Thursday, June 26, 2008

The tale of the Statue Filly

I said the other day I'd blog about this soon...

We were all talking about horses who just balk, grow roots and won't move. I had one of those to deal with last year. She was a three year old AQHA filly, by the same sire as the VLC and the BGY, a big sorrel with an adorable face. She had many of the same quirks - quiet to ride but antsy to mount and didn't like to pick up her feet. (Can that stuff be genetic? LOL.)

I met her in 2006 when she was a late 2 year old, and watched the Trainer Wannabe who was riding her at the time. She was doing all the typical low-end stock-breed training stuff to her, all the crap I hate - riding in these huge clanking spurs, riding her in a single twisted wire snaffle, popping her in the face every three seconds. Sure, the filly jogged, but she did it with her nose behind the vertical and her ass off the wall. Lovely. The filly would occasionally hop around, not surprising since she lived in a stall at a show facility and rarely got turned out. She got more snapping on the mouth for the hopping. Trainer Wannabe was probably 20 years old, blonde, hot, way thinner than I am and thought she was amazingly hot shit. I would just watch it and roll my eyes.

Filly finally got fed up with Trainer Wannabe. At a horseshow, she slammed on the brakes mid-lope and refused to go forward another step. Trainer Wannabe did not appreciate looking foolish. She threw the filly back in the stall and scratched the rest of her classes. There's some training for you! What do you suppose that taught?

Trainer Wannabe ended up quitting as she thought she was worth $50 a ride and nobody else did. At that point, my friend Jess (Princess Jess on the blog) and I decided to try to do something with Statue Filly. So one day we pulled her out. Boy, was she antsy. Just getting tack on was a major ordeal. We put her in a hunt saddle and a nice fat snaffle and of course no spurs. It was almost impossible to mount her. Antsy, antsy, all over the place. And of course, that barn was Grand Central Station and there wasn't really a quiet place to do anything. Jess admits she thought the filly was going to be a bronc to ride, based upon the mounting drama. She managed to get on her and...

Nothing happened. SF was practically catatonic under saddle. Jess could barely push her into a jog. SF however could back up for days. Prior to this experience, I did not know what a "spur stop" was. I'm primarily an English rider, though I have my share of Western ribbons from the days when I had that marvelous all-around gelding in the early 90s. I am pretty sure we did not have the "spur stop" back in those days, or if we did, I sure as heck wasn't exposed to it. I stop by squeezing with my thighs and pushing my seat down into the saddle. I cannot imagine the point of teaching them to stop from lower leg pressure - for god's sake, if that means stop, WHAT the HELL means GO? I am confused and if anybody wants to explain it to me, please do.

Anyway, apparently one of the things Trainer Wannabe had taught Statue Filly was the spur stop. Any leg pressure at all resulted in the brakes being applied. WTF? What do we do with that? Jess was baffled. I was baffled. We were overscheduled anyway and only got the SF worked once or twice that winter. She went home, got thrown out in the field and proceeded to sit and eat for five months. Then she needed to get sold, so I had to get on her and see how she'd ride her home farm, where there was not so much as a round pen. I was fairly convinced this was not a good idea, although she was substantially easier to mount than she'd been when she was at the show facility. Even in a field with loose horses adjacent her, she was the same ride. Catatonic. I got a bit of a slow jog. Long trot? Forget it. But hey, it was apparent she wasn't going to kill me, so I took her back to my house to ride for a while.

At first, she would just stop and refuse to go forward at all and we worked through the normal cures for that - tried to turn her out of it, etc. It kinda sorta worked. She really did just want to grow roots and stand there like a giant Sequoia. I escalated to using the pony-whacker reins on her and that did get her into gear, at least sometimes, although I kept thinking I was going to get a buck. I never did. She truly did not care how much leg or whip you lit into her with. She could stand there through anything. The only way I finally made some progress with her was by using Jess as a ground person - equipped with a longe whip. I worked on equating trot with cluck and kiss with canter, hoping that if the sides didn't work, voice commands would. Again, it sort of worked.

