Wednesday, March 9, 2011

*Le Sigh* Maybe it's the weather.

Hard to catch problem went unsolved today. I was able to approach her, but she trotted off just when I was going to put the halter on. Woo.

It took about 10 minutes to catch her. At once point she was coming back around, almost like she was playing games, and although I knew it would waste time, I stomped and yelled at her and let her know I was NOT playing, I was pissed.

I ended up catching her with an embarrassing last resort. I grabbed a handful of green grass and balled it up like some sort of interesting morsel of food, and let it catch her eye so she'd be interested in the potential hand out.

I think she hates the way her feet sound on the concrete in the barn. She always kind of gets wide eyed when she hears it. Not spooky, but kind of a what the heck look.

I was going to lunge her, but I saw her moving in the pasture walk/trot/canter, and she was very sound. We went out and had a nice warm up. A little "up" at first, but not terribly so. We had a very nice trot going on. Even some fairly round, balanced circles. She was moving so nice I though we'd try a few strides of canter as a reward. Well, the first go was to the left and it was horrid. She was PUMPED and flying. I expected that. She's been off so long.

We broke it down and she JUMPED a ground pole when we went across the arena to change directions. I collected her a little more and the right lead, usually her bad side, was a BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS, smooth and prompt transition up. We tried a big 30m circle, but we almost crashed into the fence because she was just not bendy enough to make the turn. My fault really, I let her fall in too much. I know it sounds crazy, but I almost felt her rush TOWARDS the rail like she wanted to try to jump it. It's gotta be 4ft. Not in her lifetime, or mine! ;)

We took a break, and then I was going to ask her to trot half way around tracking left and then she could be done. Well, now, she decided she wanted to canter MORE. It's her favorite gait. I like it too, but I asked for trot, so that was a no no. She ignored me. As Chasing The Dream said in a recent blog - ask, tell, make. I used this system, which you guys may have noticed I use quite a bit. Took about 5-10 minutes to get her back. When she trotted down the side she was trying to canter on the worst, like a nice little pony, I let her be done.

I hate fighting with her. I want her to enjoy being ridden. I know she's bored out of her mind right now. I started to think that that might be part of the problem with her being caught - she's bored and hates the walk/trot/walk/trot/halt/walk/trot/trot...ect...and then is just like "Um, no."

I took her in and she was a sweatball from getting herself all pissy and worked up. I hate fighting with her, but I don't pity her, because she KNOWS what I am asking for, and chooses to disobey. She works for me 30 minutes 3 days, 4 at most, and I work 30+ hours a week to keep her healthy with a full belly. I'm not asking much of her. She knows better, and that's her own doing.

I hosed her off just a little where the saddle was. Apparently she wasn't as hot as I thought she was, even though it was reasonably warm today, because she was pretty unhappy with me, fidgeting in the crossties, but she enjoyed a nice roll when I turned her out.

My issue at hand: I've got to get her motivated again. I've got to get her wanting to come in and work and be with people. I'm pretty sure she's being caught easily at dinner time.

I hate to do it, because I know good and well food bribes aren't good training aids. BUT, in this situation, I think it's the best option. She's very food driven. So I'm going to start taking cookies out with me when I go catch her. And giving her a couple after each ride. If she starts to expect it, that's fine, we can work through that later. We've done it before. Right now, I just need to give her something positive to associate with coming in and working.

I honestly think she's just been off for almost a month, not been handled that much except by Andrea, and her manners and working mentality are shot all to pieces. She's turned into a spoiled little pasture puff.

I'm also keen to have the vet look at her hind end. She is NOT dragging her right hind toe. There is a little bit, but the white line is still there, it's barely noticeable. The left hind is the one with the problem, and it's funny how the left, her usually good direction, is the one she's rushy and pissy in. Not a coincidence. There's more to this. She's not lame, but something's definitely off. I looked at her feet today after the ride. No sight of dragging at all on any of the feet but the left hind. Not even on the right hind.

Anyway, definitely not cantering her any more for a while until all this is resolved. Usually, it helps get her bending if I just go a couple of strides, and that's not enough to hurt her while we are on walk/trot only. But there is definitely something not right with that left hind though. Maybe not a lameness, but it's contributing to this attitude. I'm going to put focus on that direction less. It's kind of a crap shoot, but I just have a hunch it's not her training that's the problem. I don't want to drop it entirely and get her built uneven by just training on the right, nor give her a mental block for that side.


  1. hey thanks for the shout out! :)
    as for getting her motivated, have you tried riding outside? I switch it up often or my guy does the same thing. We do conditioning sets, jump, trail ride, ride in fields, dressage work and lunge sessions. Maybe try hacking out more often?

  2. HI! I just found your blog recently and I can't tell you how much (in many ways) Amber reminds me of the mare I was working with last year (who inspired my blog in the first place). Kiki was notoriously hard to catch, mainly because she had been sitting in a pasture for a year with her friends, but she was also super herd bound and an alpha chestnut mare. She had very strong opinions about everything and I had to figure out a way for her think things were HER idea. Are you able to have her turned out with her halter on? Some difficult to catch horses run at the sight of any halter or lead rope. This way you can drape the lead around you and walk out to her. You could also try bribing her with a little bit of jealously...if she runs away at the first approach go to her herd mates and start stuffing them full of grass or treats. If you have the time and the patience you could also go out to her field a few times while you're at the barn and just get her to come to you, give her a treat and then leave. Patience and repetition will be the best solution for this obviously smart girl.

    As far as the lack of interest goes, I really recommend the book "101 Dressage Exercises" (they also make a jumping one which is filled with fantastic ground pole only ideas). In the early days with Kiki, I would plan on working on a few different exercises each ride. They gave her mind something to focus on and they gave me a chance to work on things at a lower level (walk-trot). Even if the work at that pace seems boring to us, the more challenging we can make it for their minds makes a huge difference. Good luck and sorry for the super long comment!

  3. My Boys can get hard to catch. With the older boy, Toby, it's a habit he started years ago, mostly when we were working hard at dressage. I think he got a little sore in his hocks and just didn't want to let me ride him. He's taught the other two Boys how to "play" "catch me if you can." They never run really far from me, but just stay out of reach. Food treats to work, but, like you, I'd rather not need them.

    The "101 Dressage Exercises" book recommended above is excellent. It's a bit pricey...Amazon has it for just under $30, but it's well worth it. (Kindle version for $15)

  4. I was going to link, but I forgot to put it there - it was late, LOL.

    Riding Amber outside...I don't really consider the big pasture "outside" so I suppose not. But it might be worthwhile. I know we will do our usual exercises tomorrow, but maybe Saturday I can just take her around the place. I'll see if the trainer wants to go on a trail ride with me.

  5. I don't think there's anything wrong with using treats - they're just a tool like any other to help you get the job done. Just make sure she doesn't get pushy with you out in the pasture when you have a treat. Safety first.

  6. She's not bold enough to do that. She's only dominate with other horses - if you give her negative body language she's out of your space pronto. So I'm 100% confident that that will be a non issue, it's just I hate to bribe her. Hopefully down the road when we figure out if it IS something higher up than the foot, she will be more comfortable in work and will want to come in for treats or not.

    It's just...she's not lame, she NEEDS to stay in shape right now to STAY sound during this time...and well. Her life "sucks".