Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You get what you expect - every time!

Ride #9 last night just made me laugh. The VLC, being only three and humongous, is still a bit downhill. It's a constant challenge to keep my heels down and my shoulders back at the trot because the combination of a downhill build and a strong trot tends to throw you forward. A few times last night, he unexpectedly hit the brakes from the trot, and my weight sailed forward most ungracefully. I quickly realized that he stops if I lean forward at all.

This is my karmic retribution for leaning forward my whole life. A greenie who stops if I lean forward. THAT will teach me, won't it? This is just not something that happens with Thoroughbreds, LOL. Darn Quarter Horses...

I figured it out and started to sit back, close my legs on him and anticipate what he was going to do. The good news is that he gives up easily - he just expects me to be awake up there or he might just drift to a stop when he gets tired. I am asking for longer trots now, and I am not sure he is that thrilled about the prospect of actually breaking a sweat! Twice he did his old trick from the first and second rides of going into reverse. I half-heartedly swished the ends of the reins around his butt but admit I chickened out of doing what I probably should have done and smacking him a good one. He quit and went forward and got rewarded for going forward.

We also had some residual issues from the goat episode. There is a different goat chained next to the arena, which he normally ignores, but when it got caught with its chain around a metal box, he spooked again. It wasn't a big spook and we continued on. Of course I wonder if I spooked him because I heard the noise and it startled me. Time for the ipod and/or ear plugs for me - I am quite sure I am spookier than the horse!

Then, my friend with the CSS (Cute Spotted Stallion) came in to talk and noted that she was surprised that the other night when I rode the CSS, I rode right past the goat without any problems. She admitted she had been avoiding the goat and that she'd almost warned me but then thought better of it. I wasn't surprised that he went right past - I didn't know he had any issues with the goat, you see, so I wasn't anticipating! With the VLC, I know we have a goat issue and I was anticipating. You get what you expect to get. Damn it.

I have many stories like this. I remember riding a horse for a trainer one day, at her direction, while she was gone. She returned and asked how the horse had gone. I said she was great, I really liked her, and she had a nice lead change on her. The trainer's mouth fell open.

"You did flying changes? And she didn't buck???"

No, she didn't buck. Not once. I wasn't expecting a buck, you see. I just rode confidently forward and she nailed her changes, because my information was that she was an experienced horse owned by a novice rider and that's how I rode her.

I think this is one of the HARDEST things about overcoming fear - overcoming the anticipation! You know what has spooked your horse in the past, or what has triggered a misbehavior, so it's freakin' impossible to ride confidently and not anticipate the worst. At the same time, you know that YOUR fear is scaring the horse! As it was explained to me many years ago, the horse cannot conceive of the idea that HE is what is scary. Therefore if you are on his back and scared, he assumes you have caught wind of a predator he hasn't noticed yet. That's why when you get on a horse and are scared, the horse does everything you feared he'd do! You are freaking him out with your fear. It's a vicious cycle and hard to turn off.

Is this something that is a problem for you? How are you dealing with it? I have historically used the strategy of telling myself that I'm not on a greenie, I'm on a 20 year old schoolie who needs to be sorted out because the kids have spoiled him. For some reason, bucking/spooking/bolting is not scary if you think you are on an old coot who is f'ing with you, as opposed to an actual green horse...even though they're the same behaviors! At least that's how it works in my head.

Forget training the do we train/psych out ourselves?

P.S. I sheepishly admit that CnJ was right...I was leaning to the left around my corners, damn it! I put more weight in my outside stirrup and he stopped dropping his shoulder so far. *sigh* I do need someone to come out here and pick on my position but I need to find an English saddle that fits him first as I know I ride ridiculously in the purple colt breaking saddle. Anybody out there got a cheap, beat-up wide tree hunt or dressage schooling saddle they'd like to sell me? If it fit your warmblood, it'll probably fit the AQHA moose here.


Josie said...

1) What's worse than anticipating spooky behavior because of things your horse has reacted to before? Anticipating spooky behavior based on things YOUR FORMER HORSE used to react to! Siiigh.

2) Try the Siegfried on the VLC too. I don't want to sell it but it's not being used.

ChiliChihuahua said...

Well I'm glad I'm not the only one who anticipates spooking! I'm still going to try the iPod thing as soon as I can ride him again. I think my biggest fear is falling off & having him run away and leave me there. As soon as I can convince myself that falling off really isn't that big of a deal, I might start relaxing. Easier said than done though. I think I need to get myself a mellow QH!!!

Sagebrusheq said...

Pasted in from the tail end yesterdays blog but a propos today:

Speaking of subliminal communication, I'm half convinced that it helps to laugh out loud at a horse who is spooking. Just hold him straight and laugh. Its likely a result of the effect that it has on your own composure rather than any embarrassment on the horses part for having acted foolishly, but I think it works sometimes.


mugwump said...

The first horse I trained for reined cowhorse events was very hot and aggressive. A good fence run is done on a loose rein, with the rider balanced in the outside corner of her seat. Your weight is lightly in your outside stirrup so you can snap through your turns, shift your weight and support your horse with your cow side leg.
This mare went after cattle like a coyote on a cat.
Considering your average speed on your first turn is in the 30 to 35 mph range all I wanted to do is hang on my reins and stay curled in a fetal position. Ahem.
I got over it by going out to an 11 mile trail of varying terrain and letting her go. I kept my hand forward, but steered with my legs and hand, and tried to moderate her speed with my seat.
The trail was a safe one, not open to bikes, so it wasn't as crazy as it sounds.
We did the 11 miles in a little under 50 minutes.
I learned that she was extremely manageable, even at high speed. Something I knew in my heart, but not my head. And I could trust her.
I guess what I'm getting at is that I took what I was afraid of and changed the specific situation. (Going down the fence) I gave myself plenty of time and room to address my fears. Instead of locking myself in position I had to adjust my seat to the ride. No more fetal position!
When you're an older rider I don't necessarily think we're more scared, we just know what can happen.