After about a month, we were getting through rides without any balking episodes. She was just so dead quiet and wonderful that if she didn't lock up, she was a total pleasure to ride. She ignored July 4th fireworks, which in my neighborhood sounded like the bombing of Iraq. She learned to neck rein in, like, one lesson. I even started riding her bridleless and she was perfect. She surely wasn't going to run off with you!

I moved her to my friend's hunter/jumper barn last fall and would go out and ride her on my lunch hour. Again, not a great turn-out situation and so the sourness returned. Sometimes she rode great. She loved doing ground poles and little x's. She was super happy if there was another horse in the arena and she could just follow. But alone in the arena, she'd still lock up. A whip could disengage her but it created a level of tension I wasn't happy with - the head came up, she'd trot around kind of looking at the whip and going slightly sideways. Still, progress was made - she was bending both directions, she was loping like a champ. She was doing killer one-step simple lead changes. I really wanted to fix the damn balking. I tried different things. One day I decided we were simply going to sit there 'til she got bored and wanted to move. Well, 20 minutes later we were still sitting there. *sigh*

In other ways, she was a superstar. Some Parelli person had a tarp and a bridge set up one day. Their horse was snorting and spooking and scrambling over it. Statue Filly walked up to it, sniffed once, and then quietly walked back and forth over the bridge and tarp however I wanted her to. She had never seen anything like that in her life.

She went home after about a month of that, and got sold almost immediately. Her current owner mostly just trail rides, something the SF is very happy with. They love her spookproof nature and her foolproof brakes. It is the right home - she is happy, they are happy, I'm sure she'll be there long term. But I'll always think of her as a failure because I never did fix the balking 100%...and I still don't know what the solution was. Was it just arena sourness that was created by the Trainer Wannabe and just couldn't be fixed? She never did balk as badly outdoors...but she did balk outdoors. I truly don't think we had a pain issue. The saddle fit and I've watched her longe a million times...never a sign of any unevenness to her gait. Never any pain behaviors like tail swishing or ear pinning.

She just grew roots, and what was the solution for that? (And yeah, I know at least 3 of you are going to pop up and say ground work...well, we did plenty of that. She was longed and ground driven and "encouraged" from the ground and it always worked fine to keep her moving forward, but if the ground person disappeared, she knew she could grow roots and that is exactly what she did.)


Char said...

Well, it was probably just her personality. Her "safe zone", if you will. Other than that, I'm really not sure how the heck you would cure something like that. I've always had the opposite problem.

RussianRoulette said...

I really don't know what I would do to cure it. Although I suppose you kind of did... She was sold to someone where it doesn't really matter because they do plenty of hacking and are happy with her. Isn't that a cure in itself?

Karen V said...

Ok...I've had enough!

When I was 14, I bought a 2 yr old palomino filly for $150. My dad bought a $20 bridle and turned me loose. No trainer for me or the horse. I "winged" it. I can't imagine doing that now...

HOWEVER, what the heck is "hack" or "hacking"?

Hep me. I be ignint!

verylargecolt said...

Hacking is basically just an english term for trail riding where you aren't asking the horse to work're just cruising around. AKA hacking out or going for a hack.

whisper_the_wind said...

I have 2 mares with that behavior.

With Dee, part of it is my fault, I get nervous that she may blow up, and I imagine that gets transmitted inadvertantly to her (yup...she launched me before...can't stick 'em like I used to). Out on trails she is usually sane, but by herself, she freezes, then blows.

The other was cowboyed severely (rescue mare) before I got her. She freezes and trembles. With her, I have decided yard art is good enough. The rescue she came from (she's a retired PMU mare) didn't release her papers, so she won't get bred again, (too bad as she is a ggd of Seattle Slew).

They are my avatar photo

barngal said...

Who knows why horses do what they do. There is a good chance Trainer Wannabe did something in her training to just screw with the SF and in her mind and SF did it to get out of being hurt in some way. Probably you would have found a way around it but never solve why it ever happened.

I'm currently dealing with finding the "go" button. BCG knows what he is supposed to do because sometimes he is perfect with my leg and other times it takes a good smack with a pony wacker but of course we get a buck too. The canter at first, is wonderful, but quickly slows, so when I squeeze the leg for more go, he stops! I got him as a two year old and as far as I know, he had no training other than someone sitting on him. I'm sure I'll never find out anything either. Honestly, I think he is a lazy punk. Heck, his favorite word is "ho"!

