Monday, November 8, 2010

Pie Follows My Lead

In order to continue building our (mutual) confidence, particularly after Pie struggled a bit yesterday, I took him for a morning ride by himself.  This didn't deal with the specific situation that has troubled him - separation from Scout on the trail, but he did have to leave the barn with the other horses in turnout.

I did give him about an hour in turnout before we rode.  He was by himself - the other horses weren't out yet, except for Dawn in an adjacent pasture - and he only called once, and otherwise busied himself with eating.  After I was done with chores and cleaning my stalls, I brought him in and tied him outside the barn while I got my riding stuff ready.  Just then, Jill arrived to feed the other horses and turn them out, so I ended up saddling just as all the other horses were led by him to turnout.  He dealt well with that - he did some looking but didn't fret.

We went over to the mounting block and I got on - he's great for mounting and stands perfectly still on a loose rein until I ask him to move off (it's wonderful to get a horse from someone who cares about things like tying, standing for mounting and good ground manners).  I asked him to move off down the trail - he was reluctant but did what I asked.  We trotted a bit from time to time, but mostly walked - I wanted his energy level to stay low since he was already pretty much on alert.  He was clearly thinking about the barn the whole time and kept turning his head in that direction, but that's all he did.

When we got to the area where the chickens and turkeys are raised - they're a ways off the trail but quite visible - Pie suddenly halted and went into "alert posture" - head high, staring and sniffing the air.  I noticed some of the tall grasses to the side of the trail were moving and there were soft rustlings - clearly something was in the grass.  It turned out that several chickens had gotten out of their enclosure and were foraging (invisibly) in the grasses.  Pie found this alarming, and although he didn't want to move forwards past them, he didn't do anything but stare.  In many horses, a full alert is often immediately followed by a spin and bolt.  Good Pie!  I didn't want to force him by them since I want him to do what I ask willingly because he trusts me, so I dismounted (nice that he stands well for this too) and undid my lead rope (which was tied around his neck) and led him by the Scary Birds In The Grass.  Since he leads really well - I've only had to slightly refine the skills he came to me with - this went really well.  If a horse leads well, sometimes have the person in front can be a confidence booster.  I told him what a good brave horse he was.

We led to a large boulder that was handy about 50 feet away, and I remounted and we keep going.  I did lots of singing/talking to him and praised him frequently.  We got to observe several groups of kids riding their bikes down the street - he was on alert again but just watched.  He was  a bit more anxious as we neared the barn, but slowed when I asked.  There was one head shake/toss/forward surge, and I did an immediate small circle to tell him this wasn't what I wanted.  When we reached the barn, I rode him past it and down the trail a little ways in the other direction, then stopped and dismounted.  I led him back and tied him for a bit while I put my stuff away.

Charisma's owner has kindly offered to do some together/heading apart work when we're next both riding together.  I think his biggest issue is with leaving or being left by Scout, but this sort of work can only help.  I've also decided to cut the Ultimate Finish out of his diet (I'd started adding it to get some weight on him) since I think the extra concentrated calories were amping him up a bit, and will increase his nighttime hay.

When I turned Pie back out, Scout was drinking from the trough, and Pie drank with him.

Very good Pie!  Every day, we keep building our relationship and dealing with various situations together, and any issues we have will be resolved over time.  I'm going to have this horse for many years, and it's a good relationship where he'll willingly accept my leadership that will get us together through any difficulties we face.


  1. A few years ago I tried to fix a severely barn sour TB mare and failed. I rode her 3 times a week and did what you are doing - leaving the barn just a little ways, turning back and riding by the barn again, feeding out on the trail (her grain), coming back and lunging her, then tying, but nothing helped. She was not buddy sour at all - when we rode out with other horses she ignored them completely and just focused on getting home. Since I wanted her to associate leaving with good things, we did lots of hand grazing about 100 meters from the barn, then coming home and working hard. Nothing helped and she was kind of dangerous anyway so I gave up.

    I sincerely hope you can help Pie with this and am curious how you will go about it.

    As you know I tried to get Baasha more independent from his companion pony but that didn't work so well either. I separated them for every feeding, and every single day walked each horse away from the other (but still in sight) and it never got easy for them. Perhaps if I'd continued longer than 6 weeks it would have improved.

    I'm so glad you are posting about this. Since it is one of the most difficult things to fix about a horse, I'm very interested to see the process day by day.

    They say tying is one of the best ways to fix this, but of course we have to be there to ensure our horses don't hurt themselves, so it's nice that you can work Dawn or do other things while Pie learns separation by being tied safely.

    Having friends help you with this is gonna be the thing that helps the most though. I also hate to ask for so much help but it sounds like your barn friends are willing to.


  2. How lucky you are not to have a spinner. He's obviously got bravery in spades. I bet he'll get over the buddy sourness pretty quickly once he gets comfortable with his new home.

