Monday, May 16, 2011

Mouthy Monday

This comes from Jenny at She's talking about the same type of things we've been the last few posts.

Plus, her mule, Maxine is just too cute.

I just read an article on spooking/trail riding in Horse Illustrated. It's very good.The trainer has an approach I haven't tried before, going back and forth to the spook spot until the horse is willing to go forward. Then once he goes through the scary place to pass back and forth through it until he's not afraid. I think this might be exactly what Candy girl wants to try. It would be safe, she wouldn't be overworking or scaring her young horse and could be a way to cope with both the bridge and the sheep...

Remember the Hula Hoop

Yesterday, I took a hula hoop out to the barn to see how Maxine would react to it. I got the idea last month while watching the Wind Rider Challenge at the NW Horse Fair and Expo in Albany.

It was hilarious to watch the horses react to the hula hoop. Some took it in stride, while others picked up their skirts and ran. Many horses entered the hoop quietly, but were spooked when the hoop popped up between their legs as a hoof stepped on the side.

The hula hoop they used had a rattle in it, so it sounded like a rattlesnake. Makes sense that many of the horses were spooked by it. No intelligent horse is going to ignore a rattler in the dirt, even if it is purple.

Always looking for something new and fun to try with Maxine, I bought my own hula hoop to see how she would react. Maxine wasn’t having it at first. Like the other horses, she stepped in the hoop just fine, but retreated when it rattled due to the nudge of a hoof. Knowing that she's usually okay with these kinds of things after she can "kill" them (it's the donkey half of her brain), I dragged the hoop with my foot so that she could walk behind and "hunt" it. After about ten minutes, she was walking quietly, albeit cautiously, through the hoop.

Once in the saddle, I again asked her to ride through the hoop. She wouldn’t have it. Moving back to square one, I stationed her nose on the hoop and kept her centered on the obstacle as she tried to move away. To a non-riding onlooker it probably looked like we were practicing dance moves.

That's when it hit me--"Hey, I'm actually good at this!"

I remembered my first trail show when Maxine refused nearly every obstacle. There were so few tools in my toolbox that if smart old Maxine decided something was unsafe, I didn't have a chance against her. The experienced wranglers at my barn seemed to get their animals through every challenge so easily. I envied their quiet, persuasive skills, wondering if I'd ever reach their level of experience.

Over the years, I've slowly added tools to my tool box, and yesterday was the first time I realized how far I've come in this regard. My arms and legs were each working independently and naturally to keep Maxine's nose centered on that obstacle. In less than five minutes, Maxine gave in and walked though the hoop. As a reward for both of us, we left the hoop for another day and took a long ride up the road with friends.

The interesting thing about riding is that each time we try a new discipline, obstacle, or skill, we often start from square one. It can be frustrating to be great one thing but terrible at another. I sometimes think I'll never master a new skill. From now on, when I get feel that frustration tingling on the back of my neck, I'll remember the hula hoop.


Accendora said...

Love the "hunt it" trick. I also tried the trick of jumping my horse over a stream until she got tired of jumping around like a moron and slogged through it. I should have counted how many times she sprang over the two feet of water, but she kept it up for an hour before she kinda sorta walked through it (with much coaxing on my part for her not to leap). Red mares, I don't know.

deedee said...

Jenny, loved the ideas but really loved the notion of discoveing we have accumulated tools in the tool box. Linda Parelli calls it Arrows in our quiver (easier to carry than a tool box on a ride.hehe). Same notion - suddenly realizing we somehow know how to be effective in a new situation. I have a quiet, calm confident gelding. Over the years I somehow gathered the tools to be effective with high, hyper horses. Like you said, discovered I had tools I didn't realize I had.
What I do know is if you can be effective with a mule, you have gathered some powerful mental tools cuz ya sure can't 'make 'em' do it. You have to make them want to do it. Bravo to you!

Jenn said...

She's a beauty!

And I love that "AHA" moment when we realize how far we have come. (my sport is dog agility, but the patience and creativity needed is similar)

mommyrides said...

Hey Jenny! Thanks for a very encouraging and relevant story! I often doubt myself and the tools that I have in my tool box. I am a good rider with lots of experience but somewhere along the line I took a freaky fall and since then I've just never been confident. Now actually fearful. But you have reminded me that we all have accumulated riding skills, and I just need to start trusting them more.

I love the look on both you and look so happy and Maxine looks like she is thinking "stink, that girl is gettin' better at making me do what she wants....."

Anonymous said...

What a great post! It went right to the heart of the matter :)

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Ahh...hula hoops & horses....

Have I got a story about leading my mare over a hula hoop, her spooking, bumping into me, knocking me over, stepping on my elbow & breaking it into 3 pieces, mucho $$$ getting it put back together (lucky for health insurance!), and now a mare who is learning not to get into my space when excited or spooking! All since September.

I'll say it again....hula hoops & horses!

Nancy C said...

So... am I the only one off to see if Wally World sells Hula-hoops?

Thanks for the great story!

Crowguys said...

Thanks, everyone. Your comments warm my heart.

Deedee, I have to admit that I earned many of my best tools while working with donkeys. They teach the ultimate in patience.

Mommyrides, overcoming fear is actually going to be one of my future blog posts. I can totally relate to your fear, because Maxine and I once took a spill at a trail show.

It's taken two years to regain most of our confidence. And I do mean OUR confidence. Just keep riding (safe horses, of course) and you'll get your mojo back. One thing that helped me was to watch other, skilled riders on Maxine. It build my confidence to see how solid she was with someone who wasn't nervous about a particular obstacle.

Good luck!

About my fall: (

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