Fleeting said...

I'm going to be keeping a close eye on the comments here... The OTTB I'm working with (and hopefully buying this week) is a bit of a Statue Gelding himself. Unlike Statue Filly, he stands perfectly for mounting - but if you touch his face, he will back up, and it's difficult to get him into forward gear again. When walking, he will pick these invisible lines and just not want to go past them. Turning will "outsmart" him once but if it is still an issue after that, it doesn't work. He is not upset or in pain... in fact he is perfectly relaxed.

I've resorted to riding him with a stick, and if I feel him not responding to my leg he gets a swift tap to the butt - the kind that makes a lot of noise but is really only a light correction. It is pretty effective, but I don't like riding with crops as they make my hands a lot clumsier.

Aside from these statue moments, he is actually really quite forward with a lot of natural implusion. I'm inclined to think it's at least partially a boredom/distraction thing as he (for the most part) does not do it at the trot.


Cooper's Fan Girl said...

I ride a spur spot trained horse. Its actually nice if you know how to ride correctly, you just need to apply pressure QUICKLY to his sides and he'll stop whatever he's doing. There's like a magical button on him you have to press to get him to stop. If you miss it, it won't work and he'll keep on going. But if you apply constant pressure, he'll go faster. Its something I'm still getting used to, but I do like it and I think its very useful when applied properly.

PS I don't ride with spurs :D

ellen said...

Something just to think about but I have a lot better luck getting "forward" with my younguns if I sit a little looser -- sometimes too much upper leg/seat/lower back tension from the rider can shut a young or sensitive horse right down -- if you think of oiling up your back and hip joints, and not clamping with upper leg a lot of times it will free the horse up a lot. It's tempting to "screw yourself into the saddle" on a horse you're unsure of, but I find the greener they are the MORE responsive they are to whatever my seat/upper legs/lower back are doing or not doing, so the more soft and following I can stay, the more they relax and go forward.

With SF, however, it sounds like she does it because it works -- she has learned to just check out and go to her happy place in her mind and in a sense dissociate. Suspect she will always do that to a certain extent if she feels overly pressured or crowded (it sounds like hot lil' thang really didn't give her any mental space at all) -- so it's wonderful she's found a pressure - free occupation and an owner who appreciates her for who she is. May they all be so lucky.

green_knight said...

I like stonewallers. They can crop up in any breed and will frustrate a lot of riders - the more you squeeze and kick and hit them, the less they go. To the point of not going anywhere ever.

The key to these horses is to ride them with very light aids. They are just as irritated by riders who are too forceful as your average take-off-over-the-hills TB is - but their primary defense is to grow roots. Anyone riding such a horse needs to educate themselves to ride light. No, lighter. Lighter still. Sit still, *don't* be tempted to try and push the horse, give a very brief aid _and take it off_.

Most of them are so bloody grateful to be ridden correctly that they'll march like troopers after one or two brief sessions, which is where the fun comes in - everybody else groans that the horse is such hard going and how they need to kick them loads and need spurs, and you can just sit still and look as if you're not doing anything, and the horse goes forward.

Sit in balance. Maintain your shoulder-hip-heel line. Keep your seat to a whisper. And enjoy!

Laura Crum said...

I know someone who has a "statue gelding" (behaves exactly like the mare you describe) and he is a OTTB who was a very successful racehorse (they raced him, he did well, they are keeping him and retiring him, and since he is sound, they are trying to use him as a riding horse.)These folks are successful racehorse trainers and they can't figure out how to fix this problem, so I wouldn't feel too bad. In my view the most interesting point you made was early on when you questioned if these quirks can be genetic. Um, yes, they can. I worked for a breeder who raised seven full brothers and sisters--I started one, rode another a few times, knew who rode the rest--they were handled differently and they all had the same weird stuff. Easy to handle on the ground (even sweet), balky, resistant and often dangerous to ride. They one and all locked up and wouldn't turn to the right, resorting to running off blindly and occasionally falling down when it was insisted upon. All seven of em--all started by different people, more or less. The best of them (in my humble opinion) was the one I trained (he got bought by a rancher I knew who still has him today), and that colt dumped me by launching into a whirlwind of bucking unexpectedly when he had never bucked once in six months of riding. All his siblings had this delightful quirk, too. So, yes, some pretty odd behaviors can be genetic--that's my view.

