Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Consistently Inconsistent

I am going to dance past the fact that I am so sore and tired from trying to adult all the things and focus directly on my ride today which was terrible if you didn't deduce from the title.

It was not  the caliber of fuckery that my winter rides morphed into...its just that when it was bad it was REALLY bad.....

This is mild

The worst of it was not on film
....And when it was good, its was REALLY good....

Defensive riding makes bad photos

But the consistency of good was greatly equaled by the consistency of the bad and I'm continued to be perplexed with the root cause of the explosive, ridiculous, unwarranted spooking thats occuring in an alarming pattern and frequency in the field.

1. I treated him for ulcers
2. He's on maintenance meds for ulcers
3. He's on a very strong calming supp
4. Nutrition is on point
5. Tack fits
6. We now have brakes
7. I took his tail down

Today he literally spooked at the exact same spot every single time and it made no sense. I know he is not kosher with barrels but he would be nowhere near them during the time of the spook and they were not in his line of sight. And I mean they were HARD bolting spooks. Every. damn. time. in the same spot. He was worse to the left, surprisingly. And cantering was out of the question (ask me how I know).

I did my best to remain calm with all body parts, because apparently moving an inch of any limb was highly offensive, and would engage one-rein stops at each spook, in which he would respectfully stop, breathe and move on. And take about half a lap and do it all over again.

Essentially we would regroup for about 30 seconds, gets 2 good steps, and then fall apart again.

I was really at a loss with what to move forward with regarding training. Do I work his ass off until hes tired? Do I try and ignore the bad behavior and work through it without regrouping? Or do I regroup so far as to bring back to a free walk at every spook?

I really had no idea where to go and I wished at that moment that I had a coach or a friend or SOMEONE to help me.

I ended up having a 3 way with solutions.

Every spook would warrant an emergency halt, pat, regroup, breathe and pick right back up at the trot. If there immediate shenanigans (likely), repeat and begin back at the WALK. Arrive at a nice walk---> permitted to trot. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until rider is completely spent (like, entire body shaking with exhaustion). Dont worry, horse will be, and was, fine. Because thoroughbred.

Eventually, I got 2 laps of relaxed trot to the right and called it a day. To the left was just not possible today. Walked on a loose rein and tried to end it there.

Personal fav and good effort from the babe

I say try, because the second I turn to go home the neighbor lets his dogs out and Bacardi goes absolutely BESERK. I mean, it was a full fledged dip out bolt. I almost fell off until I remembered I had a neck strap. Which literally saved me from what most likely would've been broken body parts.

Not his fault, but still HIGHLY annoying that a spook is that violent. Its literally like his brain falls out of his skull. I've never met a horse with such a high flight instinct & such violent reactions.

So I'm beginning to wonder if the field is just out of the question. Permanently. Theres just something about it that he cannot tolerate anymore.

Either that or he's just not chill with being ridden in open spaces this fresh.

Highly aggravating considering its my ONLY space TO ride.

I walked him out on the road and he was absolutely, 100% perfection. Not even a twitch of a spook and we walked about half a mile on the buckle.

So that leaves me very disgruntled. For one, I know my horse behaves well on the road now (yay). BUT roadwork is not exactly conducive on a repetitive, daily basis and for sure not useful for jumping or dressage work. So yeah, I have ONE outlet, but utilizing the larger space in the field for dressage test movements and jumping seems very very out of the question right meow.

Which leads me to...uhhhh, where do I ride?

I know I'm a broken record & this is forst world problems, but srsly, riding...need it.


  1. So incredibly frustrating!!! Can you dump him off with a trainer for just one month and see if maybe you can get some space and another opinion on the situation? I can take a little spook but sounds like it is bordering on dangerous/unpredictable/too much drama. He clearly can be good, so might be worth it to deal with a month of $$?

    1. That would be nice...but that would cost me a paycheck and a half and I just can't. Also he perfectly fine off the property in an arena....but he doesn't load well (another huge ongoing issue) and I don't have time to haul during the week because of work.
      This was absolutely my first thought. But I'm really thinking it's the field. No other explanation.

  2. I will probably get flamed for saying this, but it sounds like he needs to work harder. Wet saddle pads. Lunge in side reins until he can be civilized. I know the weather hinders this, but if he were mine I would make him earn his keep for a while.

    1. I've been wondering this myself. But I worked him over an hour today and an hour on the lunge the other day and it never got better. Ugh. I just don't know!

  3. Totally unpopular opinion - and please feel free to completely disregard my advice as I only know part of the story, not the whole - but.... I would not be riding B if he was my horse and he was acting like that. It sounds like the situation is highly unpredictable and frankly; very dangerous. Personally, that risk would not be worth it in my mind.

    However, it is your call. I don't know what your financials are like, but in your situation, I would be seriously considering saving up to send him to a trainer and not riding him in the mean time, or - and here's the hard part - thinking about whether or not we were a good match and if it's time to move on. I'm sorry, I hope you don't feel like I'm judging your situation, but I am concerned for your safety. Bacardi, while he might be very good when he's good, is also very bad when he is bad, and for me - as a reader, the whole thing just feels like a ticking bomb.

