Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Today I remind myself to be thankful that I have another horse to play with.

Isn't it silly? Ridiculous? I have an old arthritic horse with a sinus tumor who can't breathe, a younger lame horse with EPSM and a healing severe hoof abscess who just recently recovered from a DDFT injury, a young horse who is now painfully lame and on stall rest, and so I'm trying again with the horse that had to have stifle surgery and then foundered. What the heck is wrong with my luck? What happened to the idea that mustangs are tough and hardy? Of course Soxy's not a mustang but the rest of them are. I think horses may as well be made of glass.

I'm not including Grace in my count because she's not really mine and I'm not sure she's a permanent resident here.

So anyway, back to Bella. She's a challenge, in a very mental sort of way. She's sweet as long as I don't ask her to do anything. She gets resentful when I ask her to work. She was downright pissy under saddle yesterday. But she's so darn sensitive any amount of pressure sends her up the wall. I find myself really thinking hard and wondering what is the right thing to do with her.

Something that the trainer said to me last week keeps coming back to mind. If a horse thinks you are on the same level in the pecking order, or lower, it will resent being asked to work or told what to do. What an eye opener that was. Here I've been all concerned about my horses' feelings, and feeling bad myself because they didn't seem to like working with me. And then this new information is stated and I'm thinking, "Wow, that is so obvious, how could I not have known that!"

Which in turn takes me back to when I was watching Keith work with Scout and it made me realize I was making way too many allowances for Bella because she's so emotional.

So I'm going to do some Bella Boot Camp. She's going to be asked to toe the line, and if she has to get emotional about it that's just what's going to have to happen. I'm not going to be mean or super bitchy, but I'm going to ask her to do what I want, when I want and come down and end on a good, relaxed note. Sounds so simple. But I think she's going to have a hard time with it. So am I. Like so many of us, I'd much rather just be her friend. But I don't want to get hurt because she thinks I don't have a right to ask her to walk out when I'm in the saddle.

Which brings me to yesterday when we had a nice working session in the round pen. I saddled her and bridled her in the Myler comfort snaffle. I had been riding her in a bosal, you may remember. That was just another allowance to keep her mental discomfort level down, so I decided she's going to have to ride in a bit. This is a wonderful bit too, all my horses have loved it. She liked it too, settled down and quit mouthing quite quickly.

Ground work went very well and she flexed and gave to the bit very nicely while I was on the ground. When I got in the saddle she did well, except she had a hard time giving to the bit and backing at the same time. This was tough for her in a halter as well, when she was learning to lead. No big deal, just stuff to work on. But when I asked her to walk out she felt comfortable enough to start tossing her head and I felt her body bunch up under me. I don't like that feeling at all. I stayed on and walked her around, did some more work on giving to the bit, then did some more ground work, then got on again. Same attitude. I think what I need to do is push her up into a trot. It scares me though, the idea that she may buck. So I'm going to keep doing ground work and building respect for now. It shouldn't be long before I'm in the saddle again.

I'm not upset or complaining about Bella, I actually think it's kind of nice to have an "Aha!" moment that gives me things to work on and think through. We're both going to grow. Constantly growing, with all there is to learn and do with the horses. It's good stuff.

This all must be very boring to read. But it helps me get my head around it.


Anonymous said...

Not boring to me at all - I like reading about your experiences and thought processes. Bella does sound like a challenge. I'm always having to keep Drifter in line on the ground - he thinks he's Mr. Studly - but once I'm in the saddle he's generally pretty cooperative once he figures out what I want. And he's not sensitive, really - if I have to correct him he just sighs and says "whatever" and never seems to hold a grudge.

Lea and her Mustangs said...

Not a bit boring. Just feel bad that you are having such a hard time with horses.

Linda said...

I feel the same way with all my horse-lamenesses. Two old arthritic guys, an arthritic head shaker, and now a lame (hopefully hoof abscess) horse. I think you're right about them being made of glass. And I think you're onto something with Bella.

arlene said...

Instead of trotting her when she acts up, I'd say "Hey" and quickly put her into a tight circle. Many horses are lazy by nature and need to know who's a stern "Hey"! and extra work should let her know you're not happy and she's being punished. And it shouldn't give her the opportunity to buck as much as just trotting would.