Karen V said...

VLC - Below is the rundown on the ulcer stuff Joy is on. I'll have to look but I think it's the Regular that she is on. Like you said SCORE!!!!

Uncles Gut Protector 1 Gallon of the PLUS (30 days)is $219 1 gal of the regular (60 days) is $164 1 qt of the PLUS is $58 1 week

Kyani said...

If anyone has the solution to this, I would love to try it on Oddie.

The again, I'm not sure anything would affect him. He's 24, and while he's never exactly forward, except when he's in the mood to be, he's lovely and happy to hack out. That's his thing. When I first started to work at my current yard, I wondered why he was never used in lessons. Until one day me and my friend decided to warm up in the arena before our hack because the tractor was blocking the track out. He DOES. NOT. MOVE. At all. He just walks into the middle of the arena (with his head pulled round to your knee, if needs be) and stands, feet planted. My friend, being a more, let's say 'aggressive' rider than I, tried EVERYTHING within her power to get some motion out of him. She got nothing. The only way to get another step forward is to either have someone at his head or to head toward the gate.

Thing is, I'm sure he knows exactly what goes on in the school, and it's like he's just decided he wants no part in it. We don't really know his past - probably stared life as a gypsy pony - but owner says he's always been like it, only has got more stubborn with age. He's decided he's a happy hacker who will go for the occasional gallop if he feels like it or pop the odd jump in the woods or a field, but no thanks, no schooling. Owner says he's been that way for years, and they've given up - he's not exactly show quality, so it's far more trouble than it's worth to push it. That seems to be the general consesus with Oddie. Even his owner's husband, who used to manage a connemara stud and tolerates no nonsense from horses, just rolls his eyes and walks off when Oddie decides 'no, thankyou, I'm staying in my stable today - it's raining and you cannot make me move'. That horse has more willpower than any human ever has.

Lost cause?

AlphaMare said...

What the status filly did is one of the "four F" equine responses to a situation of high stress: Flee, Freeze, Faint, Fight.

She's found that the freeze works. TTEAM could probably have gotten her over it, but force eventually escalates if not to Faint, clear to Fight. :P Perhaps if you'd had her long enough and kept riding her either with soft bits or bridleless, she would have eventually figured out that she didn't need to protect herself that way.

OutRiding01 said...

i had a statue gelding once in high school. He was an appendix QH, grandson of Rugged Lark and one of the cutest horses I ever owned. He loved to jump and was super scopey, did both the hunters and jumpers. He had also been through 7 homes by the time he got to me at the age of 8. He was great for the first 3 months with only a few little quirks and then one day I went out to ride and it was like a different horse. Came to find out later this is what happened in all his homes. He refused to move except for backing up. He would back for miles. I tried absolutely everything, all the stuff you mentioned. I tried using the lightest, gentlest aids possible, tried whips, growling , kicking, everything. We attempted to try a groun person and longe whip but he would kick and rear and strike at them. He would turn and bite at your legs as well. He also had a crazy, jarring rodeo bronc buck. In the stall or paddock he would chase you out if you weren't careful and attentive. He's the only horse I've ever ridden that I just felt like there was seriously something wrong in his head, a loose screw or something. He never managed to get me off thank god. I know for sure that if he had, he would have turned and stomped the life out of me, he was that hateful and aggressive.

My parents got sick of feeding him and sold him to an acquaintance who trained horses and said I wasn't riding him right. After a month he threw her off and broke her collar bone and she got rid of him. I felt bad but I was only 15 and didn't have much control over the situation. But absolutely no fix we could come up with.

Heidi the Hick said...

I'm so sorry, I'm going to be the one to take things off topic tonight. There's my apologetic disclaimer.

