Monday, November 22, 2010

Dawn: What To Do With a Wild Mare?

I haven't ridden Dawn in about a week.  For those of you who may be new here, Dawn isn't my horse, she is my younger daughter's horse and my daughter is away at college.  If you're interested in what Dawn is like and what we've been working on together, visit this post.  When I rode Dawn last week, she was hyper-alert, spooky and wanting to go/bolt - not a very safe ride, even in the arena, particularly since I don't have a saddle that fits her and I've been riding bareback.  Dawn's one of those horses who reacts strongly to the weather, and as it gets colder, she gets more, well, "spicy".  She's a fun horse to ride in many ways - extremely responsive and full of forward - you can do a lot with that and we've been having some fun doing that in the arena.

I also think she's wanting to go on the trail - when I jump on she immediately heads that way - and I feel sorry that I can't take her there - she's just got too many fast moves for me - when I was my daughter's age I could stay on for stuff like that but I'm not at all sure I could any more.  My daughter always takes her on the trail, and I think she misses that - she's a smart and curious horse.

I think she may also be somewhat jealous of Pie - his stall is just across the aisle from hers and she can see how much time I spend with him and how I'm constantly riding him away from the barn and down the trail.  She expresses her opinion by being somewhat aloof and occasionally pinning her ears and even threatening to nip (which I quickly make clear isn't OK even if you are crabby).

I'm not entirely sure what to do with Miss Dawn.  Riding her right now doesn't seem like that good an option - perhaps some scary obstacle work with clicker or some lungeing work would do the trick (although she's not very fond of lungeing, she does it extremely well).  I'd like to keep her in work so she stays "connected" to me and doesn't "drift off", if that makes any sense to you.  Hmmm . . . . I'll have to think about that . . .


  1. I wonder if you could take Dawn on walks along the trail by hand, sort of like a big dog. It's getting colder now, but perhaps a short session of longeing could be rewarded with a stroll on the trails together (just some girl time - sorry, Pie). I've done this with Scout over the years, sometimes to work on her spookiness, and sometimes just because I find it can be fun to exercise like that with my horse. I have a short lead rope that looks like it could be a dog leash, but it's just a really short lead with a loop handle that's perfect for trail walks.

  2. I do love these posts, so informative. I dont always respond, but read the lot.
    So when I read this, it mirrors what has happened to my mare Gracie.
    If I may may make so bold as to relate the event to you all?

    Gracie is 10 years old. I have a new horse, Sunny, she is almost 21 months. However as I have been working her for some time, and what would appear to be an inordinate amount of "love and affection!" lavished on her, poor old Gracie has been miffed! Her nose is well and truly out of joint.
    So when I started to take her(Gracie) out, she started to be a bit, bouncy, shall we say "alive!" However, having taken some advice from a good friend, I began her first ride out, by trailering her, to a favourite long distance ride. My intention was to let her work out the kinks in our relationship. The first 20 minutes were somewhat lively, the odd sideways jog, maybe a buck or two, nothing too serious, and then her favourite move, the "So you think you can ride eh!" This usually entails her pulling and becoming very forward going.
    But out in the open space, and with no one else to contend with, I can let her misbehave, and apply the relevent remedies. Circles, backing up, getting her to listen. Then when she had had enough!!! I let her have some fun!

    All under control of course!!! She gets to have a long gallop. We are lucky in the sense that we have very long and well maintained Forest tracks. Good visibility, and plenty of room to pull up. So when she had gotten the anger and frustration out of her? She settles back nicely and becomes the Gracie I know and love!
    This only happens when she has been "neglected in the riding sense of the word!! I`ve just got back from a 10 mile ride, with nothing to report, she was quiet, very well behaved and she never stopped "nebbing"(Looking about). Great ride, and that will be her now, its so funny how they always like to show you their displeasure, but only for a short while.

  3. I agree, I might hand walk her out on the trail. You were doing so well with her bareback. Isn't your daughter going to need a saddle for her eventually? Maybe that is going to be the best way to feel safe on her.

    I know you will figure it out, as you are so good at that.

  4. Dawn sounds so much like Panache! It's crazy! Anyway, I know exactly what you mean about them getting spicier as the weather gets colder, fun, isn't it? I keep Panache in the ring too for safety's sake and hand-walking down the trails would probably be downright dangerous. Pretty much our winters consist of trying to do enough work to keep her reasonably fit but also not getting her too spun up. She often picks a "spot" for the winter monster to live and I've learned that it's not worth fighting... that monster will stay there all winter long. So I get creative about how we use the ring, we work on lots of figures and transitions... probably a lot like the softening work you do. Once the weather gets warm again in the Spring we can go back to learning types of exercises and really get legged back up for the show season. Anyway, that's what I do with my wild mare... lol!

  5. I was wondering if ground driving on the trail would be a reasonable option with Dawn?

  6. Dawn is more than likely very jealous of Pie. She was the "it girl" for you for a long time and now she's not. I know my horse Erik was jealous whenever I showed other horses attention.

    I wonder if ponying her behind Pie would be a safe option for all concerned. Maybe at home first then out on the trail. Or look into a saddle for her ( a Christmas present for your daughter?) Good luck.

  7. Hmm..maybe Miss Mare needs to have some attention first, before Pie, to make herself feel like #1.
    I agree with what someone said about hand walking to her trail, or some obstacle work would be great for her curious mind. Whatever it is Kate, I know you'll find something to make Dawn happy without putting yourself at risk. Laz and I have been doing this "falling leaf-figure 8" pattern which has been really great for getting his focus pre ride and he is quite reactive in weather/winds too as you know.

  8. Ditto my mare... all of it. When it was Summer my son and I were riding together everyday and she was really getting good. Now that it's cooler, my son isn't as eager to ride, and I'm not confident enough to ride her alone. My trainer suggested I lead her through the trails I want to go down by hand first, before we ride them. I'll try to make time for that soon and let you know if it makes a difference.

  9. Why don't you do some different clicker work with her? Teach her how to target and then do some free lunging with it. Or pick up one of Alex's videos and teach her Why Would You Leave Me. There is tons of groundwork you could do.

  10. I'm with GHM - give it a shot ponying her from Pie. It might not work out, but it might be really good for both horses.

  11. I was thinking of ponying Dawn too, as others have suggested. If she would behave with Pie, of course.

    I don't at all blame you for being reluctant to ride her out on your own. I no longer have the seat I once did to ride the "naughty" either, so I am in complete sympathy.

    Ground driving is great too, but you would need to do a lot of walking yourself. Too much for my poor knees at this point.

    The other option would be to pony Pie off of Dawn to give her a sense of purpose, but you would need a saddle for that...western, preferably.

  12. I am sure some "in hand work " or just grooming and attention will fill the gap

  13. Thanks for all the good ideas - see the next post for some explanations of what I do and don't feel comfortable (as in safe) doing with Dawn.

  14. Dawn sounds a little like my Apache. Apache likes trail time better than arena work. She seems to enjoy all the new sights, scents and noises. But she is also more affected by weather, like Dawn, and is much more on high alert, more forward, and yes...spicey when it's windy and cold outside.

    I'm guessing that you're discounting your ability to handle Dawn out on the trails. You always seem so secure and confident. I bet you you would do just fine with Dawn riding trails with her, and she'd enjoy herself, too.

    And I bet it would be great for Pie to see his herdmate leaving him, instead of him always leaving her behind.



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