding Garth last year, I don't think he'd ever been trail ridden in his life. The extent of his experience outside a ring is riding around the showgrounds. Back then I was about to start leasing him, but my instructor wanted me to be able to have fun and goof off for a while. I'd spent a long winter riding an Appendix QH with trust issues. All winter we just worked in the indoor, doing circles and calming down. Garth doesn't really have trust issues...he's just a chicken xD.

Anyway, my instructor wanted me to be able to just goof off and have fun with my friends once in a while. So, before I could lease him, I had to see how he'd be on trail rides. Nobody thought he would be able to - they thought he'd be all over the road, dancing, skittering and a wreck. I had only ridden him a couple times but it was enough for me to know that he picked up on whatever you were feeling at the moment. So when the day of his first trail ride arrived, I climbed on, worked him a little in the arena and then headed off down the little side road (all we have for trails, haha) with a couple of friends on good horses and a calm attitude.

And...he was fine. I didn't expect anything of him, I just rode him quietly and calmly. I pushed the warnings and speculations of others to the back of my mind and just rode him. He was a little strong, getting ahead of the group, and pulled and tried to jog a little on the way home, but he didn't spook once.

Nowadays I can hop on, put him on a slack rein and head down the road with my friends. He walks contentedly wherever I want him to and only ever takes second looks at things. If other horses spook, the most he'll do is jump - he won't try to turn and run off with them. In fact, he's usually the leader in scary situations, because he's learned to look to me for guidance. He's an honest, willing horse, and will usually do anything I ask - he usually has some questions to raise, but if I say "Yes, really" then he is almost always pretty agreeable. I might not have had him today if I had gotten worried and started scanning for skeery things and been nervous myself.

autumnblaze said...

Sarah - I envy you for having good friends with sane horses to ride with. If I had that I seriously 99.9% believe that I'd have nearly zero problems. He's always had a buddy before and would supposedly go through fire with a trail buddy, so I've been told (I have never had that luxury). I hope someone at my new barn wants to go out... it'd settle MY nervous energy if nothing else. It is an excuse though... but as it was said an excuse for me, not him. If not we'll keep working on us both being more confident on our own. It's not a matter of if we can, it's more a matter of if we'll let ourselves or if I'll let us...

ReRider said...

I'm really glad to read this post, because honestly, I've been extremely blessed to never have a horse that had serious trail issues. My mom (main riding buddy and reason for my horse addiction)has told me time and time again that it's because I'm a confident rider, but I knew it had to be more that that! I mean, we're talking TONS of horses and mules, too! It's nice to hear that I'm starting out right, and to have information to file for future issues.

Mugs- I really appreciate your straightforward way of writing. You get to the point clearly and concisely!

I, like you, have at times gotten off my horse and smacked him around a bit (not always professional, I know)- but it made a point in dangerous situations- if he acts up enough for me to feel I need to dismount, there's gonna be hell to pay, and I'm just going to get right back on him!

onetoomany said...

Ah- the joys of losing your temper. I especially liked the description of the barn owner. I have seen similar looks on the faces of some fellow boarders when I've let my temper get the best of me.

The part about walls rings very clearly to me. I have a "you're going through that RFN" sort of attitude. It's worked so far but then again my horse has a lot of trust in me as she's never gotten hurt when I've insisted that she go somewhere real sceery. She was real convinced one time though that llamas must be the hounds of hell and she wasn't going within 100 yards of their hairy butts.

horsegenes said...

I think that when you just "expect" your horse to do something they will more than often do it, bad or good.

Sarah took her new horse and expected it to work out and it did. She set up a perfectly positive scenerio and didn't let those "walls" creep in and fill her with doubt. She had a sucessful ride that built trust between her and her new horse.

Something that I remind myself all the time is, the same action gets the same re-action. If it doesn't work the first couple times, and you keep doing it, don't expect the outcome to be different.

nineisenuff said...

This has been some great stuff lately - thanks! One of these days, I'll be able to sit down & really dig through it, and apply it to my bunch. My only questions is - how soon until I can sign up to spend a week riding with you?

mugwump said...

nineisenuff- Thanks, but at this point in my life I'm a retired trainer (some would say arm chair) trainer. I'm very carefully staying out of the horse biz. In exactly 2 years, 2 months and 21 days I will be able to compete in the NRCHA amateur classes. In 4 years, 2 months and 21 days I will be eligible as an ammie in AQHA.
I sit around rubbing my hands and cackling at the thought.
So the only instruction I can give any more is my kindly, grandmotherly advice on this blog.

nineisenuff said...