- I just hate the term "hacking." I much prefer "trail riding". Hacking sounds like you're out there yanking on the horse's mouth til it bleeds. Also being in the music biz, a hacker is often the term used to describe a poser of a musician who can't actually play his instrument. Gah. I just had to get that off my chest.

-Again, I am sorry, but I don't give a royal crap whether an adult wears a helmet or not, but yeeesh I get freaked out when I see riders wearing sneakers. Like, a helmet is a last ditch effort when everything else goes wrong, but the thought of a foot sliding through a stirrup makes me shiver.

But hey, I'll give you this, girl: your feet look great! I always have my toes out sideways and it's awful.

As for my own Statue Filly tale? The pinto pony mare I ride did that to me last year. In an hour of riding I finally got her to walk. I bump, bump, bumped her sides until I got a lean forward, then I aimed for a step, etc, with a much needed break - for me- in between. I had to squeeze with every step to keep her going once I got her to move.

I like Green Knight's comment. I can stop that pony with my seat, and neck rein her, and move her off my leg, but some people need a crop to get her going. It's amazing how they adapt to us. She's never pulled the statue trick since that time, so I wonder if she was just testing me... training me?

SammieRockes said...

Sometimes I wish Rebel had roots, he is very go go go. HE Hates standing still, and if you are heading a a direction he likes, FORGET about slowing down.

As For the spur thing, I don't do it, but If I rember correctly from my friend who does, constant pressue stop, bump bump pressure goes, just right pressure, go left, just left pressure, go right. I forget backing up, but it all has to do with how much pressue and where you place the spurs on the horses side. Her horse is moslty voice command though. Mine is just clucker kiss trained. rarely apply in leg pressure.

mugwump said...

OK. enough with the "cowboyed"! If you aren't a cowboy you don't get to use the term! I have had plenty of horses in for repair work that had been "dressaged" to the point of insanity!!!
Besides that,I think sometimes a horse can just shut down and mentally leave. Dude horses do it. It's how they survive their life.
Sometimes they wake up, sometimes not.
We know a little blonde twinkie who rides with a reiner buddy, she fit's Fugs description perfectly. We call her Bling Girl because she always has something sparkly hanging off her somewhere.
Man I'm chatty tonight....

LolaJ said...

This may sound silly and/or overkill and or irrelevant since I work with small animals and not equines professionally. But you guys with the seemingly schizophrenic horses who have tried everything may want to ask your vet to run some bloodwork. You have no idea how many dogs and cats I've seen that come in with horrendous mood swings that we find,through bloodwork, are hypothyroid/hyperthyroid, respectively. It can cause them awful anxiety issues that can make them insecure and lash out. The growing roots/refusal issues do sound more behavioural to me, but the genuine Jekyll and Hyde mood swings of some of these other horses may well be something that's beyond their control.

Just my thoughts anyway

SOSHorses said...

I think that when she grew roots mentally she wasn't there. She physically was but mentally she was checked out. No matter what she was just sure that the bad stuff was going to happen. Nothing you could have done would have ever completely fixed it.

On another topic. You know I am always one of the first to stand up for your right to not wear a helmet. BUT, riding in sneekers! Not that is one thing I will seriously wag my finger at you about. WHAT were you thinking?!

robyn said...

Poor girl. I'm glad she went to a home that seems like it was a good fit.
I know the Icelanders train their horses to speed up w/ rein pressure, so most imported Icelandics need retraining to some degree. But I've never heard to teaching a horse to stop w/ a lower leg cue. That's bizarre. I can see an entirely different horse culture teaching its horses differently, but that sort of bass-ackward teaching in the US? Plain weird.

sasfran said...

Hacking trail-riding etc whatever has to be the best thing for a sour, planted horse. Get them out perhaps with another, most horses will follow a stable pal out, then ride alongside, behind, in front etc to keep them thinking. In my experience 'planting' is also accompanied by brain shut-down. I read an article years ago by perhaps Mary Wanless or Sylvia Loch (both classical trainers) entitled psychic defence in horses. It was about the theory that horses can find a very deep dark place in their minds to retreat to when faced with a traumatic situation which usually is seen to us as spooking (lack of attention) and in extreme situations the total switch-off and plant situation. I have experienced it twice, first with my first pony, an ex-riding school ride who was very bright but so bored with life and low-grade pain that she 'escaped' into herself and more recently with an OTTB, his bad background training manifested into stopping, brain-blocking and then rearing. In both cases ride out, ride out, ride out, get them going forward out of the arena or school, then they relax and sometimes the schooling and training can re-commence. This mare sounds like she has landed on her feet so to speak, after the blonde ambition that was forced upon her she is now doing what she is happy with and that is surely a success story! BTW my 'hacking' usually involved finding some flat ground upon which to do some schooling circles and i always ride forward with a contact for part of the ride, not just cruising around!

