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Selena Ride 32; Wizard Ride 102: Stealth Mode

September 30, 2009

Scrape, Star, Whorl, Forelock, Cheekbone

Monday, 9/28/09

During my ride on Selena, I had the benefit of a set of eyes on the ground. My barn buddy was in the arena while I rode and she gave me some great observations. I gave Selena a very long walking warmup and I felt great relaxation and her ribcage swayed nicely with each step. Her trot was equally loose and limber and she willingly stretched downward into the bit.

My friend noticed that when Selena was in her most relaxed frame (I use the term “frame” loosely here), her trot was very quiet! When she went back to the regular trot, her footfalls were louder. Fascinating!

She was so relaxed, in fact, that we did a little canter work, just two circles in each direction. She was bouncy but responsive. I think she will do best with canter work interspersed with trot/walk transitions so that will become part of our ride plans.

And then it was Wizard’s turn. After experiencing the feeling of him saying NO to the pigs on the trail in our last ride and his selective hearing during the free jumping session, I decided to do a little groundwork and a short ride in the indoor arena.

I started the session with him tacked up in a saddle but weating a halter so I could feed carrots and do clicker work. We worked first in hand at the walk, asking for go and whoah. I enforced “go” with a cluck of my tongue and a light tap of the riding crop on his rump. These cues were too much for him and he was leaping forward more than I wanted. I did a little jogging to keep him loose and moving forward and he relaxed a bit. I also enforced a good halt with a clicker and a carrot.

I then hooked the longe line to the halter and asked him to walk at the end of the line and we walked around the entire arena so it was not on a circle. He did this so well that I bridled him and got on. We had walked less than a minute when he began pinning his ears, tightening his entire body, and prancing. Wow- what a difference from the past six trail rides! He was back to his old behavior from April/May, but after several miles of riding, I knew it was not a physical issue (95% sure, anyway- anything is possible, I suppose). Knowing that he was not in pain gave me confidence to sit through his tantrums. He did the ear-pinning routine about ten times in the ten-minute ride. A few times, I growled scoldingly and rapped his shoulder with my hand and it seemed to stop the behavior. I did not want to do any more severe negative reinforcement than that because he is so sensitive to it. We walked in large circles and I changed direction several times to keep his feet moving and his mind active. One of his mini-tantrums felt worse than the rest and I could feel his hind end get light as if he was thinking about bucking or kicking. I sat up, gave a little leg, and rode on. It worked.

I asked for two halts during the ride. At the second halt, he let out a biiiig sigh and I patted him and dismounted.

But the work was not over for Wizard :^) I put him back on the longe and worked with a little walk/trot work (again not on a circle but on straight lines and a large oval). He was good until he got a little excited and burst into a very fast canter. I asked for a whoooahhhh and BOINK! He slammed on the brakes and spun. Argh- way more excitement than I wanted out of him. After I got something resembling a trot, I unhooked the reins and longe line and sent Wizard at liberty around the arena a few times, wearing a bit and saddle. I wanted to refresh the forward and come back cues, as well as let him recharge his mental batteries. It seemed to work well since he trotted back to me each time I sent him off. When he was done with the session, he was relaxed and responsive and not as jazzed up as he was on the longe.

What did I learn?

– All signs point to the ear-pinning as a behavior and not a physical issue because we just did six rides on the trail with no pinned ears.
– Great caution must be used with artificial driving aids, like a riding crop. Even the lightest tap sent him like a shot of a cannon.
– It appears that his spinning on the longe is a behavior that he does when he is nervous or stressed.
– The less restraint he has, the more relaxed he is.
– I have a LOT of work ahead of me if I want to continue ringwork with him.
– I might want to re-evaluate my goals.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 30, 2009 8:43 pm

    I don’t know what the weather has been like in your neck of the woods, but in the past week even the old therapy horses at my barn have been a bit wild with the change of weather. lol.

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