Mugs - understand completely, can't say that I blame you one bit. You have a gift for being able to explain techniques with words, in a way that the rest of us can 'see' them. Thanks for doing that! Please keep it up!

Fyyahchild said...

Timely once again. The BGM was back in full force last night. We walked the field behind the barn. The ranch down the way pulled the calves from the herd and the moms were raising hell. BGM had a bucking, crow hopping, head-shaking fit. I stayed on. She decided she wouldn't go forward and almost backed into a barb wire fence. I made her turn and got her moving forward slightly. I got her to stop and stand still(ish) but she was still prancy and ready to explode. I got off, smacked her dumb butt and walked her until we were safer (away from the wire). I got back on...which was a miracle in itself. I'm 5'1ish and haven't been able to haul my fat bootie onto a 16H horse without a block since I was a kid. But I finally did it thanks to the recent strength training and weight loss. I took her back to the arena and rode her hard as long as I could. We trotted patterns, we half passed, we cantered tiny circles until she was sweaty and tired. She boogered and bucked and had her fits the whole time but I stopped during a good stretch. AND I stayed on the whole time...thank god for that western saddle. I'm proud of myself.

I also finally realized no matter how nice she is when she's good I don't really want a horse that I can't trust not to freak out randomly. I was ok when I was a kid but I’m old and breakable and I have responsibilities. I mean, I think I can keep riding her and if she doesn’t get any breaks eventually she’ll calm down more. I think I can show her and probably do pretty well but I'll never feel relaxed. I'll always be waiting for the next time she has a fit. On the other hand I don't know how to sell her to someone else the way she is. I don't want someone to end up with her who can't handle her. So that's my dilemma for the day.

horsegenes said...




gillian said...

"I use the same direction whether I'm longing them with a line or free in the pen.
It's not complicated. I just point where I want my horse to go, then I make it happen."

So, when you're longing a horse, are you pointing with your hand in front of them a bit to direct them there; or am I taking this too literally? Sorry if its a silly question, I just want to make sure I understand because I think this is a very important concept and definitely absent from my methods. (not on purpose, just hadn't thought of it, thats all)

mugwump said...

Fyyachild - Woohoo!
Gillian - Yes.My arms aren't clamped to my body just loose, so my guiding hand is slightly in front of my horse's nose.

Joy said...

"my kindly, grandmotherly advice on this blog" <--- That made me giggle. I love the thought of you competing in AQHA as an amateur. That's awesome.

Kel had a good point I think about remaining calm out on trail. I know that if I so much as slightly clench my butt cheeks when my horse is about to react to something, it came make him come completely unglued. But if I can sit like a sack of potatoes in the saddle, 99.9% I get a hugely positive response from him. Just a thought.

Fyyahchild said...

It's kinda bittersweet, ya know? I learned to ride her pretty well (heh...still haven't consistently put the english saddle on or started jumping more than a little cross rail), but I still don't think I'm ever going to like her.

gillian said...

Ah ok. I had this vision of you holding your arm straight out, parallel to the ground to guide horsey around the circle. I was quite sure that I'd misunderstood but I just couldn't shake that image.

mugwump said...

joy- I sing to prevent that butt clencch. I was singing Roger Miller at the top of my lungs as I rode my Loki mare. I don't know why, but his songs are the only words I remember when I'm trying not to freak out.Although I think my singing makes my horses clench theirs.
fyyah-Life's too short. You've proven you can ride her, now find a horse you actually like.
As long as you are honest about her issues there is nothing wrong with selling her. She might click with another rider.

mugwump said...

gillian- my whole goal when I train is to do as little work as possible. It would be too much effort to hold my arm out, not to mention it would lead to mocking.

Fyyahchild said...

Haha Mugs! Mine's Hank Williams Jr. but I think you knew that. ;)

gtyyup said...

Mugs-I'm following you on that.

