Thursday, February 11, 2016

Complete Hypocrisy

I have not had the best week in regards to mounted activities. February in  general is one of the worst months IMO. Looking back, I should have just taken the next 2 weeks off for reasons, mostly the ridiculous cold that has set in (it was ‐2 this morning, without windchill). It is a known fact that Bacardi is a wild thing the colder it gets, and I should have accepted it and let it be & taken the hit on my riding schedule/goals. But I’m feeling a ton of pressure with recent success to keep it going, show season coming up, etc etc

Searching for my sanity

Both times I’ve ridden this week have been flat sessions, and due to the cold snap, I *wanted* to keep it simple with halts, lateral movements and W/T transitions. That’s it.

Bacardi had other ideas and schemes though.

The first session he was lit about leg yields. The second day he lost his damn mind because the door was open. Holy Christ, his world was ending.


There is something about leg yields that he cannot wrap his brain around. I mean he literally crumbles in front of me when I ask for any type of sideways movement while mounted. Unmounted, its better, but he is still wildly offended regardless.

I’ve ruled out physical issues and tack fit because I’ve seen him do perfect leg yields in the field and I’ve even asked for them bareback, with no tack. He just literally cannot under saddle.

The best way I can describe it is that he gets “stuck”. Like he will freak out (no one can grasp how badly unless you see it in real life), tense up, toss his head repeatedly, prance, and hold his head high in the sky and then just jig in place. Or sideways. Or backwards. Continuously. As in, won’t stop for minutes at a time. I’ll just be sitting there while my horse is half rearing, running left or backwards and shaking my head. Once he finally stops moving, he flips his head up and down and side to side, and prances in place. Its literally like he  short circuiting. 

While this meltdown is occurring, GOD FORBID I touch him with any limb on my body. If I try and pet his neck to calm him down, that’s grounds for a full blown rear.  Which is the opposite of what I wanted. If I try and combat the rapid sideways running with a closed outside leg, he explodes up or forward.

There is no stopping or assuaging the meltdown. And it happens every.single.time., 60% of the time I ask for even just 2 steps sideways.

Other days, he will leg yield across the entire arena brilliantly.

It is most perplexing, as I change nothing about the way I am asking or tack used. Special, special OTTB.

Then theres the separate issue of the terrifying, horse eating open arena door.

For real, this is the special of the most special horse quirks.

B when I ask him to walk past the open arena door

Essentially, this issue boils down to spooking (in the rafters, bolt sideways) at said open door, taking 3‐17 laps at the other end to relax .5 levels, return to working semi‐normally and then go past it again just to repeat and

I make a point to stay relaxed and unreactive with this horse, but I sometimes reach a boiling point where I WANT to rip his face off with the bit because he is literally being the worst. Every movement, aid, sound is an excuse to fling his head so high it about smacks me in the forehead and then bolt. This is NOTHING to work with.

Generally, horses can “work through” issues with the rider asking them to move forward into contact. 

Forward is the key.

However, when B is having a fit, I can’t touch him. Like, cannot. If I ask him to move into the contact he does one of two things; jigs in place or backwards, or runs with his head higher than I physically thought possible.

After 45 minutes of this spooking dance and incredible tenseness through his entire body, feeling overwhelmed and entirely defeated, I threw my leg over, stomped back to the tack room and grabbed the first standing martingale I could find.

Going against everything I stand for, I slapped that bad boy on him so fast and threw him on the lunge line of discovery.

It took 25 minutes of reacting over nothing, hitting the standing, halting in confusion and being pushed forward again for him to learn that extreme head tossing is NOT an acceptable form of evasion.

Bacardi as JBeibs
And within that time frame I kept my cool. Never yanked on him, only asked him to move forward. It was a self‐correcting session & he learned QUICKLY that it is possible to move without ones head in the rafters.

Then, what do you know, he was a perfect angel for all transitions, gaits and halts on the lunge. Perfect, insanely, wonderfully perfect and fluid.

