Sunday, April 10, 2011

Drifter Shows Me Some 'Tude

Drifter's an interesting personality.  He's not particularly dominant, but is very used to getting his own way - I'd describe him as a spoiled horse, but not in the sense that he wants to rule the roost, more in the sense that he's so used to calling the shots that he's doubtful anyone else should and is cautious about giving his trust.  He likes people when they feed him treats and let him do what he wants, but when you ask him to do something he doesn't really want to do - lunge longer than he'd prefer, walk a pattern longer than he'd like or hold up a foot to pick when he's distracted, he's apt to have a little temper tantrum.  I expect that mostly got him what he wanted, and he's got a short attention span at this point, so that's why he does it.  That's pretty much what I mean when I refer to him as acting like a baby - this is stuff baby horses do and he's almost 10.  I think with a little guidance he'll get past this stuff fairly easily.

He really needs to get out into the herd - he needs the discipline of the horse herd to give him his footing - he's been isolated for over three weeks now and it's hard on him.   I'm going to talk to our vet tomorrow and see if she'll give us the all clear to turn him out.  This will help him mentally - horses need other horses in a herd - although I expect he will become temporarily somewhat herd-bound - we'll deal with that as it arises and it won't last.

Today, when it was so windy, he had some big spooks while we were leading - a couple of times he came uncomfortably close to running into me although he didn't, which I give him credit for.  When he's worried, he tends to want to be close, which is the exact time I don't want him on top of me - I think he'd climb in my lap if he could.  We'll work out the proper distance and rules with time, but I was pleased that he didn't jump on top of me.

A couple of times I got some "attitude".  Drifter shows annoyance by swishing his tail, or sometimes by pawing.  When we free lunge, he likes to try to determine when we are done by turning in and facing me, refusing to move away again.  I'd like to be the one that determines when we're done - I went and got a lunge line so I could hook him up and request him to move around me at a trot in both directions before I decided we were done.  He did it well so that was OK.  I expect he'd had to set the terms of when he was done with his last owner, so that's what he expects to have to do.

At one point when I was asking him to back out of my space - he was at liberty - he pawed at me and did a half rear when I moved into his space - that got a big reaction from me with lots of noise and motion.  When the horse moves into my space or makes any gesture that is at all aggressive, I move quickly and with a lot of noise into the horse's space until they give way.

We ended on a good note today, but riding wasn't advisable as he was very unsettled due to the windy weather and the impending storms  - I think the horses can sense these things.


  1. Wow... I did n't realize until this post that your new boy is almost 10! I had the idea that he actually was a youngster! ha ha.... sometimes this happens with horses that are babied a bit too much, or have owners that are not confident enough to constantly reinforce good manners and obedience. Not that it sounds like Drifter is disobedient... more like he doesn't know any better.... but as I'm sure you know, there is a fine line! Sounds like you are learning a lot in this process and he seems to be progressing very quickly!

  2. I agree that horses can sense when the weather is changing. It's wise not to push it when it's really windy - at least in my experience.


  3. Good job correcting that behavior right away.

  4. "When he's worried, he tends to want to be close, which is the exact time I don't want him on top of me - I think he'd climb in my lap if he could."

    This is very much like Apache, too. Sometimes Apache has even tried to act like my little dog does when she's worried and will try to tuck her head under my arm, as if to hide from something that makes her nervous.
    Of course I don't let her do that, but after I move her out of my space, I do gently stroke her neck or cheek, which does seem to help relax and calm her.

    Some horses and riders don't seem much bothered by storms or fierce winds. I worked two ACTHA CTC rides this weekend and was surprised at how well the 20+ riders and horses did, even though we had winds of 35-45 mph all day with gusts on Saturday above 65 mph!
    One gust even blew over one of the porta-a-potties. lol!


  5. Sounds like you are still finding his "buttons " But overall, he will be happier once he is comfortable with your good boundaries

  6. Shadow and Lady are (were) like that. I found it quite curious that both of them came from a show barn background and seem to be emotionally and socially "stunted". They are very childlike in their behaviors sometimes... Lady actually clacked at Champ when she first got here (she was 14) and she still squeals while running/playing just like a foal (she'll be 20 this year). Go figure :o)

  7. We've had some horses like Drifter but he'll work out of his baby-tude after a while. Once he sees he's not in charge like he used to be things will change. And he does need to be with the herd to find his place in the hierarchy and even perhaps to have someone take him down a peg or two when needed. Good luck.

  8. Drifter sounds a lot like my BO's horse Sawyer. He is constantly testing and thinking he's the decision maker. When he's done doing something, he stops and faces and tends to do the half rear. With Laz, I have his sensitivity that makes me able to get him moving and get him to a calm place b/c he wants to move instead of standing still. Drifter sounds like a Left brain extrovert to me but once you crack through, they make amazing horses that will put all their trust and skill to please you. He'll be a challenge compared to sweet Pie :) I'm curious to hear what you do with him as I know it'll be great!

  9. I'm playing a little catch up here -- it's been a week or more since I read about your progress with Drifter. I'm enjoying reading about how it's going!

    I didn't realize Drifter was so old -- I recognize some of the baby behavior from Panama (though Pan is starting to grow out of most of it now), but I'd thought he was around the same age as Panama and Pie. I'm sure you're right, and Drifter was just never told that it was time to start acting like a grown-up horse. It'll be interesting to see how he matures as time goes on!


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