Thursday, June 25, 2015

How to Train Your Drama Llama

Of course, following up a weekend of two great rides, the horse universe balanced things out and gave me two very difficult rides. Not bad rides, mind you, because they ended well... but those victories were earned man. All I can say is the scale better reflect all the sweat the next time I step onto it.

Tuesday I rode in the indoor because thunderstorms were passing through and I chalked his behavior up to the fact that indoors in summer are not approved by anyone, especially Tuckers.  He was hanging on my left rein, refusing to bend left tracking left, and bulging hard through his left shoulder tracking right.  After some theatrics, much leaping and throwing his head around... 

... I actually got some beautiful canter work out of him.  He did some leaping but then would settle into a really nice canter, and then panic and leap and protest and then go back to a nice canter.  It was about a billion degrees and 300% humidity on Tuesday so once the leaping decreased in frequency I called it a day.

I know I'm anthropomorphizing here but I swear to you when I got on last night he immediately picked a fight with me.  As soon as I picked up the contact - grabbing the left rein, flailing and rearing.  He literally almost smashed his head into one of the telephone poles our ring lights are on. And just in case you think I'm exaggerating, I have video stills for you:

Move #1: Yank left rein out of my hands; swing haunches right.
Move #2:  Panic and twist head skyward. 
Move #3:  Rear/hop, because 1 and 2 are not working.
I mean what in the actual f%#k am I supposed to do with that.  Well I'll tell you what I did last night. I galloped him around the ring a few laps and scared the crap out of him.  And not in a, "oh, the horse is rearing so you should send it forward" organized, methodical, professional kind of way.  Like in a stark raving mad maniac kind of way.  I was angry.  Not my best moment. 

And then I had a slightly terrified Tucker on my hands which is my least favorite kind of Tucker.  So I did lots, and lots, of walk work to try to get him to settle and slowly process what I was asking for, which was simply "listen to my aids, don't throw your body parts around."  There was a lot of flailing - I actually cut my lip when his NECK slammed into my FACE (still annoyed about that one). 

My dance space.  Your dance space.  GET IT TOGETHER HORSE.
It looked hideous, but we did make progress.  In trying to figure out how to get him to step under with his haunches without grabbing the left rein I actually started the beginnings of a half pass (at the walk). I don't know if it looked all that impressive but after much protesting and flailing and insisting that it was impossible to bend left and move left, he actually did it.  He held a left bend and moved off my right leg.  And then he held a right bend and moved off my left leg.  And then he was even in both reins.  So, that was awesome.

We moved up to trot and I thought about the things we worked on in my last lesson.  I kept reminding myself that a left rein issue is a right haunches issue so don't focus on his mouth.  I opened my right rein and kept my right leg back so he couldn't drop the right rein and curl his haunches in tracking right (which caused much flailing) and when the protests ceased, gradually brought that hand closer to his neck, and had a fabulous working trot.  I got some of the most lovely trot lengthenings he's ever given me.  And then he'd flail.  And then he'd be lovely again.

I thought I'd try holding the left counter-lead because sometimes that fixes this without me really "correcting" anything.  He knew what this trick was about and did some extremely theatrical and explosive attempts at lead changes.  But I outsmarted him!  Our ring is surrounded by about a ten meter grass strip on all sides between the footing and the fence, so I just turned left onto the grass and made him circle left every time he tried to throw out a huge lead change.  He did NOT see that coming.  And he gave up and held his left counter lead.

He held it so well, in fact, that I was able to do circles through the middle of the ring and diagonals back and forth while holding the left lead.  Seriously.  I don't think I've ever done that before.  He got himself so worked up that I just sort of channeled the energy for good not evil.  Then in the middle of one long side I did a simple change to the right lead and we had some positively incredible right lead canter work.  Really stepping under and round through his back.  Like a boss.

All in all it was one of our more difficult rides, but man some of it felt amazing (which is why I think this is a training/attitude issue, not a pain or discomfort issue).  I did contact our chiropractor and hope to have her out in the next couple of weeks, just to help him out.  But I have a feeling he just needs to put on his big boy pants.  Or I'll just have to start wearing a mouth guard. 


  1. ugh i also had a similarly difficult ride (less face smashing tho, for which i'm grateful! hope your lip heals up soon!) that prompted a call to the chiro... glad you were able to get such nice moments out of it tho! i particularly like your point about remembering that a rein issue is usually a symptom of a hind end issue and not to focus on the mouth... i must remember that!

  2. OYE! Glad your face is ok! I wonder if warming him up you just dont pick at all until he's had a few laps around at the walk, trot and canter might help? Maybe you already do that? Just so he knows when you get on, you're not immediately going to start asking for stuff, but more so, work your way up to the actual work and keep the first several minutes just enjoyable/hacking style? Or is there a pain/tack issue? He just has never seemed like a horse that would just pick a fight with you for no reason.

    1. Yup I'm with you, I start out walk trot canter on a long rein, long and low and stretchy. I don't think there's a pain or tack issue, except that he's reluctant to use his hind end so it's weak and then when he uses it, it's hard. That said, I am having the chiro out to give him the full benefit of the doubt and see if there's something out of the ordinary going on.

  3. Tucker and Bobby say left reins are for dopes. Ain't nobody got a use for left reins!

  4. Gr. I hate when horses just aren't "in" it. I wish they could just communicate rationally and be like "Yo ma dis is my issue. Oh thats what you want? No problemo" But if it were easy, it would be called football, right?


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love reading them! If you have a question, I will make sure to get back to you.