dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, August 20, 2015

In Which the 3 Ps and the 3 Bs collide

Carmen had 2 days off while I was off for work. Today I came home and got her ready. We worked on the ground and she seemed to be really listening and relaxed. We worked on the 'go forward' from the tap and all was perfect.

I mounted and she took a small step but it seemed to be more for balance than anything. As we walked on our circle she began to look. I did smaller circles and asked her to tune in to me. I was conscious of the 3 ps but was focussing on riding with purpose. It seemed to be going well when she gave a spook and a spin. It wasn't too bad and I just got her back when she bolted (the first of the B's). I couldn't turn her or stop her so I steered her at the fence so she could stop. Ed was not home so I dismounted and attached the lunge line to her bridle.

I then put Missy's butt and mind to work. If she had energy to spare then she was going to use it. We went up and down the ring and she was not allowed to pick her pace or tune me out. I realized that earlier she was listening because it was fun and she was allowed to be lazy. Now she had to listen because I made it important to her. I got her listening and tuned in and then remounted.

We went back to work and it was okay. Not great but better and there was no bolting. I worked on riding with purpose. You know how they say 'throw your heart over the fence and the horse will follow'? I threw my heart at the letters. It seemed silly to throw my heart at 'E' but that's what I did. And I felt her begin to blow and relax. I felt happy that the 3 Ps were working.

I changed direction and the 2 B came into play: Balking. She was now tired and began to fall behind the leg at certain directions. I was able to get her forward. When she stopped I made sure to keep my hands forward and ask repeatedly for her to go forward with my legs. That worked a couple times and then she began to back up (the 3rd B). I made some progress but then it escalated. She actually backed up half the ring rather than go forward.

Interestingly enough she did not seem tense or nervous or scared. she was completely calm but she was NOT GOING TO WALK FORWARD. SO THERE. 

I kept up the asking forward and giving with my hands. I did not let her spin. But she kept going backwards. That's when I felt a fourth P trying to make an appearance- I was beginning to feel pissed off. However, anger was not going to be productive. We finally reached the mounting block. I thought that once she hit the fence she'd go forward but not really. I know that basic behavioural principles are that a behaviour often worsens before it disappears.
(aside: think of it this way- if every time you push on a door and it opens and then one day it doesn't. You don't stop pushing right away- you push it harder).

I needed to change the rules of the game.

So, gritting my teeth, I dismounted again. And as soon as my feet hit the ground I grabbed the crop by the mounting block and sent her backwards. She went at first and then it began to seem less fun. She wanted to go forward. But I sent Princess Pissy's perfect little butt backwards. And backwards. I backed her through the 'okay that's enough',  through the 'okay okay' until I was sure that she was not enjoying backing up at all.

Somewhere during all this Ed came home so that was good (in case I came off).

 I then marched her forward, up to the mounting block and climbed right back on, keeping my whip. I could feel her disbelief. She tried to jig but nope. we were walking. I was determined that we were not done until we made it through this. This was my hill to die on. I didn't care if she bolted, or if I came off. I cared that Carmen went forward. My focus was on walk-halt-walk. She balked once and I tapped her with the whip like we practiced. She went forward immediately. I repeated this 3-4 more times and I praised her. While I shouldn't have to praise her for walking I wanted it really clear that going forward off my leg was a good decision. And every other response was not.

Once she was listening I halted and dismounted. Interestingly enough she seemed completely calm after. She was definitely sweaty (so was I) but she was not stressed at all. I've decided that if I cannot work through this over the next 3 weeks then I will call Royce.

it's a good thing she's pretty. And talented. And smart.
I just have to teach her to use it for good instead of evil


  1. I vote for Royce. Carmen's behavior sounds very similar to what I was going through with Winston. I couldn't work with him consistently and I'm not a professional so he got worse, not better. Sandy was able to work him through it but by the time I asked for her help, I had lost all confidence. Carmen is a lovely, sweet mare and I'd hate to see you end up like me (she's much sweeter than Winston, BTW). You also ride more regularly than I was able to do -- so it is, of course, your call. But, I'd seriously consider bringing in Royce. He was so good with Steele.

  2. I agree...I had a balker once..he balked till he was in his 30's..it's no fun and can be dangerous if balking leads to rearing. Royce can help you from the ground and can also get on her,,,might be worth having him sooner than later if this is going to escalate. Good for you for sticking with her. But if each riding session is a fight it just may discourage her and make her not want to go out and play.

  3. I say give it one more try and if you don't see an improvement - call in reinforcements :)

    I've never heard the expression about "throw your heart over the fence", I quite like it.

  4. Another vote for call a pro. H is my ace in the hole with Boca. Mr. B can cop quite an attitude on occasion. When I feel him back sliding, I call H and get a training ride on him. It also works in my favor because then I get to be the good cop, H can be the bad cop.

    Pros get to be pros because they have more tools in their tool box than we do. They have better timing and feel and also know when it is appropriate to have a CTJ moment and when to finesse. I have no qualms on calling in reinforcements to make my job easier You don't *have* to struggle. ;)

  5. She sure was testing you. Gabbrielle is a backer and balker, but I don't think it is because she's testing me. I think her brain just shuts down and she gets confused. I've learned that if I give one rein a quick tug, it's enough to get her to snap out of it and move forward.


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