Katie said...

There used to be a horse on my yard that would spook at it's own shadow with absolutely everyone. They all knew how spooky he was, so would get on prepared for the worst, and that's exactly what they got. But his owner, who wasn't the most confident person, just made a big joke of it whenever she rode. If he did spook she would just call him silly and tell him to move on in a really OTT sing-songy voice and his ears would immediately flick back to listen to her and he'd go straight on as before.
A few times when she took him to a new place for a competition she'd go around the arena singing "come on boy, let's go over here, oh isn't that a big scary judge's box... etc." very loudly throughout her warm-up (getting giggled at by everyone watching), and then he'd be absolutely perfect for the actual test. Making it into a joke for him actually made her more relaxed, and so he didn't spook nearly as much.

Lisa said...

I might have to try the Ipod thing, too...

Ever since our spook/bolt/buck like a bronc incident the other week, filly has been much less relaxed on the whole. Probably because while I'm not outwardly nervous, it's definitely in the back of my mind that she's now balanced enough to perform her usual pasture aerobatics under saddle. I'm sure I'm riding a hair differently.

ellen said...

I'm glad you got over the shoulder thing -- as I find horses ALSO get what they expect -- if one gets off balance at a certain point or gets them in the mouth in a certain situation, they start anticipating that and add to the problem -- VLC thinks, hmmm Mom is leaning in, I better keep up with her because if I drop her I'm dead, better get that shoulder down...

I have a lesson horse who has been doing beginners for YEARS and has some predictable beginner horse dodges like diving into a corner. A lot of my riders worry about what's coming and quit riding and let it happen, rather than riding MORE to prevent it, so I always tell them to "ride past the problem" -- they fixate on the spot that tempts the mare, and then she happily obliges them. Same thing with spooking. Maj. Anders Lindgren has the best ever quote about spooking -- he advises the rider not to involve yourself with the horse's problem.

Someone I know systematically taught her gelding to be terrified of hoses because she was afraid he was going to spook when she rode past one (he did once) -- so she convinced him to do it!

Lisa said...

>>1) What's worse than anticipating spooky behavior because of things your horse has reacted to before? Anticipating spooky behavior based on things YOUR FORMER HORSE used to react to! Siiigh.<<

I am so guilty of this. My other horse has so many spooking idiosyncrasies. I really have to be conscious that I don't project them on to every other horse I ride.

Lali said...

I'm riding a four year old Dutch warmblood gelding a lot recently. The field that his owner and I ride in has tractors and farm equipment next to it. DWG spooks on that side every time and will veer to the inside or jump sideways if one of the kittens is over there too.

I've gotten to where I anticipate and use lots of inside leg.

I've also noticed that after my riding ban was lifted (knee injury kept me grounded for a few weeks) I feel like a sack of rice flopping around in the saddle. I may be putting most of my weight in the inside stirrup during turns and causing him to veer inside. I'll have to check that when I go out to ride today!

Sagebrusheq said...

My first real instructor was of that school, Ellen. She was not a proponent, in general, of letting him sniff, investigate etc. Look where you want to go hold him straight and ride forward. It's OK for him to be scared but he still has to do his job. Granting exceptions, I think it's a good way to handle it. Same thing with pooping. If you let your horse stop to poop you'll end up with the poopiest horse around.


Sagebrusheq said...


At least a sack of rice is consistent. Better that than a sack of puppies.

Lali said...

sage -

The lady I ride with is the same way. Its okay to be scared of something - but the horse HAS to continue doing his job. I'm not to turn him and let him stare for 30 minutes and be a jittery, spooky little twerp! Hold him as best I can, and push him forward and basically say, "Hey, I know you don't like it, but I'm in charge and I'm not scared so we're gonna keep going!"

As for past experiences making me spook - I can't help but get nervous riding DWG on a windy day! The second or third time I got on him he had a wild hair and I didn't turn him fast enough. I tensed, lost my balance and came off. DWG had this look of, "Hey - what are you doing down there?"

deanna may said...

Sagebrush -

I agree that unless the horse is really super green, they should continue to do their job, even if they're a little scared.

My gelding is seven this year, and has been spooking on and off at a particular corner of the arena for the last year. At this point, I am not going to let him stop and look at it EVERY SINGLE DAY. He has ridden past it before without spooking. He KNOWS his job.

I've had him since he was a gangly youngster, and I know him well enough to recognize that he's just doing it to either A) be an asshat, or B) get out of whatever else we're doing (usually schooling dressage is when he randomly decides he's "scared").

I took a few lessons from a coach whom I didn't like (because I was desperate for some instruction after two years on my own) and she kept insisting that I pat him and praise him while he spooked at it. This was completely bogus advice, in my opinion. Why PRAISE him for doing something annoying that he KNOWS BETTER than to do?

Maybe if he were still really green, I'd let him look at it, I'd pat him and tell him he's a good boy. But now, after a year and half of riding past this one corner, and him being a non-green, usually sensible gelding who should know his job by now, I am just going to ride past it with a lot of leg and tell him to get the heck back to work. Seriously!

bigpainthorse said...

Anticipating spooking is actually a good skill to have. Spooking yourself and winding up is what causes the problem.

I had a great instructor who praticed the "distract and ignore" technique. She rode a pretty hot horse who spooked at a very specific types of things. On the trail, she kept an eye out for those things, and as they approached them, she would gently jiggle the rein that was away from the "problem" to divide his attention from the spooky thing and remind him he was working. Then she'd give him a little extra leg to let him know she had the situation under control and he should move forward confidently.

