Monday, August 15, 2011

I Chicken Out

Drift and I had an excellent ride today - whatever his difficulties were a couple of days ago they seem to be past, at least for now.  Perfectly still for mounting on a loose rein, and lots of very nice walk and trot work, including some trot work on a looser rein.  His softening is pretty consistent at walk and trot and all transitions, except when he's momentarily distracted by a "thought magnet" (credit Tom Moates for that wonderful term) such as the goat, a plastic bag blowing by or horses nearby in turnout.  I'm still looking for that elusive softness from the inside - he's pretty compliant with my requests but not altogether "with" me yet.

Pie and I went on a good long trail ride with Charisma.  Pie was sporting his full bug armor, which helped somewhat with the horrible mosquitos and flies, which bit my (sprayed with Off) legs instead.  Pie was very looky on this ride - lots of nervousness and looking over his shoulder at possible demons.  He did ride by the evil blue tarp without too much trouble.  He was very tentative, not wanting to lead and wanting to take any trail fork that led towards home.  I found the ride mask somewhat problematic - I couldn't really judge the position of his ears or expression in his eye.  As we got very close to home, he was all of a sudden very worried about something behind him - I never could see what it was - and scooted a bit forward and sideways and then looked over his shoulder in a worried way.  I chickened out and dismounted, even though I could probably have ridden through whatever would have happened.  I led him the rest of the way back to the barn - he was quite nervous, chomping on the bit, which is rare for him, and when I took his ride mask off the whites of his eyes were showing.  I probably feel worse about getting off than I should - it didn't harm him, or me, although it certainly shows my lack of confidence.  I guess it's going to take as long as it takes for both of us . . .  Dawn was neglected, except for grooming - I was just too worn out to ride her.


  1. I just realized I posted a comment to a different blog entry than I intended! If you are willing to post it, maybe it should be relocated to this post. Keep going Kate you'll get there!

  2. JoinRats - thanks for your kind and supportive comments - much appreciated! I think what Pie needs is to regain his confidence that nothing bad (e.g. having me come off when he spooks) is going to happen - I don't think it's primarily a case of object desensitization but rather of his internal confidence that he's going to be OK. He's just tense and worried. That's going to take time and miles and I'll probably be doing some cantering work with him in the arena to be sure he's breathing OK and has begun to release some internal tension - see horse no. 8 from the 2009 Mark Rashid clinic.

    We haven't got a round pen and liberty work isn't possible with our set up - I may do some rapidly moving object work with him with the assistance of some neighborhood kids, probably on the lead.

    What really isn't helping right now is that if there's a possibility of a serious spook, I lose my ability to be of much help to him, which just compounds the problem.

  3. Discretion is the better part of valor. (Shakespeare)

  4. Kate, at the risk of duplication, below is what I posted on your previous blog post, which perhaps really belongs on this one. I realize you're differentiating between internal confidence and external phobias, and maybe I'm not grasping the subtleties well, but if one knows from close up contact that the bike isn't going to hurt, then confidence spreads. I would think both internal and external go hand-in-hand - not one versus the other...

    Work similar to this can be done in a fenced paddock, because the horse can be on a long line...

    Finally, here's the other one I was hunting for, on bike work (I couldn't find part 2):

    Okay, I'll stop now. :)
    You'll get through this!

    Kate, I'm primarily a lurker but want to say I'm so glad you're okay from your fall and recovery process, and I continue to immensely value what you share of your knowledge of horses. In the case of helping Pie feel better, how about some perhaps simple behavioral modification, aka, desensitization exercises. You've got a round pen of some sort, I believe, and plenty of bikes, goats, children - and perhaps some friendly neighbors who could help - all the elements you would need. I'm thinking of some examples from Monty Roberts and Kelly Marks.

    If you don't already have a Dually halter, that's the piece you might need for this particular form of the work to help Pie understand your intention via pressure:

    Tractor fear:

    Fear of cows:

    Washing line phobic:

    Then, this video of spoiled horse Fizzy, and how Monty demonstrates the Dually Halter while Fizzy wears a heart rate monitor, is good for keying in to how the halter works. Fizzy wins the blue over Drift for spoiled. :) (I was mostly focused on the first half of the video, not the 2nd half loading part.

    I'm just thinking that some external exercises with the strange things in Pie's environment would trickle down to help you regain your confidence when riding.

  5. A very wise woman told me once that getting off your horse and giving a show of courage from them ground can be the right thing to do.

    Pretty sure that was you when I was dealing with the loose horses.

    While staying in the saddle is always preferable, being strong where ever you are is most important, isn't it?

  6. Sometimes getting off is the best option. Maybe getting off before he gets really worried then if he calms down get on again. I dont know if this helps, but sometimes something different.

