dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


After Royce left on Friday morning I told him that I was planning to ride Carmen again that afternoon. He was enthusiastic about that idea, gave me some last minute instructions (review of the ride) and then told me 'call me and tell me how it went. Good or bad'

I had a brief rest and then completed my morning chores- including dragging the ring. It was really interesting- Carmen was hanging out by the barn while Irish was out in the field. I figured that she would go out to him (she's rarely far from him) when I came up with the tractor but she didn't. That meant I had to shut them in separate paddocks to get up to the ring. I thought that she might pitch a fit but she really didn't care.

When Cynthia came a couple hours later they were both in the back of the field. Carmen refused to be caught. Rather than chase her I walked over to the gate and closed it behind Cynthia and Irish as they went into the barn. I knew that Carmen would follow Irish but I wanted her to come with me, not him. She ran off and I stood there waiting. She stopped and called. I stood there waiting. Finally she came up to me and I put on her halter.

I did some ground work with her and then rode. And initially she was very challenging and everything that I had been dealing with she was throwing at me. She balked, pinned her eyes, bucked and tried to bolt.

I could have been very upset by this I wasn't. To be honest I half expected it.

Let me explain: Carmen and I have had over a year of interacting in a certain way. Our relationship pattern has been set. Royce came along and established a new set of rules but it would not be reasonable for her to assume that those applied to me as well. In fact I could hear her saying 'I only go in that corner for the little man, not for you'.

It is also a basic tenet of behavioural modification that a behaviour will usually worsen before it goes away (here's an analogy: imagine that every time you leave work you push on the door to go outside. After months of that, one night maintenance changes the door to 'pull'. When you go to push on the door it won't open. You don't immediately stop and think 'I must reframe how I approach this'. At first you push harder. After that you will start to rethink it. How long depends on how stubborn you are).

So I set about establishing our new 'contract'. Carmen wanted her union rep but I explained that Royce was actually my rep not hers. It's interesting- now that I had tools to use with her shenanigans I wasn't worried or tense. I was actually quite relaxed about the whole thing. Once she softened and was listening I did a bit more work and then got off.

After we played with hula hoop. Irish was all 'what the hell?!' About the hoop but Cynthia told him it wasn't his problem and he went to work - with a bit more pep in his step to be sure.

The next morning I rode again and we repeated the work from the day before. This time there were fewer hissy fits. There was a bit of flailing in the far corner but we worked through it. Again, when she was soft and listening we did some work. It's amazing how much better our leg yields are- she's so much more responsive to lateral cues. I made this ride nice and short and gave her a rub.

look at that 'whoa' and where her whole focus is


  1. Hooray!! There's nothing like tools in your toolbox, is there. I think Carmen is on the road to recovery. Tell her to think of it as a 12-step program and that she will feel so much better when she learns to stop resisting. :)

  2. Yeah I agree sounds like good signs to me! Extinction burst I think is the behavioral term for it. Great work!

  3. Excellent work. After your last post about Hula hoops, I bought one for Eugene and it turns out Nilla's terrified of it and Eugene doesn't care. Figures.

  4. I like your perspective on this. The more you understand why she has any given behavior, the more confident and relaxed you can be dealing with it for sure.


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