Thursday, February 9, 2017

Officially Entering the "What Have I Done" Phase

I had mentioned in my previous post - "It's Like Dating Again" - owning a new horse is
equivalent to being on a roller-coaster. You hit some highs and you hit some lows until you level out into a steady stream of understanding and begin to truly work together as a team.

The mares rule the roost here, and Spud is slowly
deciding he doesn't "totally" hate Annie.
I will be the first to say that harvesting a relationship with an animal, especially one as large and undomesticated as a horse (compared to say, a dog), takes a great deal of effort and a great deal of understanding. Trust does not and will not happen overnight, despite what the Parelli videos show you. Dominance is not trust.

Things for the most part with Annie have been trudging along slowly since our excursion to Barn C a few weekends ago. Between a brief stint wherein my work hours fluctuated to where I was getting off just at sunset, and the weather nose-diving into -20 again, I haven't had much time to really work or even spend much quality time with any of my horses.

In some ways, feel like winter is always a catch 22 – the sun will come out and you feel guilty for not being outside or not doing anything with your horse. But then you step outside and it’s fucking -20 degrees and all of your fingers go numb just filling the water trough. Or you get blessed with a real nice day and are confined to walking around the street because there is nowhere safe to lunge and the outdoor arena is still buried under a foot of ice.

This is what the outdoor arena looked like
at the end of February last year. #crying
So it shouldn’t be surprising that after 2 weeks off left to do absolutely nothing, Annie decided to have serious opinions about leaving Suzie and Spud to go on a hack solo-style. In retrospect (because hindsight is always 20/20) it would have been a better option to lunge her before attempting to hack out alone on the road, but I was feeling particularly ornery myself and other than a small oblong 15m corner of the paddock, I had nowhere to really lunge her properly.

So I hopped on.

And thus ensued our first real “fight”.

She was wiggly when I attempted to mount, so I had her trot tight circles around me until she decided she wanted to stand still while I climbed on up. Once I got up there, she immediately went to walk out, so I halted her to get organized and collect my off-side stirrup. I was carrying a whip with me, as per recommendations from a few friends, and when I felt ready to go, I squeezed and instantly felt Annie suck back.

She refused to budge, so I gave a little kick and she bowed her head down but still refused to move. In an attempt to “unlock” her, I went to turn her to the left and then to the right. But she still would not move. And thus, out came Mr. Whippy. She received two-three sharp smacks to her bottom and because I don’t think she has ever had a whip used on her, she backed up fast and kind of pivoted on her hind legs and did a complete spin to face back towards the barn. After that, I gave her a kick and she went forward and we carried on.

She is completely in love with Suzanne.
The rest of the ride was a little frustrating in the sense that every time the wind blew, Annie would break into a trot. She was quite forward and I could feel she was not really “with” me during the ride. We met up with a friend and her horse, which only seemed to cause each horse to feed off of eachother’s nervous energy.

About 2/3 into the ride, both horses settled into a buckle-rein walk, but I could still feel the tension in Annie’s back. We finished the ride and Annie had a slight melt-down when AJ turned
around to go home, but all things considered it was pretty minor (calling out, trying to turn around, walking fast).

I got off when I wanted to - and under my own terms, which is a success and I came to the realization that I need to pre-plan things a bit better. Not because I condone silly behaviour, but because Annie is still young and learning and I need to set her up better for success. And if that means a quick lunge the day before or a hand-walk the day before, I should be investing my time that way. I’ve been so used to just hopping on Suzie and going (who, by the way, has been much worse behaved on a Spring-hack than Annie!).

Friend hacks are the best.

In some ways, I kind of think "well duh, there were a lot of factors that attributed to her behavior" or "she didn't even really do anything bad" and in other respects my anxiety started to nag me "you ruined her already", "she's gonna start rearing now, way to go", "she hates you", "why did you buy a young horse" and on the list goes.

And this is where talking to a few good friends really helps. Because in Annie's defense, I went through this exact set of feelings when I purchased Suzie and Spud. Things would start out great, and then be not so great, leaving me to wonder if I really was the right rider/ owner for them.

Three really good horsey-friends were the first to hear about the mishap and offered their support. One friend gleaned, "Well, you ended on a buckle rein, so what's there to worry about?" Another offered, "The colder temps bring out the sillies sometimes, but it's nice she didn't get too silly on you aside from what you described."  And the last stated the obvious, "She's only had 30 days on her and she's four. Plus, her paddock is a sheet of ice and she hasn't been able to really do much other than eat and poop."