Jackie said...

So, you lived in MI when you had this horse? Sounds just like my neighbor "trainer ~wanna-be~" (I really like that). She is the one who "broke-out" (and there is a term I hate) Starlette...yes, blonde, cute, big spurs, one saddle fits all, bling-bling (she went to a tack sale in high heels)...rides with her cell phone and halter top...and a belly-button chain!!! And every horse is "spur stop trained" - the latest fad! She just turned 22, and told me when she met me over two years ago that she was really experienced for her age (19!!) and had been training horses for years LOL!

Starlette was almost a "planter" but she hates being poked with spurs so much she bucked instead (fight response!). So much untraining to do...she is finally showing signs of coming around a year ahd a half later...she was actually on the bit (now a french link open cheek snaffle instead of a twisted wire snaffle or tom thumb) several times the last week, cantered most of the time with one request (and the tap of the dressage whip the first time I ask)...and we started popping over 6" "jumps" to wake her up (which she loves!). The one "good" thing the "trainer" did was to teach Starlette to stand when you get dumped..she did that by beating her...sigh..but Starlette does not move an inch when you come off.

One thing I have found out is Starlette is pretty weak on ground training...she was probably taught just enough to get by. Whoa is something we've been working on...without spurs (or pulling on the reins) it means nothing much to her...

I too find when I loosen my hips and relax she is much more forward. I also find she likes it best when I bareback ride (have not cantered yet bareback, but have in the saddle without stirrups!), been working on my seat trotting over ground poles first). My biggest challenge now is giving Starlette an assortment of different things to do when I ride or she shuts down.

As soon as I can get her all the way into the trailer, we'll go trail riding..she gets her front feet in and stretches...(yes, she was forced into trailers by the same trainer, so I am going the slow route with that).

whisper_the_wind said...

Sorry if I offended anyone (Mugwump) with the term 'cowboyed'. To me it refers to someone that has seen one to many westerns on TV and thinks that is they wear western clothing they can ride, train, etc... I'm talking cowboy hats, jeans, boots, spurs etc...These people believe that if the horse doesn't do what the rider wants it just needs a more severe bit, or bigger spurs. Horses are kept behind barbed wire held up on t-posts without caps, and a Vet is never called. It does NOT refer to those that live the TRUE lifestyle.

There is a BIG difference between a horse trained by a cowboy, and a horse that has been cowboyed.

Same thing goes for 'rednecking', except the clothing is plaid flannel shirts, camo pants, ball cap, and work boots. The fencing is hog wire. A TRUE 'redneck' is nothing more than a old time working farmer, NOT a Jeff Foxworthy caracature.

I have an 'friend' that uses a spade bit on her mare. Is her mare a finished bridle horse...NO...she uses it because the mare isn't quick enough in her responses. The mare had a very soft mouth when I rode her, so I used a snaffle. Now the mare is hard to catch and almost impossible to bridle...go figure.
This woman also refuses to wear a helmet, and has permanent brain damage from being thrown from a horse. She wonders why I don't ride with her anymore...

I used to take offense when someone said a horse was 'Amished', because I thought they took great care of their animals. After having seen what some of those horses go through, I can see where that term comes from.

I, too have seen a 'dressaged' horse. This poor guy didn't know he could extend his neck, it was perpetually flexed behind the poll, and his tail never stopped wringing.

IMO, an 'englished' horse (especially in QH) is one that has been starved to make it quiet and look longer. 'Peanut rollers' are just as bad.

The main reason these terms stay around is because they give a good mental image and get the point across that something is being done wrong.