Fyyahchild-Nice going...but I wouldn't feel bad selling her. My friend bought this horse that was perfect at the owner's barn. He got to Nancy's place and everything went downhill from there...and Nancy is a competent rider. She took the horse to her trainer, and she put 5 years into that horse...they NEVER did get it right together, and she did all the right things in my book. He dumped her numerous times. Many times I was there to witness. She finally decided to sell him and found a buyer. Those people have never had a lick of trouble with him...they love him to death and even let their grandkids ride him.

With your horse, the next person will probably be "his" person. Yes, be up front with your issues. My friend Nancy was and it didn't deter those folks from taking the horse. Happy ending.

My theory is that life is too short to ride bad horses.

Joy said...

Ahaha! That's funny because I sing Patsy Cline to stay calm. Too funny. My red boy tolerates my singing. My "free not really mine" boy likes any singing. He's a little off that one.

Amy said...

So what do you do with a horse that is good on trails but bad in the arena? My crabby mare has been going so good out on the state land... I even was brave enough to gallop her the other day, and when I lost my balance a bit she simply slowed down like an old pro so I could fix my seat... but in the arena (or the round area of sand I use as an arena that is) she is a monster... tail swishing, ear pinning, bucking, even turning to bite at my leg... although that habit is appearing with less and less frequency as it is the one thing I lose my temper at... if she offers to bite, she gets ripped in the mouth and beaten about the neck and shoulders while I yell profanities at her...

So why am I getting respect on the trail and a rank POS in the arena? Just because trails are fun to her and the arena is work? Is it okay to work her, say out on state land or in a big field? I know I'll have to tackle the arena thing sooner or later but I also know I'm doing it backwards, so I'm not sure how to do it...

mugwump said...

Amy- How long have you had her? Is she a horse who has been heavily showed? She could be arena sour, an easy situation to be in.
I would reverse my work-outs on an arena sour horse. Work hard on the trail, school on the trail and rest in the arena. Dismount and losen her cinch in the arena.
See what I mean?

Amy said...

Well, I have had her since last November. She was broke out at 4, and she is 6 this year... no she hasn't been heavily shown, or even drilled that much. I had issues with her where she would throw a fit at any work and I was too scared to push her through it... we're past that now, but it resurfaces in the arena. I'm reasonably sure it's not a pain thing, otherwise why would she be willing on the trail and not in an arena? But I will def work on what you said. I would eventually like to do local shows, our local show even ahs a "horse in training/not judged" class just for the experience.

Thanks! I hope you realize how helpful this blog is, and apparently to quite a few people!

autumnblaze said...

Amy how deep is the sand you're schooling her in as an arena? If it's really loose and deep it might be really hard on her legs? The trails likely aren't deep? Just a something to consider along the lines of pain and such.

In the ring my boy, when not feeling like working, would sometimes bite my left boot. He's learned that I don't react much especially with the reins just push him forward... oh, but that left boot apparently kicks lazy/grumpy horse noses that get too close and miracously the biting at it dissappeared pretty much immediately...

FD said...

I'll put my hand up and admit that I consider long reining (what we call it in England) a really useful tool, but not one I've used much, mainly because I've not the confidence in my own ability. Which is daft because I'll happily lunge with two reins.
I guess I just don't have it in my head as a go-to kinda tool? I'll have to think some more about it.

Francis said...

See now I am laughing.. I work my horses by moving them "away" from my hand.. when they are loose, I cluck and raise a hand towards their hind quarters and they move away. I work them in the round pen the same way.. from behind, raise hand move forward, when in front, raise the hand and they stop and/or reverse.. works well.
Until you mount up and they see your hand up high out of the corner of their eye (so, like oh when your cell phone rings for the first time and you answer it bringing your hand up to your face).. guess what? They tense up and try to move away from that hand.. and when you stop them with the reins, it makes them turn instead of going forward. They are doing exactly what they have been taught to do on the ground.. and I guess you could use it as a basis for a spin, but for now, all I am doing is walking around getting them used to me up there.. so now I gotta get them used to hands not being used to move them.. I have created more work for myself!! Yay!

It will work through.. it did however teach me that when I get them very very light on the ground, I better watch out what I am doing cause they are going to be very very light in the exact same way under saddle (if I am lucky!)

Great blog as always!

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