    I really don't want to read a post update from hospital. So please, stay safe whatever you decide! :) And again, please feel free to completely disregard this comment if you feel like it's not applicable. I am aware that I probably don't understand even half of the situation as I can only read what you write, and I don't want to make you feel bad. I think you are doing your very best for Bacardi, and that's great. You are trying really hard to make it work, and I admire your courage and determination for sticking it out this long. :)

    bonita of A Riding Habit

  4. I think you need a trainer. Best would be a month of boarding and lessons but even having someone come out for an hour and watch you ride would help. I think you're a capable rider who's heart is in the right place (and I'm not saying I would do any better!) but even in the photos where he's being good he's not stepping under himself, has ears back and is carrying a lot of tension/opening his jaw. Look I read post after post where you are frustrated and like the commenter above said it's getting dangerous. Nobody wants you to get hurt amdwhat you're currently doing with him is not working.

  5. Oh boy B. He is not the best at adulting, but he is still a wee baby so there is that. Whenever my ponies get weird, spooky or I feel uncomfortable, I get off and lunge for a bit and then hop back on. And then if they get weird/spooky/balls crazy again, I get back off and lunge and repeat. I will make it uncomfortable for them when they make it uncomfortable for me. I will make it pleasant if they make it pleasant. I make them back, change direction, change pace, side pass and turn on the haunches or forehand and then trot or canter until I think they may be using their brain again. Some people may think I am evil (or horses) but you know what? I am usually a crap ton safer/happier when I get back on after that. Fortunately I don't have to do it very often because they have all kind of figured that out by now. Goodluck sister!

  6. I agree with the other comments: I'd be looking at either having a trainer come out and work with me (less $$ than training board) or getting an exam with a different vet than the one you usually use. I know you have some financial limits right now and you haven't had luck with trainers in the past, but is there anyone new in the area that you might consider? Even 30 minutes every other week can be helpful. When I was having issues with my crazy gelding, it was so so helpful to have eyes on the ground. And if that doesn't help, get a full neuro exam done, check for Lyme, get his whole back and neck palpated. Another blogger's horse was having erratic behavior like this due to nuchal bursitis. My gelding ended up having something similar to Wobbler's. A friend's horse who had a sudden behavioral change had sky-high Lyme titers. As a note I want to add: Lyme disease is not routinely tested for. It is expensive. The SNAP test is cheap at $50 usually but can give positives even for inactive infections. The Cornell test is much more specific and accurate, but is over $200. For a test that expensive, a vet would have to ask for your permission prior; it is not part of routine CBC/chemistry panels.

    Side note: could the dislike for the field and preference for the road be an indicator of pain in his legs/feet? Pain in soft footing can be a reflection of soft tissue problems. Just a thought.

    I know you're trying to do everything you can for him & I'm sorry to repeat what others have said but like everyone else here that's reading, I'm concerned for your safety with B's continued unpredictability. :(

  7. so sorry to hear your frustration - and especially sorry that nothing seems to be making a lasting difference.

  8. You must be so frustrated, and I am so, so sorry. I have a spooky red horse (though she doesn't get quite as... athletic as Bacardi) and it is so frustrating, especially because her favorite hobby is spooking violently at the same spot, over and over and over and over. They are so brilliant but then you also kind of want to hit them with a brick, because Y U SO STUPID. Please stay safe, and I am sending all the well behaved red horse vibes I can your way!

  9. Do you read the Bad Eventer blog? B sounds a lot like her Klumsy.

  10. This horse and you need a whole new training regime...I would start back at ground 0. Literally, take John Lyons "starting young horses" book and go from page 1. Once you are to the riding part, I suggest a month minimum of lunge work with side reins, and cavaletti, but it has to be consistent. So every day, or 5 days a week, even if for 20 minutes. Keep in mind if your horse is worried about the footing, it may encourage him to act out under saddle. Some horses just hate not having good footing.

    I have worked through a few horses like this, if you want help designing a training program, e-mail me.

  11. B seems like a horse that could greatly benefit from a consistent program. He is a big, young, good-feeling horse. I don't think it is his tail. or the field. I think that he may always be a bit nutty in the chilly weather, but if you were able to work him 6 days a week, 5 rides would be good and 1 might be a nightmare, instead of the opposite. I'm seeing that a lot with some of the TBs at my barn. We have a giant, gorgeous indoor with perfect footing and they still have days where their brains leak out their ears. One girl calls them white marble and black marble days.

    I don't think there is a magic answer, given your current circumstances. I'm not trying to be negative - I aim for realistic. It must be frustrating for you and for him. He seems like he genuinely wants to be good.

    Also, I second the opinion of getting a coach out there. Everyone has a coach. Sinead Halpin has a coach, for crying out loud. No one is too good for a coach. It is not physically possible for you to pick up on things you might be unconciously doing that could be contributing to the situation. That is why we could all use eyes on the ground.