The key here, of course, is that she didn't get wound up over the liklihood of his spooking, it wasn't a big deal to her. BPH's spook is of the stop/stare/swing butt away/back up variety and doesn't have a lot of speed to it, but I know part of me still tenses up when she approaches those evil horse-eating blue recycle bins!

BritnieAnn said...

I usually go with the school of riding past and not letting them stare and spook forever as well. Especially after this incedent.

My QH mare is SO laid back, the ride with spurs or your going to be crawling when you get out of bed the next morning, kind, lol.
Anyway she spooked at something this winter, (never done this before!! she never spooks for more then a second) but we never did find what it was. There was nothing there!!

Anyway, I let her look, backed her up from it, let her look, get a little closer etc, forEVER. No help. Finally just rode up there to it and past and back again and after we did that a few times she was just fine, lol.

I LOVE the idea of laughing, smiling, talking sing songy about stuff, helps me a lot! Laughing as a horse spooks is much better then peeing your pants, lol.

Also, I found if I get a little peeved at the horse I suddenly grow brass ones. If I think they're acting dumb I get annoyed and it makes me more bold in making them behave. :shrug: My husband tells me I'm goofy 50 times a day.

Shana said...

I am so guilty of this, and its seriously causing me distress. I'm mad at myself because I can't talk myself out of panic. Yesterday my hands were actually trembling while putting the bridle on. That's a first!

And lo and behold, while riding with my heart nearly leaping out of my chest, she spooked at something I figured she'd spook at, but instead of her nice little jump and stare routine, she took off at a canter (and I DON'T canter yet!) and by the time I stopped her, what felt like an eternity later but was really like 4-5 strides, I threw myself off and had to fight back tears.

I did get back on, forced myself up, and rode for two more uneventful minutes.

What is driving me nuts is I'm confident until I'm with her. And after I have a chance to process a spook or other minor disaster, I feel ok about it. Yesterday I never once lost my balance, despite the sudden w-c transition. I leaned back and really sunk my weight down, which she's well trained enough to know to stop. I had zero bit contact but still got her to a stop without having to think about it. My feet slipped a bit forward in the stirups, but not even so far as to get the iron stuck in my heel. Really, it was a much better spook than I've ever ridden, yet I was so scared I had to get off.

Any other anxiety/fear/nerves issue I can talk myself out of. Or at least to a manageable level. I can't do it with her. And it seems to be getting worse.

I am going to have a girl at the barn ride her so I can see she isn't a freak. I think it will help immensely for me to see someone else ride her with little trouble. I may also try the iPod. On the one hand, I like to hear whats happening around me, but you know, that's just adding to the anticipation - oh the donkey is braying again, oh a truck is pulling in, the horses back at the barn are neighing, the neighbor is shooting his gun. If I can't hear them, I guess I can't worry about them. And its not like I can really see her spook coming, which is why its scary, it just happens!

Sagebrusheq said...

Wind is definitely the worst. I'd rather ride at night in sleet and snow. I have a pet theory that, besides things blowing around, it's related to their sense of smell being compromised, putting them on red alert. Who knows, but it's certainly a good gauge for rating your horses confidence in you.


Karen V said...

Sigh... Having been bucked off and hurt a month ago by a supposedly dead broke deadhead, my confidence is shattered.

I'll get on my two horses that I've had forever because I know what to expect.

I guess that's the thing with me. I don't know what to expect.

Honey, OTTB - I've ridden her a couple times, at a walk in my huge round pen. She doesn't have much flexation, and short steps it like she hurts or is very uncomfortable. She is also horribly mothered up to the other TB mare. Bottom line...I'm a BIG CHICKEN! Besides, her 16 hands is a big higher than the 14 hand bronc, and I've seen her buck while she's playing. Now THAT would be a launching the likes of the space shuttle!

I know...I know.. I ought to send her out for 30 days. So she sits and gets fatter....

BritnieAnn said...

sagebrusheq, oooooooo I HATE WIND! Totally agree. I won't ride if its real windy haha, I know what a wussy

BritnieAnn said...

oh shana I feel so bad for you! It sounds like you are a great rider but you have some mental block thats saying your not! Do you work with an instructor?? If not GET ONE, they help a lot, just having someone there saying its not that bad, or telling you what to do, or do better, etc, good luck girl!

bigpainthorse said...

Shana, absolutely do what Britnieann suggested--having a good trainer who understands you and your horse can help so much!!!

After my wreck, I was scared sh**less by my horse just moving forward and I was a mess of a rider--clung to the saddlehorn, clinched with my legs ... I was awful (and the wreck wasn't even on MY horse!). But I found a great instructor who just seemed to know how to work with me. On maybe our second or third lesson, she said "so, how do you feel about cantering?"

I busted out laughing, because I was still having trouble even being ON my horse. But my trainer let me know that she felt I was capable of doing anything, including cantering, the instant I decided I wanted to. She never pushed me, but she really inspired me to cowgirl up and get back my confidence in the saddle.

One tip, though: make sure you get a trainer who fits you, and don't be afraid to switch if that person isn't right. (The very nice trainer who kept telling me to embrace and acknowledge my fear ... well, she was a sweetheart, but that was really NOT the approach that I needed at the time.)

Sagebrusheq said...


Not wussy at all. What's the point of getting on if you know you're probably not going to get anything accomplished. I don't avoid it because sometimes you have to ride and it's something else you have to deal with but if it's just for fun I'll hang it up more often than not.


CutNJump said...

I lean too and drop my right shoulder. All the Freaking time!

Yoga has helped me immensely to strengthen my back muscles and put everything 'back in place' where it belongs- helping to overcome my physical shortcomings. When I get on I do stretches for me and my horse as a warm up without my stirrups. Not on the greeny, on the older mare of course.

Johnie Rotten always watches the horse, their movement and way of going. If it is something we are doing- dropping the shoulder- they will in turn drop their shoulder and fall into the turn. They are an extension of us and they move as we do. Our movements and such, are amplified by their sheer size.

