Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We All Have Days Like This

The weather today wasn't very nice for May - the high was only in the mid 40sF and the wind was blowing - the wind chills never got out of the 30sF.  I rode Pie anyway, but I can't say that either of us really enjoyed it.  We did more softening work in the arena, mostly at the trot.  He's pretty much there consistently now - we're able to do nice changes of direction as well.  We did some work on shortening and lengthening stride at the trot, and also started work on staying soft through our walk/trot/walk transitions.  By the end of our ride, I was pretty cold.

And then it started to drizzle - it wasn't raining much but I'm sorry, I'm just not riding in the drizzle and wind when the wind chill's in the 30s - just plain nasty in my book.  Dawn's in raging heat - lots of squealing, peeing and stall kicking and she's got that crazed look in her eyes, although she's good about leading.  I deferred picking her hind feet - discretion is the better part of valor.

I had hoped to work with Drift, but the weather just wasn't cooperating.  I picked his feet in the stall - he wasn't as calm as he might be.  All went well, although he made a gesture to grab away his right hind and kick at me - this is the problem foot (there may be a physical issue which I'll have our chiropractor/vet check out) - I whacked him pretty hard in the haunch.  His reaction was to show quite a bit of fear - he scooted toward the stall door with his butt lowered.  The reaction seemed like a lot more than I would have expected - I think somewhere in his past he's been whacked on in the stall - his difficultly relaxing and being calm may be related to that.  I felt bad for scaring him, although kicking - even just gestures at kicking - are never OK.  I reassured him that I wasn't going to beat on him, and that things were OK, and we did more work successfully with the foot, including my holding it up for a while and pulling it to the side and jiggling it, all of which were clicked and treated - at one point I said no when he started to pull the foot away, and he stopped.  And we went out in the parking lot for a bit for some standing around work.

We all have days like this.  I expect I'll forgive myself for scaring him, and I think it's likely that he'll forgive me quicker than I forgive myself - horses are usually good about that, which is a very good thing for all of us.


  1. Oh ya, I definitely have those days. But sounds like there was some mild success in that he stopped with just a verbal word. Thats a good thing! I suppose being in WA we just get used to the clouds, the overcast, and the drizzle leading to rain. Not fun but it is what it is and if we want to ride we work in it. But its frequent here so I suppose we have reason to get used to it. LOL

  2. I'm sure he's forgotten all about it by now. It sounds like quite a reaction, though, so you might be right about things that have happened in his past. Perhaps that will be all it takes for him to choose not to kick out again.

    When does it warm up out there?

  3. Can't believe it's still that cold where you are. We had wind but it was 70 here today with rain tonight.

    Drift sounds like he may have been whacked a few times in his stall or maybe when he threatened a kick. I'm sure with your patient work and the treats he will get over it and I'm sure he's forgiven you.

  4. Personally I agree with your reaction. That is a dangerous reaction on his part given where you (and your head) are positioned when picking up a hind foot. Snatching a foot is one thing, threatening to kick completely different and unacceptable.

    When I work with miracle for the most part I treat her like any other horse. I realize she has a LOT of baggage from her ongoing abuse and starvation that she suffered for months. That doesn't change the fact that certain behaviors and reactions are not safe or acceptable, regardless of the original root cause. The way I see if she is to be a safe horse to work around the past can't be allowed to define her present behavior. It stinks for her since it isn't her fault but that is the way it is. Obviously we are slowly working with her on things and not expecting her to be a perfect horse all at once. But whatever we're currently working on if she gives me an unsafe reaction she gets an appropriate reprimand, and of course if she responds in a good way she gets tons of praise.

    She has come so far so fast, and partially I think that is because jason and I aren't allowing "excuses" to define our responses to her. I can't believe how trusting she can be given how horrific her past has been.

  5. I think horses know our hearts when it comes to things like whacking. They seem to have a really accurate sense of fairness.

    It's a shame someone in his past abused his trust, but you're just the person to patiently help him. :)

  6. You have to have a big response to safety issues, IMHO. Smokey is similar in this way - too big a reaction really scares and unhinged him. So I have to discipline myself to stay in ck.

    But finding that line is tricky.

  7. Don't be too hard on yourself - how could you know he'd over-react to a correction?
    We had snow yesterday.

  8. I agree. Nothing that even suggests they might be thinking about kicking can be tolerated. Too much at stake. As he gets to know you better, he'll calm down for sure. You did the right thing.

  9. Jane at the Literary Horse said something not too long ago about horses and forgiveness, which I thought was just perfect, about how horses do better than forgive us, because to them there is nothing to forgive. I have accidentally scared my big chicken of a horse once or twice too, and I know how you feel, but I can promise you that you're right, and he'll greet you with the same sweet face tomorrow.

  10. Could you share some notes (or a link in your blog) as to what you work on in your 'standing around work'?

  11. anyplacefarm - if you look on the sidebars, there's one called Working Towards Softness - under that there's a post on Patience and Self-Calming Exercises that has a number of things in it, including the just standing around exercises.

  12. Drift will forgive you. While he well may have been "over corrected" in the past, some of his reaction might also have been "Uh oh! I really did something wrong." The fact that you did not continue to punish him was the most important part of the correction. Kicking out at you is NEVER OK. Another horse would have kicked him back, which is just what you did. (In a sense.)

    Some days just don't go as well as others. And the stinky weather certainly didn't help. *sigh*


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