  3. lytha - I'm just feeling my way as I go with this - there are never any guarantees with horses. I think Pie's basically a calm, tractable horse, so I think we'll get there with time. The fact that he can calm down after a spook or after getting worried is also encouraging.

    I think small herds - your herd of two and our herd of 4 geldings - is harder as I think the attachments to any particular horse are that much stronger. Pie's also a pretty submissive horse, and I've found it's the submissive ones who tend to be more herd-bound/buddy-bound. Horses in new situations also tend to be more buddy-bound. As Pie becomes more used to our trails and the areas around the barn, I think he'll be somewhat less anxious and need his buddy less - and with luck he'll be willing to trust me and stay with me.

  4. He sounds a lot like smokey in temperment. Smokey also will look and tense but not spin or bolt. I take him
    out within site of the barn, but not much further than that yet. Mostly it's been because of the area i ride in. There's just not much available help if things go wrong and cell coverage is iffy. I need to haul to get a good training alone ride.

    I'm impressed that you dismounted and led him to the deadly chickens. I dismount in those situations as well, partially to take the wind out of the sails of what is scaring them.

  5. What a great start Pie seems to have had, and hopefully the reluctance to leave friends is a temporary result of moving home :) A little progress every day is great!

  6. Kare, it is inspiring to follow your daily work with Pie. I'm guessing this buddy-bound thing will be the exception that proves the rule: that Pie is a marvelous horse.

    One thing I need help with is knowing how to break down the work that is needed in order to know where to begin. Now that I'm learning about Saxony, I don't know whether to begin at the beginning, or work on things as they appear, which is what you seem to be doing with Pie. Either way, the cue I take from you is the calm, methodical and essentially simple ways that you are working with Pie. It's great to study.

  7. A friend of mine put her hard keeper TB on Cool Calories from SmartPak as a supplement. My mare is on SmartCoat (also SmartPak) and I've noticed a bloom in her coat and some extra "plump" without any added hotness in her personality. I'm all about as much hay as possible though!

    I love reading about your adventures... especially about how calm the Pie-man is. What I wouldn't give for that. Panache and I rarely go trail riding as she has a serious all-in-one spook-spin-bolt thing. She's ok with other horses around, and will be "up" when spooked. But by herself... I got dumped hard once and decided solo trail riding wasn't worth the risk since our focus is the show ring anyway. She has excellent gate opening skills though since I make her go for a walk around the outside of the ring after working. That horse loves being lined up so I can open the gate!

  8. This seems a really good horse, well done.

  9. If you want to put extra pounds on him try increasing the fat instead of the calories. A little oil or flaxseed works well to add weight without hyping them up.
    I bet you really look forward to your outings with Pie.

  10. We have bushes with exploding pheasants here - the horses aren't too bad with them, but we passed a yard full of loose chickens (perfectly visible loose chickens) yesterday afternoon, and Sunny had to have a bit of a gawk. Sometimes it's sure easy to tell they're prey animals, isn't it? LOL!

    Sounds like Pie's starting to have confidence in you as his most familiar person - I bet you'll have less trouble with the buddy issue as you continue to work with him.

    It may also help that he's not dead last in the herd pecking order. It's been my experience that the bottom horses are in general more desperate for their buddies, even though they may not have the best time of it when they're actually in the herd. Horses higher in the pecking order seem to leave and return with much less fuss.

    It helps a lot when they're removed and returned consistently, as you're doing, too - the routine gets to be old hat :)

  11. Very interesting. I never know in that moment (where Pie was alert by the hiding chickens) if I should dismount and hand walk or push via riding. Laz does either an immediate spook or the stop/stare which scares the BEJESUS out of me b/c I dont know if he'll calm down or spin/bolt like you said..he's done both.
    Is dismounting and hand walking a good confidence builder?? I've noticed he's more spooky when riding vs hand walking...
    I think Pie sounds like he's going to be amazing!

  12. I like how you are dealing with Pie's rather minimal anxiety by breaking it down into little training pieces.

    Pie really is progressing nicely, but the key is his excellent mind. It's clear he is processing his lessons a little at a time, as you dish them out in small portions.

    Excellent work.

  13. I love the idea of riding with someone else and practicing the back and forth and going away--my friends and I do that a lot together and it's very helpful.

    I like the way you think of this as relationship building--that's what makes working with our horses so darn fun--and so unique, too.

  14. Nice Kate,
    Heard of some good rides with Pie, at Jills place.

    I used to jump off Wa when things seemed dangerous...she got wise to it, and would escalate, and I had to stop doing it.

    She now does better if I do" trail opera"..just sing songy words...breathing.
    Your Pie is taking ques from a wise Leader...and he'll soon recognize this.
    Gamma oil really helped Wa develop muscle, and its great for the endocrine systems.
    I' ve used rice pellots too, cool carbs, no sugar, breaks down in the mouth...using less hind gut.


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