Monday, November 24, 2014

Ups and Downs

The past week has been bitterly cold and the freezing temperatures have created cement-like conditions in the outdoor section of the indoor/outdoor arena. Being limited to half of our usual riding space and plus sharing the arena with 1-2 other riders, we were much too limited on space to work comfortably and safely on things that require more room to maneuver, e.g.; flying lead changes. Not to be daunted, I decided to tackle another goal I had in mind. About a month ago, I had hopped on Quest bareback and just sat there for a few moments before getting off. While she did not do a single thing wrong the entire time, her confusion was obvious. Not knowing her history with bareback, I decided the only fair thing to do was to transition to her it slowly using a bareback pad first. My friend T was awesome enough to bring her pad to the barn for me last week for us to try out.

I introduced the bareback pad to Quest, letting her sniff and explore. Once her curiosity was satisfied, I tossed it on her back and took it off several times with zero reaction from her- I wasn’t surprised but hey, you never know. When it came time to girth up though, I realized that I had NO idea how to do up the straps. I’ve used bareback pads before and they have always been pretty straightforward nylon buckles. T’s pad had one extremely long nylon girth strap with D-rings; there was no cinch, nothing. After repeatedly trying to decipher how the straps worked and even enlisting the help of a western-savvy rider who was a regular bareback pad user to no avail, I resorted to use A’s pad instead that used a normal cinch and latigo set-up.

All cinched up, we walked into the indoor where I tugged, yanked, pulled at the pad. No response. I moved over to the mounting block and leaned over with my weight, wiggling around. Nothing. I hopped on. There was an ear flick and nothing. Cued her to walk forward, and off we went cruising along like old bareback pros. Once we both got comfortable, we had some fun with a set of ground poles in the arena that we walked and even trotted over. I was super happy to note Quest’s ears were pricked forward and up, she’s taking to working poles well so far. We ended the ride with a calm Quest and a happy me- will definitely add bareback sessions to our winter rides. Now to go shopping for a pad!

On Saturday after our usual lunge warmup, Quest and I headed out for a handwalk on the trail while A had a riding lesson. It was the first time that I had taken her out on just a lead since her meltdown about a month ago and also our first time doing it solo. We couldn’t go too far due to time constraints but were able to get quite a distance away from the barn to see tremendous improvement with zero calling out and minimal fuss. Quest got worried when she heard some roofing workers banging and nailing away on a house in the adjacent neighborhood. We stood there for a bit until she figured out nothing was about to eat her. After we got back to the barn, we tacked up and met A and J for the trail ride. We decided to do a trail around a lake that I had never been on before but was familiar to our trail escorts.

Wind everywhere
 Quest and I started off in the back at first then moved into the middle behind J when we started to trot a couple stretches since Smokey tends to be a little meh at first. Quest was ratable and responsive and walked nicely when asked. The path to get to the lake crosses a parking lot and Quest walked briskly and seemed quite eager to lead so J let us take the lead and we did a bit of trotting along the lake. We paused for a moment to wait for A who was doing some walk work with Smokey. While waiting, I could feel Quest telling me she was ready to GO. A caught up, she gave the okay for us to all canter and we headed out. I'm not sure exactly what happened next but one moment A was in the saddle, the next she was on the ground. She wasn't hurt fortunately but we all dismounted to wait.

When I got off, Quest did NOT want to stand still at all. She wanted to move but of course we weren't going to do that. She started to get into my space to try and move forward. When I reprimanded her and made her back up out of my space, she got more worked up. When we finally mounted, Quest's energy was still up and keeping her at a walk was a challenge. I did not want to keep hauling on her mouth so I did half-halts and sat deep. She tried to jog off several times so I put her into tight circles and only let her straighten out when she settled into a ratable walk. Back at the barn, I took tack off of my lathered mare (she did have nice sweat patterns though) and got out the rope halter and lunge line to review groundwork until Quest remembered that staying out of my space REALLY MEANT staying out of my space and I had a much calmer and happier mareface at the end.

While things ended on a positive note, Quest's pushy attitude when waiting on the trail was definitely not permissible. Granted her bundle of nerves could have been due to fact that it was her first time on that particular trail, being right by the highway with all the traffic, seeing the lake for the first time, etc...I don't think it's ever a good reason to allow for bad manners. On the bright side, I don't think I have to worry about Quest being lazy on the trail, we do need to work on getting her energy down and relaxing more. The tight circles worked really well while I was in saddle but when I'm out of the saddle, I was thinking about unclipping the reins and lunging her if there is enough room on the trail (I have a halter-bridle so there is a ring to clip to so it won't be on her mouth/bit). Plausible? Any suggestions for things I can do with her on the trail?


  1. sounds like a lot of productive work despite some crummy weather and hiccups on the trail. isabel gets really really pushy when she's wound up too - it's pretty annoying. it's gotten better with more miles tho :)

    1. I'm hoping more mileage is part of it!

  2. I think you did a great job working her through her pushiness, and I love that you reviewed groundwork with her afterwards to establish boundaries again!

    Definitely plausible to clip one of the reins to the halter-bridle ring for ground work on the trail. I have 9' reins and I've used them in this fashion to send Lily in front of me over obstacles on the trail. They are long enough to tail off of if necessary too. It should work for brief lunging if necessary, but if you think you may need to do longer sessions, you could try either making your own longer rope reins, purchasing 10' or 12' reins, or having something like a Parelli-type 12'-long lead rope clipped to the halter and tied around her neck with something like a bowline knot (easy to untie and won't tighten if pulled). In this fashion, if you need to get off to lunge her you have a longer rope available that will make it easier to get her moving safely out of your space.

    Another thing I've done with pushy creatures in hand on the trail that want to speed up past my shoulder or barge into my space are these:
    1. Make them back up away from home every time they try to get past my shoulder. Backing up will be for several steps. I make the horse wait, standing still, until the horse seems to relax a bit, then continue walking towards home. Repeat if horse tries to go past my shoulder again.
    2. If the horse moves past my shoulder, I turn the horse and make them back up towards home for several steps. Repeat in terms of making the horse wait, standing still, then continue walking forward.

    The first option will get some individuals more worked up but it can be very effective for others. If Quest were of the type that gets more worked up with #1, #2 should work well.

    Just more tools for your toolbox! :)

    1. My current reins are pretty long so they could do decently for a brief lunge. I might get some longer reins just in case though!

      I'll definitely give the second option a try next time, thank you for the suggestion :)