Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Something Is Bothering Him

Nice cool day, promising of rain.

I chopped down a lot of weeds aroung the arena this morning and again tonight. As in the past they had taken over during the heat wave when I simply could not handle cutting them. If I'd gotten them even earlier when school was still in session, I probably could have handled them with the weed whacker, but now they have nice sturdy stalks so I had to use a hand cutter to get rid of them. More yet to do, but things to look better. I can weed whack some of the vegetation, but that will have to be another day as I wore myself out today.

Then I rode. Tucker was first. His trot work was quite nice. Forward and responsive. The canter? Kick out, buck, lay back the ears, and generally miserable. I had to make a choice of letting him fuss his way out of it or work through it. I decided on the work through, for now. Eventually, with a great deal of determination on my part, he gave me a series of good departs on both leads and some pretty good canter work, although I did not challenge him by asking for any sharp turns or small circles.

The horses are due for fall vaccinations, so when I get the vet out, I will have him give Tuck a going over. If it's his stifle, then he needs to work. If it's his hock(s) then I will have to decide about xrays. Until then, I'll work through it. I still have not tried giving him some bute to see if he works better, but again, that's for another day. The forecast is calling for rain over the next few days, so I will have to wait it out anyhow.

I rode Chance next and he was much steadier than the other day, so I will have to guess the flies were bothering him then as I suspected. Not too much to report as all the work is very basic with him. I did a few transitions, working on keeping his head down, so that was good. While the transitions into canter are still unbalanced, the canter itself is improving every time I work him. He stays round and on the bit for the most part, but will fall apart and break gait if I am not quick enough to correct him before it happens.

Successful riding is often anticipating a problem before it happens, so you can make an adjustment before it actually becomes a problem. That way you never really have to make a dramatic correction. It doesn't always work, but the quicker you can be the better the ride.

With Chance, adjustments need to come every two or three strides right now. Sometimes, I am a little too slow, however, so I have to make a bigger deal out of what I want from him. But he has a really good attitude and does try to do things right. Sometimes, it's just hard for him to balance himself and me at the same time.

I do feel a little weakness on his right side, however. That is the hind leg where the strange lameness showed up. I still don't know what that problem is, or whether it's still there, but I do think he is not as strong on that side. Again, it's kind of a wait and see thing. As he gets more fit, it will either get better or worse. So far, so good, and since the vet never did find anything specific, we'll just play it by ear.

I seem to be doing a lot of that lately. When horses are not exactly "lame" it is a tricky proposition. Many people would just ignore it and treat Tuck's behavior as a training issue. I'm just not that kind of person. I do not think horses lie to us about how they feel. They try to tell us if something is wrong and as trainers/riders/owners, we need to learn to listen.

Sometimes it's just hard to understand their language.


  1. Anonymous7:51 PM

    You're right - the horse doesn't lie about how he feels - each horse has a different way of communicating - but they don't lie. Wonder what Tucker was on about?

    Getting ahead of the horse's thought before it turns into action - ah, that's one that takes a lot of care and attention!

    Thanks for the update - you can come take care of my weeks anytime!

  2. You are obviously in tune with your boys and right to listen to your instict that something needs attention.

  3. "Successful riding is often anticipating a problem before it happens, so you can make an adjustment before it actually becomes a problem. That way you never really have to make a dramatic correction. It doesn't always work, but the quicker you can be the better the ride."

    Oh this is interesting, in Parelli world or even reining, we are banned from micromanaging, we let the horse make the mistake giving us the oprotunity to correct him. For example, break of gait, I let Teena break the gait from trot to walk, then ask her to go again (a cluck is enough), using my phases to ask her. I do not nag her with my legs when I feel she slows down ... a very bad habit I have from english riding.

    The same for direction like staying on the piste/follow the rail, I give her a direction, and she has to keep it. If she comes off, like she did at the walk, I could not keep her on the piste, I move her over. The first day it took 20+ corrections to keep on the road, then we porgressed to only 3 corrections.

    It is her job to maintain gait and direction, the same with collection, you ask then release, if she opens up ask some more release. It is the principles of basic western riding. Parelly calls it freestyle ....

  4. It's so true that horses never lie about how they are feeling. I sometimes feel like a detective, we have lots of horses that have to take it slow because of one issue or another. We sort of live by the 'take it as it comes' and 'wait and see' attitude. Sometimes it can get a little frustrating but there's nothing to be done about that either. Hope you get them sorted out soon.

  5. Here's my issue with letting the horse make the mistake and then correcting it. First, the horse learns to make the mistake--break the gait, etc. Usually the larger mistake is preceded by a smaller problem--horse stiffens shoulder,loses bend. By correcting the larger mistake only, the behavior that initiated it is never addressed. Then, the correction must be much bigger to fix the problem. By addressing the problem before it happens, we do not allow the bad behavior and fix the more minor problem that causes the larger problem.

    It is not nagging, to do this. You leave the horse alone until you feel the first hint of the problem and fix it with a minor correction that is not harsh or startling to the horse.

  6. But then the horse never learns his repsonsabilities and he does not use his brain. The more you your reins, the less they use their brain.

    Obviously the first repsonsabilities are maintaining gait and direction, only when these two basics are achieved, the more advanced collected work is started.

    But I see many Dressage-wannabee trying to collect their horses, but the horse does not know how to maintain gait without being continually nagged with legs. It is just plain wrong.

    The horse has to work PHYSICALLY more than the rider, definetaly the rider must work more.

    Philippe Karl in his book, is also very clear. Horses must be off the leg, and keep going.

    It is really the ABC. But you know that better than me as a trainer.

    But I can assure you that reining trainers allow the mistake so they can train/correct the horse. Remember they have only ONE hand for guiding the horse during the pattern. You cannot do much with one hand!

  7. I agree with Jean--rather than letting my horse have a screaming fit about how she doesn't want to walk past her sticky spot, I just keep my leg on and ask her to go forward. I set her up to succeed and help her along the way.

  8. I think, Muriel, we are actually speaking the same language here. It is just "when" the correction takes place. If falling in on the shoulder is the first step to falling in off the fence of the arena, then if you correct the shoulder, then you do not have to make a huge dramatic correction of the whole horse.

    It is still "pressure and release" as each correction is followed by a release. The idea is to sense and feel the first part of the larger mistake and fixing it before it becomes a big mistake.

    If a horse is going to do a dangerous behavior, you do not want to wait until that behavior happens--rearing, for example--to correct it. You notice the first step that leads to the really bad behavior and fix that.

    I can remember my first good riding intstuctor's words when a horse I was riding did something wrong, "Don't let him do that." It was not fix what he did, but stop him before he did it. Horses give us signals and we need to tune in.

    I think that is where the talented riders/trainers shine. They feel the early stages of a problem and never let it escalate to a big problem. It is why a good trainer ride almost any horse well.

  9. the difficulty lies in knowing quite what they are trying to tell you, if anything...witness my miss molly!

    have you tried tuck on devil's claw ... see if it makes a difference and then you'll have some idea if it's a pain related issue or not before you get into full on investigation mode...

    and muriel - if i felt the break of gait coming on, i would prevent it .. with a view to the horse learning to keep going until i actually ask for the lower gait