Monday, June 23, 2008

You never can tell...

When I was younger, I didn't think anything about what a horse did when he or she was turned out. It never even occurred to me that wild acrobatics and running at light speed might translate into the same behaviors under saddle. I just assumed that they knew not to do that when they were ridden - and because I believed they wouldn't, they rarely did.

Well, you know, time passes and the age-related chickenshit syndrome (should we just name it ARCS?) kicks in. In the past month or so, I saw the Small Spotted Gelding do airs above the ground loose in the arena and the Beautiful Thoroughbred Mare run like hell and spook at everything when loose. In both cases, I was absolutely convinced they would do this to me under saddle. I was sure I needed to Be Prepared for Anything (!) with both of them. I was shopping for the stuff online that sticks your ass to the saddle, sure that I no longer had the seat to ride the acrobatics that surely were coming my way.

Of course, I was completely wrong.

As you all know by now, the SSG has been even quieter to break than the VLC, and that is saying something. Ride #7 tonight and he was trucking along at a nice even trot, both directions, even changed direction through the middle and past his MOM (the human one) without trying to stop and visit! Josie was working with the Big Gold Yearling, who was also excellent tonight. I am sure she will talk about it on her blog. Anyway, I ended up thinking about how I had been just sure that the SSG was going to be this quick little ball of fire under saddle - and now here I was, seven rides in, getting a damn good leg workout keeping him in 2nd gear.

(Which is a good thing. Lazy ponies that need leg sell better than quick little ponies that need tough little riders. No complaints here. My calves could use the workout.)

But the real surprise tonight was the BTM, Karen's mare Honey. I had been on Honey once before, in the indoor. She was snorty and spooky and walking at light speed. Josie observed that her turns were so quick, it looked like she was doing rollbacks. At the walk. I was pretty convinced this was what I had signed on for, so I was busy psyching myself up to just get out there and Ride Like I Used To...i.e. get on the hot potato and long-trot 'til the brain kicked in and hang on for any spooks, spins, or other maneuvers. Tonight, I came home from work fired up and ready to go. I got on her outside and...

She was dead quiet. Even kind of lazy.

Yes, apparently the BTM's issues are all about the skeeery indoor arena, with points of light coming through nail holes in the wall and various other questionable features. And really, should I be surprised? How many racehorses are ridden in an indoor arena? I'd kind of forgotten this fact, it's been so long since I've ridden a fairly "fresh" OTTB. In the outdoor round pen? She was fine. Fine. Totally quiet and cooperative. Walked and trotted both directions, halted and stood on a loose rein. Did not even spook when the Pony Princess bolted at warp speed (and being part draft, that is not done quietly) from behind the barn and past the round pen. I was so surprised that didn't spook her. We were all sitting there with our mouths hanging open going "I can't BELIEVE she didn't spook!"

Wow. Wow. Wow. And what a smooth and comfortable trot. I am going to really enjoy her, and here I was thinking she was going to be one of those that you get off every night thinking "Yay, another ride down and I lived!"

You know what's going to happen, of course. I'm going to get some horse in that I have to chase with a longe whip to get it to jog when it's loose in the arena and that is the one that is going to launch my ass!

32 comments:

Tripple Spring said...

I think everyone who is older than 15 years old, when we are immortal (at least in our minds!), has to pump themselves up a bit and remember that it is those quirky horses that can turn out to be a ton of fun once we figure them out...no matter how many bumps and bruises it takes along the way! haha!

4Horses&Holding said...

When we're young, we tend to jump on and think about what might happen, later. Oh, no we didn't. We just jumped on - and what happened, happened.

Now that we're older (and smarter) - since we don't have speed & agility & bounciness so much anymore, we tend to think really hard about "what can happen." We'll read into every little action of the young horse..... and try to predict future behavior. Better to predict too much, than predict too little!

MsFoxy said...

Hey you just described Foxy in your last few sentences. That horse is lazy as sin on the ground and has extra gears I never knew about under saddle. Sigh. Still more solid than most greenies though...(unless you kick her in the side, late at night, riding alone in the dark on a windy day). I get a workout just trying to use the least amount of leg possible. She considers slight leg pressure an invitation to long trot. Iy yi yi...

Codi said...

