Thursday, December 13, 2012

Riding Diary: 35

Time: 1.5 hr

Ride: This was an interesting one, demon ponyboy was back with a vegance. We did a little bit of a trail ride on Friday, and Jingle was definitely walking out and ready to go. It was pretty cold out though, and I was feeling the chill on my thighs, so we cut it sort at about 45-60 minutes. However, not a bad little jaunt around.

We did a short little warmup and moved into a jog.... Jingle would.not.jog, he turned into a complete spastic mess. Then, while we were loping, he wasn't listening to me at all. It was like this switch that has been turned on the last couple of rides suddenly slammed right back to "off", and mr. shitforbrains decided that listening to me was just not his perogrative. Cue = out of control horse. So much so that at one point, while loping a circle, I thought he was going to slam me into a wall, we were going left, and to try to correct him and slow him down, I pulled on the reins, but must have pulled too much on the right. He literally dug in, spun on his haunches, and attempted to lope the wrong way up the rail. This caused him to scary the crap out of both the horse infront of us, and the horse behind us - if you guys remember, I ride in what I affectionately call the "jr. class" at my barn, because I ride with two like... 10 year olds. Awesome, we're back to trying to murder children, wonderful.

My trainer was clearly not impressed, I even got a bit of a scolding about the situation, ugh. Of course my horse decides to be responsive to my cues when I actually just want him to motherf-ing stop. My trainer then decided that perhaps it was time to put a bit in his mouth and see what would happen. Perhaps now that he's been softening up, and responding to pressure (... he has been! just not on this particular day), he will be a little more calm and relaxed with a bit. It sounded like a plausible experiment to me, and so, we put a bit in Jingle's mouth. Well, the experiment failed - and honestly I knew it would.

LOTS of people switch from sidepulls/bitless/hackamores to bits, I know tons of people who ride at home in bitless set-ups, and then bit for competitions/outside rides/etc. Lots of people use sidepulls as a training aid, and when a horse is becoming still at the nose/poll, they employ a sidepull to soften them back up, and then move back into a bit. So, going from a bitless to a bit is not the issue. The issue is that my horse associates a headstall, and a bit, with pain, from when he was younger, and frusteration, from now. He literally - loses.his.shit. - in a bridle. He becomes an absolute monster to actually bridle, and then he reverts back to his head-tossing, snorting, dragon horse ways.... but he has more check... so what's the solution?

Well, i've been thinking about it a lot. I understand where my trainer is coming from, right now the big issue in Jingle and I's training is speed. I have a hard time with my leads, he's a horse that doesn't know his leads, has a hard time with one, and also has issues with turning, working with circles, etc. at a lope. The slow stuff, I'm good with. It's the fast stuff where we both fall apart. Thus, because I can only do one lesson a week, I know my trainer wants to work on the stuff that I can't really work on when I'm alone. But, when he's not checking back, just not listening to me at all... is the answer to bit him? Well, we tried, and I don't think it is. I'd rather work on slow stuff, then have a dragon horse beneath me, and that is honestly - no word of a lie - what he becomes when a bit is in his mouth. So, we tried something different, and it failed.

Yesterday (Tuesday) in his side pull, and he did alright. He was kind of checking back, and I worked on lots of bending (pole pattern, around barrels, figure 8's, big to small, and back again circles), and he was starting to listen to me. His lope wasn't perfect, but he kind of figured it out toward the end.

On Monday, my two "jr. class" classmates got to work on the barrel pattern (do you think Jingle & I got to work on the barrel pattern? The answer is hell no we didn't, we got to play the "don't kill anyone or yourselves" game, as we terrified everyone around us), and so on Tuesday, after lots of bending work, and having jogged the pattern, I thought... I'll jog the pattern, and then lope home. Jingle did well, and we loped a decently straight line down the centre of the arena, and then I asked my horse to "Woah". Well... as we know, his woah isn't exactly pristine. He bounced around, but he stopped. I gave him a big pat, told him he was a good boy, and turned to begin his cool-down. Of course, there my farrier, and good friend, was, watching the spectacle that is me and my horse... his words, "well, atleast he does stop...". Yep. Basically.

For Next Time: Everything? I don't know, hope demon/dragon ponyboy doesn't appear, and then work on slow, steady and consistentency.


  1. When I was in college, I rode at a barn where I got to trail ride two paint stock horses (think foundation QH body builds). They were both the most amazing trail horses on the planet, but in an arena, they had literally ZERO sense of their bodies. My point is, Jingle is not the only retard on this planet. ;) (jk, jk...)

    1. haha, I seriously question what is going on in Jingle's head sometimes... I don't think much.

  2. That's so odd about his bit problem. I think it would be good to slowly accustom him to having a bit, by giving him good experiences with it! You could try and ride him once a week with a bit, an make that a super easy ride, work on walking a lot of circles and stuff, using mostly your legs so there's no pulling on his mouth. I think it would take a while but once he's figured out that a bit doesn't mean pulling on his mouth I think it wouldn't be a 'punishment' but a solution. Or (I don't know if this would work) but you could put the side pull on over his bridle, an disconnect the reins from his bridle, that way he still has a bit but no pressure. I think it would help to slowly let him know its nothing to be afraid of, it's just a lot of tough work. Keep sugar cubes for when your bridling him, let him know when he's done a good job :)

    1. Hi Marissa, thanks for the insightful comment! Unfortunately, Jingle's bit issues originally come from pain associated with being ridden in a bit with a fractured jaw that was left untreated by a vet. So, he comes by his fear naturally. He is okay to ride in a bit on the trail, but once any contact is used, he falls apart mentally and physically. I work with a well-known and respected dentist who worked on his teeth and jaw, and suggested I continue with a bit until Jingle "tells me" he doesn't like it. He told me. and We switched to a side-pull due to his behaviour, which isn't a pain response, but is now a learned behaviour that, after working on and with for over 3 years, first on the trails and now in an arena, it has become clear that it's not going to go away anytime soon. So, Jingle is a "bitless" horse, but it never hurts to try a bit again - we did on Monday, and clearly from my post, he'll probably remain bitless until he dies.

  3. Sounds like a discouraging ride. Two thoughts:

    1: Progress with horses is never linear - they learn, they backslide, then learn again. It takes months or years for new training to fully solidify. So don't take it personally. :)

    2: One thing you could try to help the problem with going fast is to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and focus for a while on controlling individual feet. Like, stand still and practice moving the front left one step to the left. Wait a few seconds, then move the right hind one step to the right. One step, one foot at a time. No more, no less.

    This is SO challenging at first, but it's the start to having complete understanding of where your horse's feet are, and it's a great way to get a spazzy horse to slow down and THINK. It sounds like Jingle has a lot of anxiety, which is the same issue I have with my Paint. When Steen gets anxious, the only way to get him realigned is to break things down into tiny pieces that he can understand in his "my brain is half shut down" mode, and then build him back up through itty bitty accomplishments. Sometimes that means half an hour of slow, focused exercises before we try to lope again. Sometimes it means an entire long ride where I never even pick up the trot.

    Mostly though, don't forget about what you have accomplished! You've got a horse with some deeply ingrained fear responses and you've not had him in this environment very long. You are making headway, even if it doesn't seem like it some days.

    1. Thanks Robin - as always, your comments are so insightful and wonderful, I always appreciate them.

      They also, generally, are a reminder for me to breathe... and I do try haha, sometimes I just get on this blog and blab about how my horse is a demonpony who would love to kill me at any moment. But, for the most part, I know this isn't true and patience is key