Z: Week Three Consistency and Cantering

Over the last 30 odd years I’ve owned or leased horses, I’ve boarded them. As I’ve written before I also taught lessons. This has put me around a lot of horse owners, mostly hobby owners vs. those who compete for a paycheck. There is a common theme I’ve seen that I have no interest in repeating in my own life:

Person buys young horse that needs training. Puts a bit of training on before they become scared or their real life (i.e. job, husband, pregnancy, move etc…) takes their attention away from project horse. Months drag into years and horse matures with no to little training. You can read about these horses for sale on Craigslists all the time and I’ve written about this before.

As it is, when I bought Z, two weeks later the Hell Job imploded. I spent the next 6 months trying to find a stable to keep her, Big Guy and Pandora. Once I had time to start working her consistently, Big Guy fractured his pelvis.

When I had time to put that work on her, I realized she was going to have a lot of aggression and dominance issues. I perserved and got a solid 9 months of groundwork (as well as rehabilitating Big Guy) on her before she left for four months to the trainer, RH, last spring/early summer.

When she came back in the summer, we had 30 days of 100 degree weather so that scotched the work program. We picked up two months later with Rugby Guy putting some rides on her throughout the fall. At that time I felt she had regressed and we were starting over.

Lately, she’s had some pretty consistent riding work considering all the things that have happened (husband job hunting and a new job out of state that happened last August). I’m finally seeing that pay off. This week she has seemed to settle to work. Rugby Guy is now cantering and putting a solid hour, sometimes 90 minutes on her, with a combination of roundpen and pasture (trail) riding work on her four times a week.

Best of all I just see a better attitude with Z. When I start the long drive up to the barn, she sees me and starts walking up from the pasture to meet me at her stall door. During saddling and mounting, she may turn her ears but there is no mean pinning or threats. When Rugby Guy rides her, there are still moments of protest (kick outs, a buck with the hindquarters) but it’s becoming less and less. What I see more of is ears forward and a real interest to move forward.

Getting her to move forward has been a problem from Day One. It’s something she holds in common with Red (the rear and fall over horse). It’s a stubborn behavior that worries me far more then bucking, rearing or running away. When a horse stands still they can get into some serious mischief – it puts them in a position of power where they can do whatever they like and the rider can become just a sandbag, easily thrown.

The cure to rearers and buckers is to MOVE FORWARD… it makes it harder for the horse to do these naughty behaviors and it channels their energy to forward motion which the horse is biologically programmed to do. This idea is similar to how Cesar Millan (whether you like him or not) uses the walk to key into genetically programmed, dog behavior (move forward, travel territory, seek out smells) to rehab dogs.

Yesterday, was quite noteworthy as I saw absolutely none of this refusal to move forward and what I DID see was a horse eager to move! In the pasture, SHE offered the canter for the first time, and so Rugby Guy and her did some canter work that was willing, forward and no buck.

In three short weeks we’ve seen a lot of improvement. This wouldn’t have happened except for the last 24 months of work – work – work so I’m finally able to reap some harvest and I’m very glad of it!

BTW we’ve had a strangely, mild winter, with only one small snowfall. I had never expected 60 degree, sunny days during January! Apparently this is some sort of weather front system that is happening across the lower United States. While it’s nice now I don’t think it bodes well at all for the summer – it means a very high fire danger (we’ve had almost no rain), another drought, plants blooming too early and being hit by a frost (goodbye Peach tree), as well as high summer temps, and a lot of bugs and ticks.

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