New to the blog (posting, I've been reading for a while and have my own new 5 year old at home), and not sure if you are looking for any advice on Honey, but I'll throw some out anyway. We used to have a pony mare that, as far as we could tell, was pretty schizo...anyway, she would FREAK about sun coming through the side doors of our indoor. We tried riding her with a flymask, and voila, it worked - I don't know if it just broke up the light in the right way, or what. I know you say your indoor is pretty dim anyway, but they can see pretty good, and you might be able to lunge around the skeery sunlight to get her over it in a nice way (not that I'm opposed to growling, booting, or riding them forward through their biggest bucks, spins, or scoots).

mugwump said...

The ones I hate are the ones that jam their front legs into the ground like oak trees. The same ones that are eerily quiet and easy through all the preliminaries.
They tend to have a flat, far away look in their eyes.
Those are the ones that get you.
How do I write a shiver of fear?

4Horses&Holding said...

*shivers with fear*

:)

SOSHorses said...

BUT there is something to the old saying "Better safe than sorry". I will never laugh at anyone for being cautious.

Emilie said...

I made this comment a few posts back, but this is exactly what I thought! You're so concerned about The Big One that you're ignoring the fact that Big Ones are rare. Even look back at your own riding history - how many minor spills outweigh the major ones?

Just keep your sensible head, and focus less on the worst case than on the likely case. :D

Fleeting said...

You know, now that you mention it, the ones that I always had to chase to get trotting in the arena were always the ones that were complete jerks under saddle. I groomed one that you had to literally run after, even on the lunge line, to keep trotting slowly, and he would buck like NOTHING else under saddle. I HATED that horse... there was nothing worse than seeing LTQ (lunge 'till quiet) next to his name on the white board at shows. We did everything but beat him silly with the lunge whip and we still got more of a work out than he did.

My theory is that they know the arena/line is the place where they can play and get their jollies out, but that it's business time when they get to work. Maybe I'm completely wrong on this, but it's just a theory.

verylargecolt said...

Mugwump - on that topic, I will have to write about the Statue Filly that I rode all last summer. That was a learning experience, to say the least. One of the main things I learned is that, YES, bad training - even if there's no outright abuse or anything horrible - really can damn near ruin something by the age of three. I mean, nearly irreparable damage.

Redsmom said...

Cathy, glad all went well with the outdoor. If I had an indoor, though I would certainly want to use it all the time! Speaking of spookiness -- at the local shows we have weird, elongated, overlapping shadows that appear from the overhead lights once it gets dark and both my horses spooked in place, balked, etc. at these. Maybe I'll try the fly mask next time!

I rode Dude for the first time since the chiro and can see improvement. The first time I got on he turned around and stopped suddenly, reacting as if "hey, that didn't hurt!" I had to get back off to open a gate and when I remounted he stood still. He's never done that before. I didn't canter - was too chicken to do it on the hard ground at home, but will take him to the sand arena soon!

CutnJump, back to yesterday for a moment, it has taken me several months to start to get a personality out of our old school horse we bought. He's finally starting to like me. I think grownups always meant work to him, before. Kids, OTOH, meant carrots, brushings and bombing around bareback, so he's always liked my daughter. LOL.

mugwump said...

Fugs-One of the hardest bucking horses I ever dealt with was a Statue Filly. Yes folks, she was a Hancock. My favorite.
I couldn't stay on her. I had to turn her over to another trainer with rough bronc experience.
She broke his arm.
He did finally get her rode and going though.
I can't wait to hear about yours....

Karen V said...

I'm SO glad Honey is being a good girl. She really is a love! I miss her lots! She has a way of walking out of the barn and giving "the look". Maybe if I wasn't such a chicken and hadn't taken such a bad spill, I'd have gotten through it with her. Oh well...she's in the best hands! Thank you so much for doing this for me.

BTW - That bitch that sold me that broncy little gelding has him listed as a "well broke kids' horse for the whole family to enjoy". She's going to get someone ELSE hurt really bad! I know that MY medical bills were over $2,000!

4Horses&Holding said...

Hancock line?

Is it this one?

He was my mare's grandsire - and MAN could she buck when she was of a mind to......

mugwump said...

4horsesandholding - Yes, that Hancock. You picked up on my dripping sarcasm when I said they are my favorite?
They are working beasts though. I just leave the starting of them to someone that gets and likes that line.

4Horses&Holding said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
4Horses&Holding said...

Oops, sorry - I lied. He was her great-grandsire. (I actually typed that first.)

*shrugs* Ah well.

Her two grandsires were Easy Jet & Coldstream Guard....

The two granddam sires were Bit O Hancock & Leo.

Sagebrusheq said...