  12. FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a trainer, nor do I pretend to be one.

    That said, I watched my trainer (A Phillipe Karl Enthusiast) work through these issues with a horse that was very similar. First she worked in a confined riding arena, to minimize the bolting, (of course, her arena is still olympic size) and went back to absolute basics, walk/trot. The difference was that when he tried to spook/bolt, she didn't pull back - she pulled her hands up, raising his head, and did circles. He could go just as fast as he liked, as long as he kept his head high in the air! As soon as he was responding to her she let him put his head down. Eventually, his spooking, bolting became much more controlled and she started slowing her posting and using smaller circles to regulate his pace to her preference, not his! A couple months later and you wouldn't have known he had a spooking problem at all.

    How she explained it to me; in her opinion, a horse is like a spring. They are prey animals, they do not like to feel confined. Bad behaviour makes people tighter on thier horse, they tighten, tighten and tighten the spring, and eventually the spring just lets loose. People tend to use a lot of halts and half-halts on misbehaving reactive horses, and it often leads to just more blow-ups or bigger blow-ups as the horse learns to increase the size of his tantrum to evade. By asking them to keep going, but lift their heads, she is sending a different message to the horse, there's nothing to worry about, and you still have to go! As well, it's more difficult for them to balance with a higher neck, and this gives them something else to think about, and hopefully helps shift the focus back to you.

    Of course, it took a little longer for his rider to get with the program; all those pesky fear issues again. I don't know how often I heard "UP NOT BACK!" when I rode with her. But I don't know if I could have been as brave loosening contact as I rode a horse I knew might bolt.

    One question I asked her "doesn't pulling their heads up make them rear?"

    Her answer; "I've seen a lot of people pull their horses back into a rear, but I've never seen a horse pulled up into one. Horses try very hard to move away from pressure, and given no alternatives, may try 'up' for release. On the other hand, asking the horse to lift their head and neck up at worst usually confuses them into a halt as they try to drop their head to get away from the pressure. I also never maintain a constant pressure for them to fight against; I ask them to lift and if they drop before I want them to, I ask them again."

    So for as much as second-hand advice and interpretation is worth, maybe try looking at some Phillipe Karl materials. . .

  13. There's definitely some things I agree with listed above but like your title suggests... Consistency is key. Especially for a pony like B (My B is the same). I really think that when you get into work mode you guys are an amazing team and will go far. It's just getting back into that routine and the weather definitely does not help.

    Starting from the ground up again like T Myers suggested I think will really help in the long run. It's huuuuuggeee to get to revamp. Kind of like school. The first couple months coming out of the summer was always a review of the previous year.

    No worries... You've got this. I have faith and Brantley and I are routing for you. Yankee is too I bet!

  14. I know how frustrating it is. There are a million different things that could be the problem and a million different ways to fix that problem. I know what it's like to have limited funds/options when your horse starts acting less than stellar and it really sucks. There are a million things you can try, but you know your horse better than anyone. My best advice is to trust your instincts and use the process of elimination from there. Trial and error and all of that. Whatever you do, while it's great to be open to advice, don't let someone make you start second guessing yourself. Go with what feels right. My only other advice is that, if B continues to act in a dangerous manner, a little bit of ace can go a long ways. Sometimes they just need to remember that they can relax. A few rides on a little bit of it might help and you can always give him a little less with each ride until he doesn't need it. I know this isn't ideal, but it will help keep both of you safe until you can work through this :) Wishing you the best!

  15. Blahblahblah get a trainer blah. I don't mean to be a bitch but I can't help it it just comes so easy for me. You don't need a damn trainer and I of course know you know this but I'm just putting it out there. Listen I've been and still am in your shoes. A super athletic awesome horse that has mystery issues. My 2 cents you can't out work a thoroughbred like B. You just can't. Keep in mind I know you know all this. Footing is real big effing problem for these guys. They get scared shit less when their feet don't go exactly where they think they will. It doesn't take field riding out for good because I know like me is your only choice. But it takes it out until about may unless the spring weather god shines upon us. Then throughout the season when things get slick sporradicly. Sucks being a slave to weather sucks big balls but though it seriously slows progress it does not stop it. I have just had to get creative and become very very patient. I have worked entire dressage tests at a walk for a month because trotting was out of the question. And I only canter a couple months out of the year because shitty footing. But the good news is these guys don't need drilling. And I believe it is better for them not to. Though it can be a fun feeling to head into a dressage test with your warm up being the only time you've cantered in a few weeks. But it's fine you got this. Hey let's trade eyes on the ground once in a while. Dressage training is written off in my books for few more weeks because of footing but you know what will help him gain confidence on crappy footing. Is trails. Let's get out there!

  16. I don't have time to read the comments, but I wanted to say be careful please! That sounds so scary! I think you already did, but just in case I have to ask... have you had his teeth checked? He looks very sucked back to me so maybe this is a pain issue (especially since he's worse in one direction)? Also for what it's worth my neighbor has a (RED) TB/QH that's actually been like this (although to a lesser degree) too and he was just diagnosed EPM. :(