I drop my right shoulder, which at the trot causes me to twist when posting. Dropping your shoulder in the turn causes them to fall into the circle. Dropping your shoulder when asking for the upward transition to the canter/lope, can land you on the wrong lead.

Merely sitting up straight and bringing your shoulder back, stops both of these. How do I know this? I hear it all the time when my riding is lacking and the horse is suffering because of me.

Look up, look ahead to where you are going and you will start learning to ride by feel.

ellen said...

The next step beyond expecting the horse to do his job through a spook is "anticipating" the spook in the positive way and giving the horse an EXTRA job to do during the scary side -- yes, we'll keep trotting but we'll also do a little shoulder in, we'll lengthen or shorten stride, we'll do SOMETHING.

I ride smart little Morgans, and some of them develop the spook-as-evasion tactic -- 20 meter circles, not interesting, 40 yard dash, interesting....even better if it talks you out of YOUR plan the more I can switch things up and keep the active little mind busy along with the energizer bunny bodies we have a lot less to spook about.

barngal said...

The other day was the day I planned the first canter for my BCG. I also ride forward and he will also stop if I get too far forward. I have been working on it and both of us are getting better. BCG tends to need a lot more leg than I'm used to so I have a bit of help with a small bat.

Mugwump said "When you're an older rider I don't necessarily think we're more scared, we just know what can happen."

As many know when you pop a horse on the butt a nice buck can result but as of this ride it never had. But in lunging I have seen what kind of buck CAN happen so I knew it was possible. So I was sort of anticipating the known/unknown. I thought I was asking for a canter but all I got was a fast trot nothing more. A few tries and realized I needed to quit thinking what can/will happen get on with the canter. I sat up, asked for the canter, realized the crop was needed and we got a canter. We went 1.5 times around the arena and then I asked him to walk. We both had a good day.

Sagebrusheq said...

I have Morgans too Ellen. And often wonder what universe all the 'perfect kid's horse' claims come from. Shoulder in: maybe not a cure all but great for so many ailments. It's the first thing I'll try with a jigger.


gillian said...

I have the exact same problem, with the leaning forward and the stopping. This little arab mare I ride does that, mostly at the canter. Lean your center of gravity just a tiny bit past the vertical and she stiffens her shoulder, plonks her front hooves into the ground (which is how she likes to do sudden stops, her hind end seems to be involved only insofar as it keeps her ass off the ground) and suddenly she's no longer moving. I'm still moving and get pitched even further forward. Then my otherwise OMG-is-that-your-leg?!?!? sensitive type arab is suddenly very hard sided until she reluctantly gets moving. Our best canters tend to be in this western saddle, which is too big for her, and me riding way behind the vertical like an idiot. I'm still not sure whether I should crop her for this behavior or just hope it goes away and teaches me to ride better.

CutNJump said...

And the spooking thing, yes, laughing it off, sing-song voices ignoring it, all good.

We don't let them stand & stare, we let them look and move on. The longer they stare and focus on something the bigger it becomes in their mind and the better the chance they will explode.

My pony stallion feeds off me and my mood/reaction to things. If I am nervous about anything- showing jitters- he is an asshole beyond all means, to handle. If I put a lot into it, he gives me more than asked for. If I go in half assed he is a dog on the end of the lead, won't put out any effort and lacks any and all 'presence'. If it doesn't bother me, then to him it is no big deal.

What you expect from them, they will give you. You were expecting a spook, so here it is... You were expecting me to act up, so here ya go.

If you focus on your job and what you expect from him, he will look at things and go on his way-as expected.

Sing to him, no matter the song or the tune, it makes you breathe, accustoms him to the sound of your voice from on his back and changes the mindset a bit for YOU.

We had a greeny that I would sing to, Sarah McGlaughlin's (sp) song Trainwreck, was all that would come to mind on his back. The lyrics may not have been the best choice, but hey it was all I could think of.

"I'm a trainwreck,
waiting to happen,
waiting for someone to come
pick me up off the tracks..."

Yep real confidence building song on a young horse there.

ellen said...

I find my Morgans to be good at "faux collection" and a lot of their issues stem from having more momentum and enthusiasm than actual balance, so anything involving suppling and strengthening, and isolating specific legs rather than substituting "forward" for balance, helps them come back to themselves.

There are few things harder to retrain than a ruined Morgan, as they are so sensitive and so many people misinterpret or are afraid of the "forward" and try to do things to restrain them that drive them crazy -- too much bit, claustrophobic martingales, etc... Fear tends to be expressed as tension and more forward, and the cylce just escalates.

ellen said...

I find the Grateful Dead song, Dire Wolf, with its refrain "Don't murder me Pleeeeeeeeze don't murder me" running through my head when times get tense....

SammieRockes said...

Oh, I know what you mean, I ahve a great trail horse but I know I spook him when it comes to two things:

Motorcycles, he spooked once as three went by, not a bad spook, but now when I hear them I anticipate the spook

The Arena, he ahtes it, I know he hates, I think about him acting up in there for he does act up in it.

Its all in my head, but I cant help it.

Redsmom said...

Someone on a much earlier thread mentioned that their horse will spook and then get right back to work as if hoping you didn't notice the spook. that's how mine is most of the time. The other day, though, we encoutered a discarded tent/canvas pavillion thing out in a far field. Both boys had to stop, poop and evaluate from 50 yards away. They were extremely wary, but finally went by. Next trip they hardly noticed it. Being old schoolies, I think sometimes they are being cautious and protective of us in some ways rather than just being stoopid.

I found this site by accident:

I googled my username and found the site. The "RedsMom" on the site is not me, but the site is great.

Shana said...