Re: yesterday's blog:

Loins, tigers, and bears, Oh my!

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>.BTW - That bitch that sold me that broncy little gelding has him listed as a "well broke kids' horse for the whole family to enjoy". <

That's absolutely horrible. I hate when sellers do that. Want me to out her on the FHOTD blog? I'd be HAPPY to - it could save someone's neck!

manymisadventures said...

I don't know if I ever really worry about what they do in turnout (although that could be because I'm still in that Immortal Kid stage). The OTTB I had would buck like a madman in turnout, but mostly he just ran. Fast. A lot.

He definitely didn't have a bolt on him. Never once took off with me. The bucking? Sure, little ones. But mostly pain-related, as we would invariably find out when checking saddle fit or checking him with chiropractor/massage.

I've said it before and I don't think it'll ever change for me: I want a horse that goes FORWARD. If they have forward, I don't care about the rest. If the horse ignores my legs and sucks back at the slightest hint of frustration...that's when I start to wonder what would happen if they really got a bee in their bonnet.


Re the bucker sold as kids horse: that's just awful :( Some poor kid could have the joy of riding ruined, or be seriously seriously injured. How could someone do something like that and still sleep at night?

Karen V said...

CAT - I just check Dreamhorse for the ad. It's not there. SO...either she smartened up (doubtful) or she's already sold him to the next victim.

I wish I'd taken a copy of the ad. She had him in a halter, barepad pad being ridden by a girl who looked to be around 13-ish or so. And the horse looked PISSED. Sucked up tail, obviously body tense, pinned ears.

When I saw it, I just swallowed my own vomit and paid my doctor bills. She's be great FUGLY fodder any way, though...

I'll e-mail the info...

Tripple Spring said...

There is nothing worse than some idiot trying to sell horses with no care of the people they are selling them to. There is a local barn around here that selling green off the track TBs to kids and people who have been riding for less than two months. Their whole mindset is that the new owner/parent/child is going to need the horse ridden/trained so not only are they making the finders fee commission off the buy (or even the actual price if it was one of their own), but also charging out the ass for training!
Unfortunately, the horse usually ends up spooking/taking off with the rider, the rider falls, breaks a limb and then calls quits on the riding (all within the first 2 months of horse ownership!)! So guess what now?! The barn then turns around and charges them "Sales Prep" fees for advertising and showing their horse to potential buyers on top of the training fees, and then charge a 10% selling commission!
I can't decide if I should applaud them for being con artists and shame the adults who fall for the whole thing, or what...I just walked away disgusted and without a kind word about anything that comes from that barn...

CutNJump said...

Redsmom- Sometimes it takes doing things the horse likes while under saddle too. When I was growing up and started riding around age 15 or so, the one mare I took a shine to loved to run. In our ventures I let her run whenever the ground was good and we got the chance. (Yep, you guessed it, I wasn't supposed to, but caution to the wind and the power of youth...)

Well that mare knew just about every time we went out I would find somewhere to let her go. She would walk on a loose rein until and after our gallop. Her owner couldn't get her to walk no matter how he tried. She would jig and prance and just made for a miserable ride. He would end up grabbing her by the ear to make her walk (on a tight rein mind you) and the battle would rage on the whole ride.

Finding something they like to do and letting them do it helps them associate you with fun things and not just always working. They may be working in the process, but they won't consider it that way.

That's why my TB mare with iffy brakes, gets away with all sorts of things. We don't expect too much from each other and we compromise somewhere in the middle. Sort of. On our good days.

She stops eventually and in return I do not yank on the reins or get into her face. She lets me ride her and I try not to interfere. LOL!

CutNJump said...

mugwump said...
The ones I hate are the ones that jam their front legs into the ground like oak trees. The same ones that are eerily quiet and easy through all the preliminaries.
They tend to have a flat, far away look in their eyes.
Those are the ones that get you.
How do I write a shiver of fear?



When I was first starting horses I was told a horse standing still was more dangerous than one that was moving. The moving horse would most likely just keep going forward maybe just a little faster. You will be able to get them to stop- at some point.

The frozen to the ground horses could go off in any direction and you most likely never knew when or where...

I hear your fear on that one.

verylargecolt said...