I still feel bad I reached the end of my patience, but I figure when the behavior is downright dangerous, something has to be done immediately to curb the behavior or it will only continue and get worse. I haven’t had him act this horribly in quite some time, and I was reaching the end of my comfortability. In the future, I simply will not try and ride when the temp is this cold, but for that day, I NEEDED the success as kindly & as quickly as of possible teaching him that I am not the devil or the cause of his anxiety, but here to support and teach him. But when he is so reactive to anything I do to mitigate his actions, nothing is learned. The first day, I left it alone and just got off once I got frustrated. The second day, I really just wanted to end on a positive note of some sort.

Its like once I forcibly & hypocritically removed the evasion technique, he stopped worrying about things in general and settled into the simple freaking tasks I was asking of him (WTC on the lunge). No sidereins, no collection, no fancy shit, just GO FORWARD.

I am fully convinced that all brain activity halts when his head is higher than his withers. More research to come. 

Not that I need to justify my actions with my own horse to anyone, I simply wanted to share and compare with others. What do you all do when a horse has reached his “brain limit”? Do you try and fix the issue and end positively, or do you leave it alone and hope its better the next day? Why?


  1. Sounds like you handled the situation in the best way possible given the circumstances. Sometimes the ride is not perfect but good enough to live to fight another (warmer!) day without letting bad habits get reinforced. Have you ever thought that his resistance to leg yields might really be a resistance into going into the outside rein/outside aids? Some really sensitive horses(ask me how I know) really hate being boxed in by the aids in the beginning. I had one mare who threw fits about turn on the forehand for a MONTH before she decided she could handle stepping into the outside aids. It took a fair amount time and tact(on non-windy and cold days) and breaking everything into tiny soft steps to get her to accept stepping into the outside aids and not getting resistant and freaky.

    1. Thanks for the tip :) And yes, I need to just save this for warmer days!

  2. ugh so frustrating... my mare def has some days that are easier than others for lateral work (usually is related to however stiff she's feeling, so we can usually work through it with other exercises like stretching) but i suspect she and B express themselves, erm, *differently* haha. with her tho, when she's done she's usually just done and that's kinda that. we can try to change the topic and end with something i know i can praise her for... but sometimes we can't, so we just stop and try again another day. it's incredibly frustrating all the same tho...

    1. frustrating is the correct wording here hahaha

  3. Glad you kept your emotions and patience in check and worked through it. Some horses just have "that thing," and leg yields seems to be Bacardi's. Maybe this means that once he gets over himself, you'll have totally ballin' leg yields in the future? **prays**

    Side note: I LOVE me a good Nene Leakes and Kevin Hart gif in the same post. LOVE.

    1. WOOT WOOT! KH is hilarious haha. Praying this is his one thing he just can't deal with and eventually he will be like oh ok

  4. Depending on the situation, I try to make some sort of progress and get out of the irons before I let my frustration take over. Hang in there!

  5. Depending on the situation, I try to make some sort of progress and get out of the irons before I let my frustration take over. Hang in there!

  6. Some really good videos here: and here

  7. But this right here is a good example of the REASON gadgets exist and how they can be used properly, correctly and for their intended purpose. With no one being Judgey McJudgerson. Glad he gave himself and education and I hope it sticks around a while!

  8. "the lunge line of discovery" lol!

  9. Yikes! I think it was a good call to use the martingale and longe him. That can be extremely dangerous. He could have hit you in the face and knocked you out. Scary! I'm glad you both are okay and that he figured out that keeping his head down was better. I hope the lesson sticks.

  10. They just don't make it easy sometimes! I don't know if this would ever help or not but when Apollo is being spazzy about leg yielding I park him in front of a walk, helps him remember his buttons sometimes haha.

    1. OH trust me I've tried this, it just encourages rearing haha...sigh

  11. I always try and end positively even if it is something small. Last time Ries lost his marbles our positive ending was walking on a loose rein without stopping to look out the windows as we passed