I do have a riding lesson each week. Those usually go very well. I think I derive a lot of confidence from having a knowledgeable person there to yell out what to do in the event "something" happens.

I feel like I have some natural skill as a rider, despite very little structured experience - i.e. I've done a lot of rented trail rides and some mediocre riding lessons, but basically no serious riding lessons that focused on form and aids and actually doing something interesting. In many ways I think its safe to say I've only been really truely riding a horse for four months. Whatever I was doing before was pretty mindless follow the leader stuff. And I was much more confident then too :) So, considering I've only been riding and learning for 4 months now, I seem to do the right thing in a pinch, even though I don't consciously know what the right thing is. I'm confident right now, at work, far away from my horse.

Oh, and I sing "I'm a little Teapot" when riding. I just have to be careful not to tip and pour myself out of the saddle =P

Redsmom said...

Oh, and Cathy, so glad its going well with the VLC! Your story reminds me of when I rode a friend's cutting horse and he actually stopped immediately when I said "whoa" -- surprised the heck out of me and I almost sailed over his neck. After I pushed myself back up I apologized to the little feller as he had done exactly what I asked. LOL.

4Horses&Holding said...

I'm a "pointer-outer of the spooky object" rider.

I habitually keep an eye out, and whenever I see something potentially scary, I just start chattering away about it.
"oh, look - there are five giant dogs behind that fence! They are going to jump up and bark at you as soon as you walk past. Oh, look! There is a giant horse-eating monster in that culvert. Oh, look! There is ...." you get the picture.

It works for me, and I really haven't ridden real "spooking" horse in a long, long time - I occasionally get body flinches and lock ups, but I haven't had a bolt or shy in many, many years.


As far as expectations leading to a horse's behavior. (story from about 12 years ago) I was riding my green Arabian (about our 4th ride) around our property. I decided to cut back through the woods and so we picked our way carefully through the woods & over downed trees. As we approached closer to the house & pasture, he started getting very, very nervous. I assumed that he was just getting excited because of getting closer his friends, but not being able to see them yet.
So, I handled it like that kind of situation. I kept him focused on me, talked to him, etc. etc. We made it out of the woods, he was still acting a little "hot". I rode up to the house, dismounted and noticed that he had about 6 groundbees on his back legs. Apparently, when crossed one of the downed trees, he stepped in or near the hive. YIKES! The reason he was 'hyping' up is because he was being STUNG. If I had known that, I probably would have been really freaked out and we very easily could have had a huge wreck, while careening out of the woods.

Expectations: I wrote a bit about my thoughts on it on one of my training logs on the FHotD forum. The link is That links to the first mention and the next post continues my thought.

deanna may said...


Totally agree with you about the yoga! I have a weak back and messed up hips, and yoga just straightens everything out. It builds core muscle and increases flexibility, all important things for riding!

I tend to collapse my left rib cage, which results in dropped shoulders, crooked shoulders, and all kinds of front-end issues. Blah!

Josie said...

I usually sing "Dona Dona" which is about slaughter. The subject is a calf but the horses seem to get the message, LOL.

Basically it's a pretty song, I know all the words, and I can hit most of the notes.

fssunnysd said...

Prior planning can be helpful -- someone above mentioned knowing what to expect and planning to deal with a response, rather than reacting in the moment. I'm trying preventive medicine with project horse pinto-boy. The neighbor has a horse-eating mailbox. I kid you not, they put an extra mailbox on a very tall post about 10 feet in the air, chained it closed, and put a sign on it reading "bills." Horses seem to think this mailbox contains copious quantities of cougars or other horse-shredding critters. (Doesn't help they also have a kennel full of howling hunting dogs, and a garage that has very distorting reflective windows.)

So with advance knowledge that this particular location eats the unsuspecting, PB and I have been strolling down the road (on lead) and stopping to admire the mailbox. "Nice mailbox -- touch it" click, treat, proceed onwards. He's now eagerly heading down the road toward the scary mailbox.... which was never more than mildly worrisome for him.

Hopefully, when we encounter the same location undersaddle, it won't be as stressful for either of us!

ariemay said...

Bucker Bucking Bucks
My new(ish) 8-year-old “ranch broke” QH gelding bucked me off once in a trial saddle - pinched him I thought, but ever since I was very nervous but going to get a trainer & some lessons ... blah blah blah.

So then I break my ankle and decide to hire a young (read: made of guts & rubber) girl to just ride him & work with him while I'm laid up for 8+ weeks. I tell her about my buck but she seemed confident -- this guy on the ground is easy (except for a bit head shy).

Long story short - her first ride he bucks her off after 15 mins. of lunging and 10 or 15 mins. of light, walk trot riding. He was not crazy bucking but calculating if you know what I mean. He did a two step buck then felt her looking for her seat and then did a little coup de grace buck and finished her off.

Poor thing was mostly embarrassed -- she does "not get bucked off."

Now as my bones mend I-am-freaking-out about getting on him. Crap! I think he might just be spoiled rotten but don’t know. I think I'm in for some serious work (on myself mostly!) when I can ride again. I’m not a trainer by any stretch – just a rider (41 & starting over rider.)

So… can buckers be rehabbed?

Karen V said...

ariemay - I just went through this with a 15 yr old, ranch broke gelding. I figured he was hurting still from having gotten kicked in the ribs before I got him.

I gave a month off to heal up and gain some weight. I decided I could ride him, just at a walk around our arena. I gathered the reins and bumped him with my calves and he LAUNCHED me! Hurt me really bad!

I took him to a trainer. After the first hour, Brody was still bucking. The trainer, who has worked with a LOT of young horses, broncy horses, etc, said I could spend $5,000 or so in training fees, but he couldn't guarantee that he'd ever "get over it" and he'd always be a unpredictable.