>>The frozen to the ground horses could go off in any direction and you most likely never knew when or where...<<

Yup and my big fear is up and over, which as I've noted before has never happened to me so far and I'm really hoping to get through life without EVER experiencing it!

a beautiful disaster said...

hm.. i wish that aerobatics loose never translated to the saddle...buddy's stunts are impressive when put out to play (someone once commented that he looked like he was training to be in the lipizzaner shows) and he can be equally demonstrative of his *talents* if pissed off undersaddle. i guess i should be happy that he's actually relatively lazy and doesn't gallop.

my mom says i should go find some bars with mechanical bulls and hustle people...riding buddy is damn good training :)

on a positive note, the SLM is being a doll and i rode buddy bareback again today - i really do love my boy!

Heidi the Hick said...

This whole topic of expectations makes me think of trying out a horse you're thinking of buying.

Phoenix was perfect that day. Stood still for mount, walked nicely on a loose rein, two-handed in a sidepull. I gave him some leg and a cluck and he jogged right off. And man, what a gorgeous jog. I could ride that for hours.

So I bought him! I got him to his new home. He got right laaaaaazy! I'm not really upset about it, because eventually he'll have a job teaching my students how to ride. But this isn't the first time I've ridden a horse then found him to be a slightly different critter once he's home.

In these cases I think in the future I need to spend more time getting to know him before I start working him. We're pretty much straightened out now but I'm keeping it in mind.

He has bucked pretty hard with me twice. Both times I could find my own fault in it. He has a very easy going personality, and I can tell that I pissed him off. I'm not excusing him, but I understand. My mare has never bucked under saddle. I raised her from a yearling and got on her back at 3. I soon noticed that when she's right mad, her ears turn into each other -they almost touch!! That's when I know I have to back off. Do something that's easy for her, but keep her moving. She's super mellow on the ground, and I don't want to wreck that nice attitude.

surprisewind said...

The ones that are quiet in the pasture can lull you into a false sense of security. I can think of one mare in particular... fairly non-energetic in the pasture. And when she did kick up her heels, it was nothing to write to the rodeo about. The most gentle, low crow hopping and it LOOKED like she was putting effort into it.

Uh, no. Not trying at all. The trying happened when she was backed.

Oops.

rockymouse said...

I spent months being nervous about the Little Round Mare I rescued at auction. She was/is my first project horse. She was a bully on the ground, no manners at all, kicky, gave me the skunkeye and swishy tail. I kept waiting for that Big Explosion and although we have had our share of arguments, nothing like I imagined has (yet) materialized...to my great relief.
I just realized today, as I was doctoring her injured eye, that the formerly bossy, prissy, Queen of All She Surveys mare was totally calm, accepting, agreeable - even loving - while I was doing something to her that was undoubtedly uncomfortable. Dealing with her suddenly seemed a pleasure - we'd come a long way, for us. It was quite the epiphany.
My edginess about dealing with the Little Round Mare has diminished over the last few months...and as mine confidence has grown, she's grown softer and easier. Hmmm...verrry interesting!

barngal said...

I know I break when I fall, so before I did too much with BCG, I watched him in the fields when he played. I have pictures and videos of his antics so I knew what he was capable of doing. The problem is though he is also very lazy and needs a crop for forward movement. Legs don't seem to work. He seems to want to do things under his own terms so I have to use a crop and pop him on the rump sometimes. I hate carrying one so I've tried to put it up. The moment he realized it was gone he put the brakes on. Kicking caused him to buck and almost rear. When that happened, the crop came out again and after a bit of a disagreement all was well again. This is a first for me since I'm so used to the forward moving TBs.

I have had the foot planters. Two in fact and two times I've been launched into the air from a standstill! Not fun.

Redsmom said...

When Dude doesn't want to go forward he is the backing uppest horse I've ever known. One time when he was being buddy sour he backed 100 yards down a road. At least when he's backing up he doesn't tend to be able to buck. He has this indention on his behind which the Doc says is from a kick because "horses don't usually go really fast and back into things." I was thinking to myself, "You've never seen Dude backing up!!" OTOH, when he's being all heavy on the forehand (to the point of stumbling!) I stop and get him to back up and that gets him working off his back end for me.

SammieRockes said...

Yeah, MY OTTB, I remeber working with him, and I would think, oh the bike is gonna scare him, no issue, he is backing into a ditch, he will freak, no issue, thos horses are going crayz, so will he, no issue. I remeber the first Time I took him to an indoor. Didn't even wanna walk on, but then he saw another horse do it and was like "Hey, If he can do it so can I" For the rest of the day he was great, I baught a hot dog off his back and ate it there. I was amazed I what I thought would spook him didn't.

and yeah, young, we just jump on and ride, for me, not only that but bareback too!