Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Balking, Slugging and Bugging

It was a pretty nice day - only in the mid 80sF with a bit of wind - a big improvement over our excessive heat of recent weeks.  I was able to ride all three horses, although each ride presented its challenges.  Drift was up first, and after some nice walk work with transitions and backing, I asked him to move up to trot and he balked.  He's tried this before with me - I expect he "trained" his prior owner to stop working with him by doing this.  This time he stopped dead, and veered to one side.  I wasn't carrying a crop to use as a secondary aid (on my leg to start), so turned him sharply (he wasn't threatening to rear, but a balk can end up that way) and asked him to move out.  When he balked again, I slapped my hand on my leg - no response - and then used the end of the reins to slap him on the shoulder (not much of a slap because the end of the reins I was using - English hunter reins - wasn't very long).  That got him going again and after that we did lots and lots and lots of transitions, walk/trot, halt/trot, standing around for a while on a loose rein and then trot.  There were no more problems and once he stopped balking he was very responsive to soft aids.  When a horse balks, I'm always careful to rule out any physical issues that may be preventing forward movement - pain or saddle fit issues can lead to balking - but I was pretty sure that wasn't the issue with Drift - I think he was just trying to "train" me the way he had his prior owner.  We did some canter work as well, working on keeping the canter going for several circles at once without falling into the trot.  Once he's moving, his gaits are very nice and forward, and I got some really nice lengthening in the trot. Lazy boy, but good Drift in the end.

Pie was pretty lazy too.  I didn't have anyone to ride with on the trail, so we only did two tiny trail loops - that's all I'm comfortable with at this point by myself, and also did some walk and trot work in the arena.  Scout was "helping" by galloping up and down the fence line of the pasture next to the arena.  I kept Pie doing turns and figures while this was going on, and he coped will with the thundering hooves.  Pie's softening work at the walk is now pretty good, and he no longer ducks when backing.  We did some trot work as well, but I would have benefitted from having a crop as a secondary aid to keep him from slugging at the trot.  We also did a bit of turn on the haunches in one direction, focussing on taking one step at a time.  Good, although sluggish Pie.

I rode Dawn in the early evening, and we did what we could - the bugs were terrible.  We did a lot of trotting, but it was hard for her to soften consistently at the trot with the bugs pestering her - she seems particularly badly affected by them.  We did do some nice trot shortening and lengthening, as well as some leg yielding - the bugs weren't as bad when we were moving out.

Looks like more good weather in the near future . . .


  1. Sounds like three nice rides. My Kate has been known to be a bit of a slug, but today she was really forward and very responsive to my leg cues. I do 99% of my training on the trail, but she's really getting it these days. Hope you can find more folks to go out with you soon.

  2. The bugs really bother Flash a lot too. Jackson seems relatively unfazed by them. Funny how different they are.

  3. Sounds like you are back in fine form. I have been out of the loop for a bit , back at it now , and need to get riding!

  4. That's smart of you to avoid the scenario that could lead to rearing.

    This is the lazy time of the year. It has its benefits...especially for me with these first rides, but not so great for the trained horses who you want to move out with energy.

  5. Great job dealing with Drift. I know all too well how balking can develop into rearing - it's great that you are able prevent that next escalation from ever happening.

    Your thoughts about Drift's previous owner also remind me of my own recent experience. Although in my case the owner was still riding, and influencing, the horse since I was 1/2 leasing. I'm happy for you and Drift that you got him before Drift trained the owner too much ;)

    Maybe the previous hot days were still affecting Pie? Still, sounds like good work!

    I relate to Dawn's sensitivity to the bugs! I can't wait for fall, to be honest.

  6. Drift was certainly testing you. I think you passed, for now. If indeed he did balk with his former rider, he's going to try it again with you until he actually believes you once and for all.

    Good Pie. The phrase for one special horse.

    My Tucker gets so distracted with the flies, he can't work much either. He sympathizes with Dawn and sends his regards. He also says his Cashel Bug Armor is a great help.

  7. It must be the season for horse issues!! Either that, or now and again they test our metal!

  8. 80s?? Wind? Oh can you PLEASE send us some of that? *laugh*. The heat index yesterday was 109 here (yuck!) Sounds like you had a very productive yesterday. I can't say the same...Max and I worked for about 15 minutes, then played with the water hose (just too hot! ;o)


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