Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Testing Boundaries

It was bound to happen sometime.

I made it to the barn in the late afternoon. It was perfect fall weather--sunny and warm with a cool breeze blowing and gorgeous colors just starting to appear.

Courage met me at the gate of his field and dozed off in the cross ties. All was well until I put him out on the line for his once-weekly lunge. He walked and trotted, but when I asked him to canter, he had a mini explosion. Hm.

This pony would never be naughty
Not a huge deal--cantering on the line is still new for him and I'm not crazy about lunging. I take him back to basics that he's comfortable with--walk/halt/walk/trot stuff and he moves well enough. It's the same in the opposite direction. He isn't taking pressure well, even when he's the one applying the pressure.

Still. He looks happy enough, so I put the line away and hop on. After some initial silliness, he stands to be mounted. Then he's leaning through both shoulders and tuning me out and not moving off my leg and giraffing around looking at things that never usually bother him.

Well, that's enough of that. It's time to step it up. I start by insisting that he goes straight. I keep that contact, regardless of whether he giraffes or roots. I push him forward, and wouldn't you know, he gives me some of the nicest work I've ever gotten. We do walk/trot transitions on serpentines and I insist that he hold his line without falling in. He's still a little looky/spooky.

Arena time
I want to just call it a day in the arena, but I refuse to create that same fear I had with Izzy. I will not let myself be confined by the imaginary safety of arena walls when I'm on a perfectly nice horse.

So I open the gate from his back and ride to the field. The water tank is tipped over. He takes a step back.

No. Not on my watch. Izzy did that and I hated it every time.

I kick him forward. He can stop and have a look, but there is no backwards movement allowed. After a few seconds, I ride him past the offending tank and he keeps it together.

Hacking around the field with airplane ears a month ago
We're just walking a lap around the field. The wind is whipping through the trees on the far edge of the field now, but he's never been a spooky one. I'm caught completely off guard as he leaps forward. I catch him with my hands, but then he pogos straight upward. Shit! I hear my instructor in the back of my head, "Give him a place to go. Kick him forward. Give him something to do."

Forward march! Trot on. He's behind my leg, but it's the thought that counts... Shit! We pogo again. This time he's light in the front end. High on the list of things I hate. "KICK HIM FORWARD," shouts my remembered instructor.

Right. Forward.

He tries to leap again, but I'm ready this time. "You can do all those things you just did in the arena out here," I inform Courage. "Ain't nobody got time for this." I push him forward, hold the contact, and insist that he go absolutely straight. I don't take behind my leg for an answer and I insist on quality transitions.

And wouldn't you know, he responded. When he relaxed, I walked him back into the arena and let him stand while I patted them. Then I thought "I don't want this to be his safe place."

So I rode him back into the field. We stood in the scary place on a loose rein and I patted his neck, then slid off his side.

As we walked back to the barn, side by side, the BO says, "You did get off intentionally, didn't you?"

Yes. Yes I did.

It was still a perfect fall day. Courage was testing his boundaries with me, and it went well. He learned about me, I learned about him, and everybody came away with a positive experience.


  1. I can completely appreciate these moments. Riley has been such a gem in so many ways that when he acts cheeky I worry that maybe I was just lucky the whole time. When he shows his naughty side I have to laugh a little and stay strong... because giving in at this stage would lead to much worse problems down the road! The baby brain is much fun, isn't it?

  2. I don't think you could have handled that any better than you did. He was definitely testing you - plus, y'know, the changes in the air are probably an excuse as well. :) Great job keeping your cool, remembering all your instructor has told you making him work out of it!

  3. Yeah for learning about each other! Way to make yourself the alpha!

  4. Great job sticking it out! I wonder if some of it is the weather. Not sure what the weather has been like for you but it got quite a bit chillier here yesterday and my normally never spooky horse was spooking at all kinds of things. Some days are just scarier than others I guess. :)

  5. Way to ride through it! I never wish for anyone's horse to misbehave, but I'm glad Courage isn't a robot :) He sounds SO good he has to have a moment every once in awhile!

  6. Yah! Show him whose the boss.

  7. I can picture all those moves he was making and the tension and I totally know what you were feeling! Good for you for sending him forward, it's psychologically a really difficult thing to do but it totally works when you can force yourself to do it! (p.s. - Courage is a cutie, I have a LOT of catching up to do on your blog).

  8. As my trainer says "Honeymoon Over"

  9. Wow, way to think it through and have a nice ride. You've honestly changed as much as a rider as your horses have developed since I've been reading. Nice post!

  10. What a handy inner trainer you've got there! Wish mine would kick in as promptly and effectively as yours did - great job!

  11. Ah, gotta love it when they begin to see what they can get away with. Love the "+ Courage" in the banner :)

  12. Great job sticking to your guns and overcoming old fears. I have baggage too and and I do the same thing - remind myself I'm now on a perfectly safe horse and instead of escalation, we'll be able to work it out. And we do, just like you did :)

  13. You are right, "It's bound to happen," especially with a young horse. Could have been dozens of triggers including the weather, a little muscle soreness from some of the work he's done, or just plain "teenager..." Either way, you did a great job working through it to set some boundaries yourself. Well done.

  14. Ahahahah, fall thoroughbreds! Mine, well....check out the new leadrope I had to make him after he randomly leaped up in the air and fell on his ass while...being brushed. :/

  15. If that was as bad as Lex ever got, I'd be smiling, heh. Good for you for pushing through it!

  16. Good job! I was beginning to think that Courage was some sort of robot, and I was insanely jealous seeing as how my new horse can be a real stinker!

    New horses, young horses and smart horses will always test their boundaries. New, young, smart horses who are also OTTBs test them even more, but that's half the fun! You handled it with aplomb, and next time it will be easier.

  17. Nice job dealing with the fall sillys - combined with green baby :) A lovely fun combination!!

    I LOVE the first photo of him in this post, and it shows the browband so nicely with the you mind if I use that for my browband gallery? :)


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