Again...if I offended, I apologize, but I'm sure we have all been guilty to some extent of these behaviors at one time or another.

Elly said...

There was a OTTB gelding in the yard I used to work at that was a statue. Stock still for mounting, real sweetie in general although clumsy as was so big so had a habit of walking over you. Would then not go anywhere. At all. Feed/treats, whips/rope, booting in ribs. Nada. Would be led from ground to indoor arena and would stand there looking bored in the middle.

Take up a contact on the reins and you'd be in the next county before you'd know it!

Turns out he'd been trained so that loose rein meant stop/don't move (assume because of needing quick mount ups in the racing yard and for falls and owners that want to look like what they're doing, but not wanting to get slobber over their linen suits!) and short contact with the reins mean bugger off in a forward motion!!

The owner to his credit did persevere and now has a fantastic hunter.

amarygma said...

I'd imagine she just hadn't found anything fun about working, and just let you know she didn't want to. I think if she found something she really liked doing, she'd perk up.

I'd imagine an out of shape horse would be more statuesque.

Sagebrusheq said...

Just for your riding pleasure:

Hack is actually a very interesting word with many uses that denote qualities ranging from the very poor, as in 'hack writer' ; to the very good, as in 'lady's hack', 'hunter hack', 'pleasure hack', and the actual breed of Hackney Horse. Add to these the Irish and New England term 'hack', which is a regional term for the ubiquitous yellow conveyance that derives from 'Hackney Cabriolet'. Hence we get the shortened 'hackney cab' or just plain 'cab' for 'taxi cab'.

But all these uses come from the middle English word 'hakeney': to let for hire. From this it is easy to understand the pejorative sense of the word but less so how the superlative connotation came to be. In equine use originally a hackney was a rented horse of assumed poor quality; but gradually came to be thought of as a simple riding horse, to ride for pleasure, and so the good qualities associated with pleasure riding came to be thought of, and what constitutes 'a good hack'. By these considerations the term transmogrified in some circles into meaning an all around good riding horse, not a specialist but a reliable mount that could hunt, ride to town, show off in the mall, an easy keeper with good manners that was above all things a pleasure to ride and be with. High praise indeed. Hack classes in the late nineteenth century evolved to define and epitomize those good qualities. Concurrently though, and naturally enough, one finds the word used as: 'just a hack', ie: not a specialist as in 'just a trail horse'. To the ignorant horseman this has a belittling aspect to it which has pulled the term back to a worsening or at least a ho hum definition, which is, of course, inaccurate as well as unfair. See Lida Fleitman Bloodgood's 'Training Hunters and Hacks' for a wonderful read on the nobility and glories of a good hack.

As to the Hackney breed, as might be guessed, it grew out of the carriage trade and what constitutes a good light driving horse.


mulerider said...

RE: riding in sneakers with no helmet, I did it for years. (shrug) I started wearing a helmet a few years ago when I became an old and timid rerider, because it seems to help me keep my fear level down. And the only reason I no longer ride in sneakers is because I discovered Blundstone boots, the most comfortable boots ever manufactured by modern man. They're all I ever wear outside at home anymore.

I once had an encounter with a statue mare. She had been used as a lesson horse for kids and the statue thing was her defense mechanism. If an expert adult got on, the mare was great. The place where I was taking riding lessons bought the mare because she was fine when they went to ride her and try her out, then discovered the first time they put a student on her, that she simply grew roots and planted herself when a kid got on.

I was a short teenager at the time, probably a hair under 5 ft tall, and a pretty competent rider, so one day, one of the trainers was riding the mare and said, "Hey, come over here and ride this mare. You're a nice soft rider, I'll bet she'll work for you." Nope. About 4 steps at the walk and we were planted and nothing I did could get her moving again.

As far as I know, they never did cure her and finally sold her to an experienced adult rider.

Liza said...