I'm too dang old and I can't see investing that much money into a 15 yr old. (4 yr old, yes...15 yr old, no)

So I took him to where I got him. I was SO disappointed on so many levels. He was dang cute and I was willing to take very good care of him. All he had to do was quit bucking. Didn't happen that way.

As for you... how many people have to get hurt? Your horse MAY be redeemable at 8 if you're willing to invest the money to send him to a trainer. My thought is that at 8, he should be over it. Life is too short to have horses that will hurt you (or someone else). Take him back. (JMHO)

which_chick said...

Josie: Is that the Dona Dona song that's in SKU?

Youtube clip here:

a beautiful disaster said...

My spooking deal is pretty much the same as what alot of people have already said; just ride past it until they get the fuck over themselves! Because Buddy is usually in dire need of a motor, this winter I started to use his fear of the indoors corners and doors to get him to canter :) I guess it worked, because he's not scared of them any more .. so its back to the fights on that one!

The last horse I leased was big on spooking and taking of, it was a real blow to my confidence at the time, but ironically I just feel that much more secure now.

side notes:

re: the morgans, they're somewhat an anomaly where I ride, but there is one in the school program who has a reputation for being a real hard head. everyone is amazed when i ride him bareback in a rubber snaffle, but he just goes so much better that way, cause he listens instead of shutting down.

shana, i've always thought that the best part about having an instructor is that they can tell you when to keep pushing forward where normally you'd stop

and i had a great ride today on the silly little mare; even after a week off she doesn't seem to have lost her brains completly and we actually had a fairly uneventful ride in the outdoor arena, after we re-established the difference between the aids for bend-and-move-forward and canter :D

icepony said...

VLC said:
I have historically used the strategy of telling myself that I'm not on a greenie, I'm on a 20 year old schoolie who needs to be sorted out because the kids have spoiled him. For some reason, bucking/spooking/bolting is not scary if you think you are on an old coot who is f'ing with you, as opposed to an actual green horse...even though they're the same behaviors! At least that's how it works in my head.

Works for me, too! I was letting my gelding pretty much walk all over me, "because" he was abused, and thinks rearing/running backwards is the answer to everything. I was actually seriously thinking about selling him when it hit me - there was NO WAY I would have let my old guy get away with this stuff, and why was I letting the new one do it? So I grew some hair and actually DISCIPLINED him the next time out, and he actually seemed to be relieved to finally have some boundaries set for him. His behaviour improved immediately, no doubt about it.

Now, I do try and remember that they are not the same horse (see "anticipating spooky behaviour based on things your former horse used to react to", lol), but he's a grown horse with some training, and I expect him to behave as such. Things are much better now that *I've* changed my tune!

Oh, as far as singing goes, I'm such a geek - You Are My Sunshine (great trotting song), and Sing, Sing a Song. I'm just terrified that he'll hear how tone-deaf I am and dump me in retaliation for bad singing, lol!

ellen said...

karenv you made a good decision.

Why feed and maintain a horse you are afraid of, a horse that will hurt you if he gets a chance, and a horse you have to flog yourself to even pretend to enjoy? There are wonderful horses out there that won't hurt you, that you can just enjoy riding without all the emotional discomfort.

I came to that conclusion a few years ago during a period after an injury when my feelings about horses in general and riding in particular were painfully conflicted. I'm miserable without horses in my life on a daily basis -- but the combination of fear and a sense of hyperresponsiblity made me miserable WITH them.

And guess what I concluded? Life is WAY to short to mess horses you are pretty sure are going to hurt you. And there are plenty of horses you can love whole heartedly without selling yourself a bill of goods every time you walk up to them.

3catcrazy said...

You're right. Haven't you heard a lot of people say my horse doesn't like birds, people on the rail, dogs, barrels, jumps with flowers, people wearing yellow, fill-in-the-blank. I really think it's because many times the rider has subconsciously decided that's the way it is and that's the way it's always going to be.

I recently rode a horse that I'm thinking of buying. The owner said she gets "hot-footed" around cars. So I rode her up to the fence line as a car went by. She focused on the car, but that's it.

I like the distraction method for both horse and rider. Do complicated things that make the horse pay attention to you near the scary corner. Keep doing it getting closer and closer to the corner. By the time you are done, both of you are over the problem. (Even if it takes a couple of rides) I also like riding with an Ipod.

My own horse just doesn't like stepping into the canter from the walk. He just doesn't want to do it. It has nothing to do with the fact I get tense with anticipation of it going wrong. Really. :)

Karen V said...

Ellen - Thanks for the vote of confidence. It took me three weeks of mulling it over and your advice on an earlier thread sort of sealed it for me.

My husband voice the same opinion as you did, but left the decision up to me.

It was really hard, because I didn't want to give up on him. But when Bill Basham (he's the trainer) told me pretty much the same thing...well, I guess I always knew I needed to take him back, I just needed a little nudge.

So to console myself, I found an ad on Dreamhorse for a free 20 yr old TB, was a hunter/jumper, retired from jumping last fall, but still sound for trails and flat work. I pick him up on Friday. And he's a BEAUTIFUL bay! I'll be bragging (and posting the link to my photobucket account) for everyone to see this good looking guy!

What did VLC call it???? Attention Whore? (I guess that'll be me.)

Thanks again. It really means a lot!

ellen said...

congratulations karen v, and best of everything to you and your new special boy -- will look forward to the pictures.

Blair said...

The first time I took my palomino on a trail ride at a state park, I was freaked out. She was acting herd bound at the trailer and was just being a moron in general. So of course, that caused me to anticipate problems for the ride. So I over-reacted to everything she did. None of it was really bad, just the normal alertness that most horses have, and the occasional "stop and look." But, of course, I was scared, so I puller her head this way and that, trying to get her to carry her head perfectly. I created my own issues.
Once I finally relaxed and held the reins by the buckle, we had no more incidents, and we were both a lot happier.


