Friday, January 27, 2012

The Cost of Courage

I got some good feedback on my Phil video. One thing that was said more than once was “more bending/lateral work” to help with connection. I had been working on the bending exercise my trainer gave me, and with releasing the inside rein, but Phil gets really freaked out by my hands moving.

See, I think he was treated rather harshly in his training, and when I move my hands up or out a lot, or take up on my reins quickly, he thinks I’m putting both reins in one hand so I can beat his butt with the other hand. I have never ever carried a whip with him, never have worn spurs with him, so this isn’t coming from me.

Regardless, it’s something I have to deal with. And releasing the inside rein and causing all kinds of anxiety in Phil started to seem counterproductive, so I stopped working on that and concentrated on connection. But after those comments I decided to give it a go again last night.


We started off okay, and I was being very subtle with my inside hand. I knew that he saw it moving, because a few times he took a big leaping step away from my hand, but came right back to me when I reassured him. I thought things were going very well. I was also trying to not restrict him, so I was being brave and letting go.

I’m not sure how it happened, but the anxiety got the better of him and he got tense and quick, causing me to take up on my reins when he shortened his neck. That really set him off and he really took off on me, so I sat back and said “Whoa!” That just made it worse, and be bolted blindly across the arena in a panic, head straight up in the air. It took me five or six circles of him running with his butt down and head up before I got it under control. I’m sure he thought he was about the get the beating of his life. I was just as scared as he was, because I didn’t want to turn him in a tight circle and have us go down in a heap, and I didn’t want to head him into the wall (I know some people do that but I’m not THAT brave).

Eventually we got it back under control, but he was a total wreck after that.

There is a schooling show Sunday that I was planning to take Phil to, but it filled up and I didn’t get a slot (I should have gotten the entries in sooner – argh!). At first I was just going to forget the whole thing, but now I think I will go over on Saturday as planned and school him, leave him overnight with the horses from the barn that did get in, and school again on Sunday. He needs to get off the property and work.

I have to get this horse to trust me eventually. I’m trying very hard to be kind and fair, but also uncompromising in what I’m asking for. I know he didn’t develop this fear in a day, or a month. I guess I need to keep being patient.


Val said...

Yikes. He is so young to have such strongly ingrained fears. I expect older horses to come with baggage, but someone must have worked on him very young. That is so sad.

What if you start in-hand? Then he will be able to see you and as he learns that you are not going to hurt him, maybe he will be able to translate it to the saddle. Good luck and be safe.

Sand. said...

Been there, still going through that. If nothing else, having a horse that was treated too roughly in the past, keeps you gentle and patient in the future. Value that.

Anonymous said...

Please prepare a "disaster plan" should he bolt like that in an arena full of competitors warming up ...

As someone who has shown with bolting horses darting around, it's terrifying to be the "other rider".

achieve1dream said...

Have you done any specific desensitizing with him? Like with you on the ground get him used to you touching him all over, waving your hands around, get him used to touching him with all sorts of things like ropes, whips, blankets, jackets, plastic bags, paper, etc. It sounds like he just needs to learn that things aren't going to hurt him. From the ground first, then from the saddle. If his fear has been so ingrained that he thinks you're going to beat him when you're not even carrying a whip then I think he needs a LOT of ground work to build his trust in you. He needs to be shown that you aren't like those other people who mistreated him. I'm glad you're okay and I hope you can figure this out!

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