Round Three: Not Such a Big Horse After All

23 07 2015

Back to being smitten again. I had a very productive evening on the yard with Puzzle and his human tonight, in which I feel like I learned a lot. He wasn’t really any different than he had been on the previous occasions, and I don’t really think his human’s presence on the yard made that much difference; certainly not to the extent that I would have expected.

I went along expecting to do groundwork. Lots and lots of groundwork. And groundwork we did. First of all in his stall, while I was grooming him and tacking him up; she spent a while showing me how to get him to move out of my space, to walk on, to move his quarters, to move back and to stand. I had to get to grips with getting him to do one thing at a time, and not confusing him by asking him too many things in a row. This struck me as essentially meaning shoving him around, although I soon realised that in effect this is no different from what he does with the mares in the field, with the added bonus that it keeps me safe as well.

Once I had him tacked up, we escalated this to me walking him in hand and doing the same things; asking him to walk on, walk around, stand, and back up. The tips I was given were to remain in line with his shoulder and close to it, so that if he were to try and push me, he wouldn’t be able to get enough power into the movement to do anything with it, to carry a whip in my free hand, and to raise it to his face if he made any move towards biting or lunging at me. To use voice commands, but to make these secondary to positive and clear body language. Also, to use the elbow closest to him if needed to emphatically push into him, or to push him away if necessary. All of this also worked really well. He got grabby and bitey with me again, but I responded as instructed and he backed right off. I carried on walking him around, making him stand, backing him up and walking him around with no pattern to it in and out of the stables for a little while, and I found that soon, he was listening to me rather than going ‘Oh all right then, if I must.’

At his human’s suggestion, I mounted him at the block outside the school and rode him in. As usual, he was perfectly well-behaved under saddle. His eagerness to show off how clever he is at operating gates whenever we have to close one behind us is still really, really sweet. His human stayed with us in the school for a bit, but he was working so nicely for me once we started going around that she kindly laid out some poles and a cone (to guide us into the spooky corner!) for me and then left us alone. I hadn’t expected to ride this evening and thus I didn’t really have a plan, so in the spirit of the groundwork we’d been doing, rather than have an exercise-for-horse-and-rider session, I thought I would have a making-Puzzle-think-and-not-know-what-to-expect session.

The two poles were laid parallel around x down the centre line from A to C, so I could use them as a check for straightness or ride across the school from B to E and go over them for balance. After a gentle warm up in walk and trot with lots of sudden turns and tight circles, I started using the poles to ride between, and to transition from walk to trot or trot to walk as we passed X, and change the rein at the end of each pass, mixed up with circling and riding over the poles as we went. Sometimes, without warning, I asked him to halt after getting all four feet up over the first pole, before going over the next one. And then sometimes I asked him to go large and canter. This got really exciting when he decided the poles were jumps. He seemed to be having real trouble striking off on the correct leg on the left rein tonight, so rather than keep making him do it, I moved onto other things. He was going so nicely for me in the end that for our cool down I just gave him a long rein and continued the circling exercise on both reins with the occasional halt at x. Super fun.

I did some more groundwork with him in the school immediately after dismounting at his human (who had returned by this stage)’s suggestion. I was actually astonished at just how switched on to me he had become by this stage. It was all going beautifully until I led him out of the school, but then turned back to get the gate behind me, at which point he must have thought I was taking him back in there as he got really strong with me, in much the same vein as he had on the two previous occasions. This time, his human intervened to show me what to do, and he was just as bad with her as he had been with me previously. He did eventually calm down, but we decided it would just be easier to keep him walking on rather than me wrestle with him just for the sake of closing a gate.

He was totally sweet after that, and as I gave him a scrub and doused him in fly spray, he stood wherever I told him to. Probably because I’d tired him out as much as because he was now listening, but the transformation from what had gone before was remarkable. It seems that he has been argumentative in general since last week, and his human put it down to his having remembered that he could; I now just need to keep on top of this and remind him that no, he can’t, actually. And actually, I think that will make him feel more secure with me.

I feel well assured now that he is still the same sweet, clever boy I met a month ago and really wanted to get to know better, and a lot more confident that if I had to put up with another arsey episode I would know what to do about it. The agreement is continuing into August and all the dates have been agreed upon. I am all excited about it again 😀




4 responses

24 07 2015

I’m so happy to hear this. Some great tips here as well for dealing with bossy, argumentative horses on the ground. You are learning so much with this experience it is really nice to hear all about it. Well done, I am so impressed with your whole attitude towards this, any chance you can bottle that and send me some? 🙂

25 07 2015
Soapy Photo Girl

Thank you! I feel like I am learning a lot, and it’s really very satisfying. Heh, if I could bottle some of it and send it to you I would! I’ll send some positive vibes in your general direction instead.

25 07 2015

Am happy to see that you are making progress and learning. Ah ha! Now he knows that you will be in charge.

25 07 2015
Soapy Photo Girl

I have a feeling it might be a bit of an ongoing process, but we can but hope! I feel a lot more confident about it now that I’ve been properly shown what works.

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