You know, that happens to me sometimes, but one of the primary things that riding has taught me is how to control my emotions. Completely. I'm not a very expressive person anyway, but this has really taught me how to keep complete and utter control of my mind, body language, and how the horse thinks I'm reacting. Even if something scares the crap out of me on a horse, I think "That doesn't scare me. I can keep riding because it doesn't matter." And in a few seconds, I relax my body and continue on. I don't care if I'm scared as long as the horse doesn't think I am.

robyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
robyn said...

shana, give yourself a break. You are a new rider, and spooking *is* scary, esp. when your balance isn't the best. Four months of riding isn't much. I've owned horses for 16 years, have ridden for say, 10 years more than that, and I consider myself to be an intermediate rider. If you can take some lessons on a confident school horse instead of your own horse, that will help your own confidence a lot, as well as giving you needed practice in learning to balance properly while you ride. This is one downside about having your own horse and riding it in lessons--you get used to one horse, whereas if you take lessons on many different horses, you experience different personalities, gaits, reactions to cues/aids, etc. I think riders learn so much more riding many different horses.

I'm really proud of you that you got back on, and didn't give up. That takes a lot of courage!!
There are some good books out there about overcoming fear w/ horses, or maybe you should have a few sessions w/ a counselor to help you over the fear.

This is a great topic! I'll probably try a few things when I ride the spooky rescue again. When he spooked the first ride (and I knew it would happen eventually; after all, he's an Arab!), I sat deep and said my usual sing-songy "You're fi-i-ine."

My little green pony (LGP?) likes to have me tilted slightly off to the left when I ride. My instructor pointed this out, and when I made a conscious effort to center myself (and I ride in a treeless saddle, which makes the whole thing more complicated, esp. when you're on a no-withered, round little pony), and this included stirrup-stepping to the right, he made the nicest turns he's done so far!

Josie said...

which_chick: it is that song, but in English... and I sing it at least an octave lower than it is being sung in this video!

Josie said...

Oh, and what's "SKU"?

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>I was letting my gelding pretty much walk all over me, "because" he was abused, and thinks rearing/running backwards is the answer to everything.<<

Oh, that's almost it's own blog. Folks, just because bad things happened to a horse does NOT mean you can NEVER discipline it. I have seen this so much in rescue - people go "oh but she's traumatized." Um, no she's not. She forget being traumatized about three months after you got her. Now she's just being a piglet!

Very, very few horses are truly traumatized for life, no matter what they have been through. Horses are amazingly resilient.

At_X_Halt said...

Cathy, you need to find a Wintec Dressage Pro (not the Dressage 500 or the Isabell). You should be able to get a used one pretty cheap. I think they now come with the Easy Change Gullet. However, the one I have was made before that innovation (which I've heard isn't all that great as it only changes the width at the wither...not truly the entire gullet); and it fits my big ol' fat QH just fine. As far as I know it's just a standard tree--not a wide.

There are several great things about the saddle:
1. It's very comfortable (which really surprised me because I just assumed synthetics wouldn't be).
2. It's very well built in terms of balance and allowing proper movement/position of both horse and rider.
3. It's "sticky"....and even more so if you ride in full seat breeches. Honestly, you'll get a great psychological boost from it. Also, it's not so sticky that you'll feel that you can't move in the saddle as appropriate.
4. It's synthetic!!! No guilt about dust/dirt (on the parts not touching the horse), it's lightweight, and it's cheap. I would be petrified to ride in a $3K saddle.

Anyway, I think you'd find the Wintec Dressage Pro to be a good choice. You'll be able to maintain a good classical position (or even a bit of a forward seat) and not have to spend a fortune even if you buy one new. I personally think it's a good investment because you should be able to use the saddle on just about any horse except for one that's very narrow or very high-withered.

Sorry that I don't have one for sale, but maybe you'll be able to find one and try it out.

Good luck!

which_chick said...

SKU (Shoujo Kakumei Utena), also called Revolutionary Girl Utena, is a Japanese cartoon from the late 1990's. It's got a lot of allegory for a cartoon.

Wikipedia has a reasonably comprehensive overview:

icepony said...

fuglyhorseoftheday said...
>>I was letting my gelding pretty much walk all over me, "because" he was abused, and thinks rearing/running backwards is the answer to everything.<<

Oh, that's almost it's own blog. Folks, just because bad things happened to a horse does NOT mean you can NEVER discipline it. I have seen this so much in rescue - people go "oh but she's traumatized." Um, no she's not. She forget being traumatized about three months after you got her. Now she's just being a piglet!<<

Ummm, yeah, tell me about it! We almost became the classic case of this. It only took the SOG about a week to mark me as a sucker, and another week of escalating horrid behaviour for me to catch on. (I think he's smarter than I am.) On the up side, six weeks into the game he's mostly a pleasure to be around. I'm done treating him like glass, and we're getting on quite nicely now.

Didn't someone post the other day about going to a rescue where all the horses were pushy and ill-mannered? I wonder how often this happens. Go ahead, Fugs, blog away - I might not have spent 2 miserable weeks wondering if I was a "bad horse mommy" if someone had clued me into what I was doing. I sure couldn't see that I was enabling him to be a total butt from where I was standing (or rather, being knocked over)!

ellen said...

You might also consider a Thorogood synthetic dressage saddle -- they have removable shims that are easier to deal with than the Wintec gullet system, and they have a VARIETY of size ranges within that system -- from pointy TB back to tabletop Widebody. As you know, VLC will go through major back shape changes as he matures and develops, so a less expensive saddle might be the thing for starters, at least until you are ready to show.

I gave up -- with all these hard to fit Morgans, I just use an Ansur, which has its own "issues" but at least can be made to fit everyone. Most of my Morgan dressage rider friends have been through several $3K saddles on their ONE horse, I cannot do it for my mob scene.

mugwump said...