The spur stop started out so that you could check/stop horses in the WP pen without having to move the reins. Breaks are usually full pressure with both spurs. To go you "fan" the sides with the spurs. So for a lope it would be like a tap with each stride with the outside spur.
It seems completely assbackwards in my head but it supposedly makes people look prettier in the show pen.

mugwump said...

whisper- I am not the most politically correct person on the planet, but sometimes I just get tired of hearing it. And sometimes I'm a little whiny.
I wear a cowboy hat, snap down shirt, and chaps. (OK, only at shows)
I usually wear a sweat stained ball cap, worn out wranglers, (those holes are called Calhan air conditioners) and ratty T-shirts.
At work I'm just a trainer, in town I'm a bridge person in spurs.
I like them too.
No offense taken, but I'll whine again next time I hear it.
Loved the other references though.
In my far distant youth (ahem) we called the guys you're talking about drugstore cowboys.

Linda Eskin said...

I hear you, Mugwump. I take the same sort of offense at "Backyard Horseperson." I'll put my standard of care and understanding of horses up against a boarding stable any day.

I had a mare who would freeze with little kids on her. The seller was clear about it - not a kid's horse - and told me just what Mulerider said. She was all go-go-go for me, and I never put a kid on her.

My current horse, a half-draft, can grow roots. I've found patience works wonders, along with clicker training. Any attempt at force or coercion, and he's not going anyplace.

The only exception is when he's just stopped to look, and forgotten to get moving again. The (when I'm leading him) I can just swing the lead rope near his butt, and it reminds him that walking is a possibility.

He's only 4, and 1,500 lbs, so frankly I'd rather he stop to think if he needs to. It beats a lot of the alternatives.

EvenSong said...

My older mare pulls the statue routine now and then, but out on the trail--she does fine close to home. And it's always almost exactly 2 miles from home when she does it. She's a real worrier, and we'll get that distance away, and she'll furrow her brow (really) and plant her feet.

I bought her for my husband years ago, and when I DID get him to go out with me on a ride, when she would do this, he would untie her lead rope and hand it to me, and I would pony her for maybe 50 feet to get her "unstuck", then surreptitiously hand the lead back to him and he would tie it back to his saddle strings. She would generally be okay for the rest of the ride.

I used her to go along with a horse I had started for a friend, once the friend started riding her own, and, after a few fairly mild discussions and some general confidence building, she didn't do it with me anymore.

My grandkids ride her now, and it will be interesting to see if the oldest has this problem--this is the first year we'll be able to go "out" together (I've not had a suitable second horse the last few years).

EvenSong said...

As for the "drug-store-cowboys"--MY beef is the "new" buckaroo look. ("Everything old is new again.") Now I know there are some genuine cowboys of this type (probably more grounded in history than the typical rancher that I'm used to locally, or horse-show-style western rider that I grew up with). But all the "wannabees" with their glad rags and chinks and big brimmed hats with stampede strings and shooflys on their girths and slobber straps and mecate reins tied just so and lariats that they wouldn't know what to do with and big jingle-jangley spurs and pulling collars and--you know-- the "UNIFORM"--please


I don't have a gripe with someone who uses a piece of clothing or gear because of what it does (function over form). But wearing a "style" just to look a certain way (or like a certain trainer) is offensive to those who know what the gear is for and use it properly. WHO needs to wear their chinks to do ground work? Who needs to wear their spurs to the grocery store?

Granted, at my age I'm more into comfort than style--when I'm not at my "day job" jeans and a T-shirt/sweatshirt will do. And my saddle is basketweave 'cause I like the look (in spite of how hard it is to keep the saddlesoap from gumming up the corners of the basketweave). But I haven't used spurs of any kind on a horse in 40 years (tho I currently have a very lazy 3yo that I may dig out my prince of wales' for).

This is sort of related to a recent discussion (somewhere on FHOTD) about show styles changing every year. Give me something comfortable and functional, Thanks you. I don't feel the need to be "en voque".

Linda Eskin said...

This discussion reminds me of one of my favorite expressions: "All hat, no cattle." ;-)

Misty's Mom said...

I have never ridden a horse that is spur trained, but I really don't like the idea behind it.
First of all, how do think they trained the horse to do it, hmm?
Second, it is just a way to keep the rider from ever touching the reins
Third, I would recognize that as bridless riding if it was a spur trained horse: I am more of a classical riding type person, and I don't think it is in good taste to train a horse to have two very similar cues mean different things. I learned the same way that Fugly did.