    On the other hand, Droft sounds like he is really coming along nicely!

  7. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour, if you felt unsure about being able to manage the situation and clam Pie through the issue, than better to step down and walk it this time , you have been through quit enough for injuries and such this year!
    I have no right to ask of complain , but is there any chance you could lighten the background of your posts and print in black? I love your blog and always enjoy reading it , but often leave it to last as my eyes are very bothered by the bright blue /white combo. I love the color but I have some trouble focusing on the print . Regardless I do always read , and enjoy

  8. Never apologize for doing what is safe. You weren't being chicken, you were being cautious and smart.

  9. Pie might have been a bit bothered by the bug armor if he is not used to blankets or sheets, etc. My horses were never bothered by it, but a horse not used to "clothes" might think he is being chased by something.

    A few more times with it on in the arena might tell you something.

    No fun to ride a spooky horse out on the trail, that's for sure. I don't blame you one second for getting off.

  10. We all have those moments and it takes a lot of self confidence to do what you did.
    Sometimes, it's not that we should buck up, be brave, and stay in the saddle. Sometimes, it's we should dismount and help our horse be brave instead.

    Good job, Kate.


  11. Last year, when I went on the blogger trail ride with Janice and Crystal, Beamer made an issue of small muddy creek crossings. He didn't like the footing and didn't want to walk through them, and would rather jump them. Which wasn't an option for me, also because of the footing; I couldn't be sure he wouldn't slip on landing, and he wanted to do those sky high jumps that are so hard on your back. So I got off and led him across. At every little crossing, for the whole ride. I figured it was safer, and didn't want to spoil the ride by making it a big issue- I can do the training at home for the next time we hit the trails. My horse was anxious, just as Pie is, and I think getting off and leading isn't necessarily chickening out- it's playing smart. There's a really good post on Equine Insanity blog about taking time that she just put up; you might like it.

  12. Thought magnet? I love it!! That is the perfect description. *laugh* I absolutely would not feel badly about getting off. I would think you did Pie a favor; wouldn't you have been feeling a lot more stress if you stayed on? You know that would have transmitted and likely made him worry even more. You saved your boy some stress, that's all. No big.

    Could the armor have been hampering his vision even a teeny tiny bit? That might have done it (you know how they assume the scary booger is someplace they can't quite see ;o)

  13. I'm not sure what I can add to all the other comments. I think we ride up to the edge of our fear, but it's OK to back off a little. Each time we do that the edge of our fear gets a little wider/farther away, even if we don't realize it - and most times we don't.


  14. fernvalley - hope that helps - let me know if the contrast isn't good enough yet.

  15. Oh gosh! that is perfect Tahnk you soo much!

  16. I don't have a problem getting off either. I suppose maybe though, just to keep from training him that you dismount when things are hairy--you should start doing more dismounting along the trail in peaceful settings. Shake it up a bit and make him think that's just what you do because you want to.

  17. Perhaps you could practice dismounting on the trail more often? I know it's a pain in the rear, but if you think Pie is still worried about you getting off (worried that means you're hurt and/or won't be in charge) maybe that would help.

    I had an interesting thing happen between my two mares this week when I put fly masks on them. They've both worn them before, but apparently the old mare had trouble seeing through hers (it was dim in the barn) and the young mare had one of those plastic-screen masks that appears pretty opaque at a distance. The old mare started squealing and striking as if the filly had suddenly turned into a strange horse--and they were both loose together in the barn when I masked them both, so it wasn't like the filly had come around the corner and "surprised" her or anything. I think flymasks do indeed affect their vision and perception.

  18. I have never regretted doing the safer, less brave thing. I have regretted pushing myself to do something that was way outside my comfort zone because I didn't want to be a "chicken." You did the right thing, and you're absolutely right, it will take as long as it takes.

  19. To me, there is no shame in self preservation. If you ,for some reason lack courage to move forward- how can your mount have confidence in that? There will be more times coming that support you remaining atop.

    My sis gets mad when I jump off My mare when she gets out of her head...but I've ridden her in, through and.back again . I know when it's right and when I'm stupid to move ahead with her or not.

    Good work as always!

  20. Not a nice feeling is it, think you have to go with your gut, although I don't think I would get off Merlyn for worry that he would be more of a handful to lead than ride!

  21. I definitely think it's a possibility that Pie was having a hard time seeing through the fly mask -- a simple shadow could have become a monster in his mind when he couldn't tell what it was.

    As for dismounting, if you are trying to rebuild his confidence, it was probably better to have dismounted and shown confidence on the ground than to stay mounted and be worried. He'd pick up on your anxiety, and you can't help him regain his confidence if yours isn't firmly in place first. I think you did the right thing.


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