Couple of thoughts,
I love talking to horse people!
Wind...I always felt like horses love it! Of course I'm an eastern plains woman, so I have to justify it somehow.
Spooking...It seems to me that half the time the horse thinks it is fun to spook. (See Wind..) Can't you just hear them? "Watch guys, I'm going to make my owner jump at least six inches out of the saddle today."
Speaking of horse humor, have you ever noticed, when your horse dumps you and is trotting around proudly waving it's tail in the air, and flipping it's head around, all the other horses become wildly excited, running up to the fence, crowding each other out for the best view?
The same phenomena occur when one gets loose.
I swear, they're all yelling, "Run Forest, run!"
My best solution to all of this is many, many, miles. For horse and rider.
fuglyhorseoftheday said...
>>I was letting my gelding pretty much walk all over me, "because" he was abused, and thinks rearing/running backwards is the answer to everything. <<

My favorite preachy thing to harp on...There's always a reason, never an excuse. Fix it first, then worry about it.

Lali said...

FYI: You can't put all your weight in one stirrup going around turns when you're riding bareback - you fall off if you try to do that.

I felt much better about my seat after I rode (an older, calmer horse) bareback yesterday.

flying_low said...

So, what about using Sports Psychology to overcome our butterflies? Here's a list of links that address being a more confident rider.

1) Self-Hypnosis. Always wondered if this would work. Anyone ever try it?

2. Janet Edgette's book on Sport Psychology. I used to read her articles in Practical Horseman. Mostly, they didn't apply to me, but some of the stuff in her book looks relevant.

3. And more Sport Psychology from someone I never heard of:

4. I know one of the authors of this book. I find it really interesting that he would be a co-author because he and his entire family don't seem to have one fear nerve in their bodies. Some of them are timber jumpers and the horrific injuries they've incurred -- and they're still riding! -- if I'd had the injury, I would have sold my horses and anything that reminded me of horses !

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Thanks for the saddle suggestions! You both make good points. His back will change as he muscles up and I have no intention of dropping thousands on a "good" saddle at this point, but I need to get an english saddle that fits him because I just plain ride funny in the purple western saddle. The stirrups are too far back on it and he's built downhill so between those two things, I know why I am losing my balance forward. I'm toying with riding him bareback tonight just to be able to put my legs in the proper position! Might just do it - I'm pretty solid bareback. Actually, now that I think of it, I do not think I have ever come off bareback - just with a saddle. Hmmmmm. There must be a lesson there somewhere...I am guessing I ride sloppier with a saddle!

ellen said...

Something that works for me in the realm of sports psychology is EFT

There is a lot of work being done on perfomance enhancement using this technique, and we have a good practitioner in town who can help me when I get "stuck", although it's easy enough to master on one's own

ariemay said...

just wanted to say what I use on my wide withered qh ... it's a bob marshall treeless endurance. it is also appealing to me "in case" we are not a fit down the road and this would work with many other horses.

I can feel my horses back muscles when (back when - lol) I rode him. It was very interesting!

I only do trail riding - so this has worked for me & my wide body. (excuse me - worked for Both of our wide bodies)

Smurfette said...

For some reason, bucking/spooking/bolting is not scary if you think you are on an old coot who is f'ing with you, as opposed to an actual green horse..."

I feel this too, and I believe that is because with the old coot, ya figure that you could gather it all back in.... "ok, I'm grabbing leather here, haul my butt back into the saddle, pull up on reins, it'll all be over."

But with greenie, there is always the phobia that it will turn into a true, hell-for-leather, blind, runaway that NOBODY is gonna come out of alive.

In all the years, I have never had a horse that routinely spooked, and most I would call non-spookers. I think it is because I DON'T believe they will spook, I EXPECT them to just walk by the horse eating monsters for one of two reasons. 1) Trust me horse, I'm momma, and I will not put you into a bad situation. Failing that, 2) I'm the boss-hoss and you better decide which you are more scared of, the horse eating monster, or my disciplining your for your disobedience. I know that is against standard wisdom, but it has worked with A LOT of horses for me. I love my horses, and I believe that a well-disciplined horse, like a well-disciplined child is a joy to be around, and much easier to love.

Joy said...

"you get what you expect - every time"

Truer words have never been spoken my bitch! Especially the every time. Too funny, 'cept when it's not funny, but it usually is later...

Joy said...

Oh, and I recently procured an ipod shuffle. Awesome little thing. Just a clip and it's never in the way. I love to ride to music. It seems almost like the horses can hear the beat too, they get in the groove so to speak.

voldeobum said...

Hehe. You know, that reminds me of an episode that happened at my barn (in Sweden, where I live) the other day. My friend has got three horses, one of which is mostly ridden by another friend - let's call her "M". On this particular day, M was asked to exercise another horse, my friend's thoroughbred. M said yes, and took the horse out for a short warm-up ride in the woods before doing the dressage exercises. She thought nothing of it.

Only the thing is, it is common knowledge at my barn that this particular thoroughbred CANNOT be ridden alone on trails. He usually spooks, bucks, bolts, and is generally very... uncooperative. Only when alone, but still.

M had no idea about this, and had a very pleasant 30 min in the forest, together with a happy and relaxed TB.

While my friend was completely freaking out back in the barn, cursing herself for forgetting to inform M about the horse's less than stellar record and preparing to call for an ambulance. :p

Truthseeker said...

I am quite sure I am spookier than the horse!

Same here. I'm always proactively looking for bears, hoping to spot them before the horse does.

yankeestyle2 said...

One of my favorite quotes that I tell my students all the time is that...

"In training, there is a fine line between being aware that a problem is present and anticipating a problem so much that we actually create it"

I have stopped myself from creating a lot of grief just by saying that phrase in my head.