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Wizard Session 83 and 84; JR Session 44: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

June 22, 2009

Wizard's New Mane

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Just when I thought I was figuring him out…

I tacked Wizard up for a longeing session. I put the saddle on instead of the surcingle. Since we’re getting closer to riding, I figured I should get the saddle back on him. The plan was to work on mounting block manners after we longed. But those plans vaporized within a few minutes of the longeing session.

We did a little work walking in hand before I longed, to get him warmed up and to work on responsiveness. Wizard was a little keyed-up, but nothing out of the ordinary, especially since he had some time off. Then, I asked him to walk on the longe to the left. He was good, but broke into a jog once or twice. I got a nice walk, then asked for a little trot. Thwn we changed directions. He trotted to the right immediately. I asked him to walk and he halted. Then I asked him to walk and he leapt into a speedy trot. I asked him again to walk and he faced me. He was getting sticky about going forward so I asked for a trot. He refused, first facing/crowding me, then spinning in the other direction. I ran my hands over him, checking for soreness, stones in his hooves, or poorly-adjusted tack. I could not find anything.

My requests became demands, but Wizard would not go to the right. I asked verbally and also cued with the longe whip (not touching him, but using the whip as a guide). Wizard continued to crowd me, getting closer and closer. My cues got stronger, popping the whip as an additional cue sound, moving his shoulders, and guiding the longe line with my hands. Wizard still faced me.

I got him going forward to the right about two times, each time only for half a rotation before he spun in the other direction. The second time he got to the spot where he was spinning, he became more insistent about his refusal, this time rearing before he spun around, pulling HARD on the longe line.

Because it was clear that Wizard’s evasion was to crowd me and not move, my goal was to keep his feet moving. I reverted to a tactic that I don’t really like, which is backing the horse up. I did this to keep him moving and as a way to correct his evasion. In my experience, horses do not like to back up so it is negative reinforcement to force them to do it.

It was a long and frustrating dance. Try to send him forward, get crowded, back him up, try to send him forward, etc. It was both physically and mentally taxing. Wizard never looked panicky- he was deliberate but a little unresponsive, which I assume was detatchment from the situation and possibly a form of mentally “checking out”.

It has been a very long time since I have had any sort of struggle with a horse, and I felt terrible. Any situations like this with Alibar had been resolved over a decade ago and we spent most of his 20s in harmony. I was still not yelling or hitting Wizard or anything nearly that harsh, but the idea of a conflict was foreign to me. I have not had to assert myself as the boss of a horse in a long, long time.

Eventually, I wore Wizard down and he went to the right, but when he did, he took off at a very fast canter and took about 10 laps around the longe line. I let him keep moving, since we worked so hard to go forward for such a long time. It felt like a small success, but I knew that I needed to get him to go forward another time or two.

As Wizard cantered around on the longe, he had a hump in his back and he was a little bronc-y. The saddle had shifted forward a little bit, so I wondered if that was the issue. I asked him to halt and I fixed the saddle. Sent him off again (this time it took about 3 requests) and he was less bronc-y but still bronc-y. And he was trotting instead of cantering (I don’t like to canter horses on the longe very much). I took the saddle off and sent him around one last time. He pulled HARD and was resistant but did not have the same hump in his back. All the while, Wizard looked sound. No tail-swishing, no unevenness, no head tossing.

The last thing I did was put him in a round pen. I’ve never used a round pen before. I have some serious issues with the idea of the round pen since I feel like it takes away all of a horse’s defenses. BUT… I wanted to nip any bad habits in the bud. So I put the saddle back on and sent him to the right. He spun, but it was very easy to catch him and get him going back in the right direction. No funny business with the saddle, he looked fine. I quickly ended the session. I was not trying to tax him physically, but I needed to make sure that the spinning and rearing behavior was extinguished.

I carefully cooled him off. The time spent actually longeing was far less than the time spent getting him to go forward. It was a true struggle, one like I have not had in a very, very long time. I felt like the meanest horsewoman in the world. After he was cooled out, I grazed him for a while. He seemed fine, physically and mentally.

I was stumped and pretty amazed by the whole chain of events. Wizard has longed with a saddle on his back DOZENS of times. Nothing new was added to the equation. The most logical reason would be that something was physically bothering him. I always do my best to respond to any discomfort, but I decided that rearing is too dangerous to allow. I never like to push a horse too hard, but Wizard might hurt himself or another person if he learns dangerous behaviors.

I hope I did the right thing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

So I thought and thought and thought about what to do with Wizard for the next session. Make it easier? Use the surcingle instead of the saddle? Since longeing in a saddle was in no way a new behavior for him, I went with the saddle. I used the best saddle pad I have. Interestingly, he was not reactive at all during the saddling process.

Then we longed. And he was FINE! No resisting, no rearing, nothing. Nice as you please. But then he got gimpy in the hind end. I longed him to the left and did some spiral work- something about the smaller circle torqued something and he was suddenly uneven. His hip was hitching when weight was loading on the right hind leg.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

I also did a little ground work at the mounting block with Wizard. He was great.

I longed JR indoors. He was energetic but fabulous. He is muscling up really nicely. His work by the mounting block is getting better. Maybe I’ll actually be able to get on one of these buggers one of these days…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2009 8:23 am

    Your patience with these animals, and the detailed attention you pay to all of their mannerisms and reactions, never ceases to amaze me. You are a wonderful horsewoman.

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