Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Vice Queen. Sigh.

It warmed up nicely yesterday, so I made it out for a ride. I free-lunged Izzy in the arena because she hadn't gotten out Sunday, thinking she would enjoy a little free time. She mostly ignored and trotted around visiting other horses. Keep this in mind. It's important later on.

She was fine to tack up, but when I put her on the lunge line, she lacked impulsion and seemed more focused on what was going on outside the arena than in. Oddly, there was really nothing going on. I was the only person at the barn. We'll call this clue #2. I just wrote off the laziness to the somewhat-slick footing.

She stood completely quietly at the mounting block. I'm hoping this isn't related to clue #3, which was that she hesitated to walk off when I asked her to, which meant she was ignoring my aids.

We made it about a hundred feet before we heard a funny noise. Not scary, just odd. It sounded like a wheelbarrow or something, but there was no one around to push it. Izzy completely ignored my aids and spun around to face the noise. I figured that she won't get to do that sort of thing at shows, so I spun her back around to face the way I wanted to go. This might have been clue #4.

Izzy went straight up. Yes. In the air. As in rearing with me again. Sigh. I managed not to pull on her face, but I had missed all four clues leading up to this, so I didn't have time to think and pull her in a circle while sending her forward. Instead, as soon as her front feet hit the ground, I leaped off. I ignored my shaking legs as she reared again and pranced in a circle. I marched her to the fence, grabbed my lunge line and a whip, and IMMEDIATELY, I sent her forward. Fast.

She galloped for a good five minutes one way, then the other. Rearing, especially in this instance, is the ultimate refusal to go forward. It wasn't a reaction to pain, like it was last time. It was her alpha mare side saying, "I will do this and you won't stop me." I realize that I've been lenient with her lately, and not as dominant on the ground as a horse of her makeup requires. After lunging, I got back on her.

Let me clarify something here for any new readers: Izzy's vice is her refusal to go forward. Rearing is an exaggeration of that vice. I'll probably never entirely get the rearing out of her completely, but I can see the warning signs and more than likely prevent her from doing it on all but the rarest occasions. If you have a horse that rears, please, please, please seek professional help. It is an extremely dangerous issue, especially if it is allowed to fester. Oh, and don't ride alone. ;-)

So. I got back on Izzy with one thing in mind: she needs to go forward off my aids. I let her get behind my leg and I put up with her antics instead of applying the proper discipline. At this point, she knew I was PISSED. I had recovered my self possession to the point that I was steady again. I wish someone was there, just in case, but this was an important point to make with Izzy, and I needed to make it now.

She did stand nicely for mounting again, and I rode her forward from there. As in almost rushing forward. Forward from the seat, leg, and whip. We didn't walk, because walk isn't our strongest gait right now and she would have a lot harder time going from a faster gait to rearing than from the walk. I rode for probably 20-30 minutes, doing trot/canter transitions each way. I didn't let her use the footing as an excuse. Anytime she even thought about looking around, I changed the subject. If we were going forward and she looked around, I'd make her go sideways (and forward).

By the time we were done, she was doing quite well. I took her tack off, since it had been a hard day for her, and turned her loose in the arena. She was nice and quiet and followed me around. When I led her back to the hitching post, she just ran into me. Not hard, but she was challenging my status again by getting in my space. Obviously, after her performance under saddle, I couldn't let this happen. I whipped out a rope halter, and we did about five minutes of ground work to enforce the "go when I go, stop when I stop, go backwards when I walk in to you" mentality.

Then I put her away.

This morning, I rode again. It was a short ride, since I bet her rear end is sore from rearing and I don't want to aggravate it and cause a pain issue. Still, we worked on the same thing. Ironically, when I asked for our first canter departure of the day, she bucked. Grrr. This mare has not bucked under saddle before.

If it's not one thing, it's another.


  1. Sounds like you handled this really well. Way to keep your composure! Granite used to rear when he got frustrated or felt trapped as a yearling (until I sent him to wonder-trainer), so lets hope he doesn't show this tenancy under saddle!

  2. Naughty mare! Good for you for getting back on and making her behave. Salem has only reared on me once, and it was really only a half-rear with a spin. Needless to say, I was not amused! Rearing is my least favorite horsey evasion technique -- give me a bucker any day, but I do NOT like rearing.

  3. Sorry for your ordeal! I am terrified of rearers, give me a bucking bronc and I'll probably ride a good part of it out, but don't give me rearing!!! Even if it is quite easy to stay on, I am so scared that the horse is going to fall backwards on me and I am not one to dismount from a rear! My Dandy reared for one day of her life, I rode out most of it and totally lost my composure when she reared upright and I felt like she lost her balance for half a second... my heart stopped, I got weak, but Stayed on and whooped her butt as soon as she hit the ground. She has given some signs of wanting to rear again after that, but I was quick to crank her head sideways and move her formard to disengage her hind. She reared about 15 times in a day, then she was over it... silly mare!!! Needless to say, I was completely stumped, she had never reared before or even offered to. For that split second, I thought she was going to fall on me and the worst part is, I would've fallen directly on the asphalt road, not good! Needless to say taht I was pretty nervous for the few times that I rode after that, but I was determined to stop this behavior before it got out of hand.

    Don't give up and soon, your mare will understand that YOU are the lead mare and will stop bothering you about it, young mares tend to always challenge anything when they feel they might have the upper hand. Don't quit and keep her in her place... You will probably be able to tone it down when she gets a bit older and more mature.

  4. Scary stuff. Do be careful. I've known people who have been seriously hurt with rearing horses.

    The best technique I ever used with a rearer was to drop my hand low on one side, lean forward and kick with the inside leg as the horse starts to go up. (You have to catch it before it gets high, of course...not always that easy.) Spin the horse in a circle and then drive forward. I did manage to cure one bad rearer that way years ago, but to tell you the truth, I'm not sure I would want to ride a horse that chose rearing as an option. When Tucker has threatened, I do the circle thingie right away...but I did see him go up pretty high with my trainer once. (That was before the ulcer medication.)


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