If anything tho, she is ridiculously
fucking cute.
None of my friends (nor myself) condone the behavior at all, but it is important to assess the facts and figure out why it was there. It could have been any number of reasons, but the fact remains that I didn't really give her the best shot at being the best she could be. Although, in some circumstances, you just can't prepare for certain things.

The self-doubt thing will go away, especially when I am able to put another ride on her and it is positive. It is funny because, had it been a mere 5 years ago, I would've just shrugged it off and continued on my merry-way. Becoming older and more aware of the realities of what could happen can leave any amateur blind-sided with the case of "What ifs" which don't do anyone any good.

It all just seems so stupid to me, especially because Suzie has been 10x worse on hacks around the neighborhood. I get the feeling it's not necessarily the behavior, but the fact that I still don't know Annie. I don't know what will happen if I push her too hard. I don't know what she will do if I do X, Y, or Z. Whereas with Suzie I know all of this stuff - of course, it was learned through trail and error over the last 3 years of riding her.

Anyone else remember two years ago when Suzie
and I went out for a 30min hack and she
jigged and sidepassed the entire ride?!
In an attempt to get the good juju juices flowing, I booked a lesson with resident trainer K at Barn C for Sunday to help us out a bit and to get Annie's legs moving. She hadn't ever been hacked out or trail ridden before I got her, so this is a pretty big lifestyle change for the moment (at least until the arena melts and we can actually school).


  1. Ah yes. Self doubt, that old friend who clings like a cheap suit..... Ugh. Seems like you've already covered all the positive rationalizations (young/green/limited work/horse improved as the ride wore on/etc) which I definitely agree with. That nagging feeling tho, it doesn't necessarily obey rules of logic and rationality tho. So annoying. I like your attitude about setting her up for success tho, and the lesson sounds like a great way to get some more reaffirmation about your work with Annie. Hope it goes well!!!

    1. Very frustrating indeed. But I think once we get into more of a consistent program, things will be just fine. Winter is always a hard time for riders in my area.

  2. I can totally relate...if you've been reading my blog you'll see that Emi and I have been in a similar place. She's not bad but I'm also not quite sure how far I can push her and what she's capable of. We are making progress though and you will too!

    1. It is humbling to hear others who are in similar circumstances as myself. I keep forgetting Emi has had less rides than Annie! She seems like such a solid horse already!!

    2. No, Emi's had more than 30 days. She's closer to 90 days now. :)

    3. Oh wow! For some reason I thought she had less, but I suppose you did start her last year!

    4. Yep! Her first ride was in May so she's heading towards a year under saddle. It's going so fast!

  3. I can totally relate- and you are right- it's the not knowing what they'll do when pushed which is freaky. Once you know you can prepare for it.

    If you want to work with her try hand walking her away from the others so she learns it's okay.

    1. It is kind of like navigating the ocean - you aren't too sure what will happen to the ship if the seas get rough ;)

      As far as the herd-boundness thing, it hasn't really been an issue until this particular ride.

  4. I worry about all the same things with my young horse. Some days are fantastic and the next she is completely ruined for sure. And not knowing yet how she will react keeps me cautious. Your girl sounds so good for her age! You seem to have a great approach and it has actually inspired me to be more brave lately with my young horse.:)

    1. I am glad I'm not the only one who is having these thoughts. I am sure once I get a lesson with a good instructor, I'll know what to do more and where to go from here.

      Aw, I am glad you are being braver :) I also started following your blog

  5. It takes time getting to know a new horse. I commend you for sticking it out, even when the ride started shaky.

    1. It really does. I have only ridden her a grand total of 6-7.

  6. The horse ruining fear is something I have struggled with big time this year (riding two newly broke baby horses who I love to death). I have known them on the ground for four years but getting to know them as riding horses has been a whole new can of worms. I think it's sounds like Annie is doing great! We all have days when we're a little off and this weather is not helping at all.

    1. Glad you can relate to me - I used to be pretty fearless when it came to horses but I guess I just don't bounce like I used to ,lol.

  7. The unknown is hard, but keep ending on a good note and trying to set her up for success. You will get there!