Friday, March 18, 2011

never seem to live up to the ones inside your head

Here is my cute boy, Pie, on our ride today to the cemetery.  We haven't been here in a long time but he has been "asking" to go, so today we attempted this big adventure.  

I finally kicked the flu (thank you for all the kind well wishes) and got back to riding this week.  I have been alternating riding Pie and Sovey each day and yesterday I tacked up the new, sweet Foggy for the first time.  I walked him (me on the ground walking beside him) around the ring in his tack.  He walked nicely for me, but I can tell he is nervous about "something new".  I have read in blogs and internet articles that a sign that a  horse is calm is when they chew.  I have to say that I must not understand what is meant by this.  Both Pie, and now Foggy, "chew" and lick and move their tongue around when they are nervous.  By contrast, Pie lowers his head and gives a nice, long sneeze-snort-sigh when he is relaxed and Foggy did that very thing after a few laps around our ring.  As soon as I heard that and felt him relax and lower his head, I untacked him.  He was much more worried about our new program than I like.  I didn't tack him today, but I will again in a few days.  He is just going to take a long time which is fine.  His weight is still very low so there is no hurry. 

I am getting bored riding around the farm and I know Pie and Sovey would like a change too.  Today, I pictured going north off our property and Pie headed right out there straightaway.  How do they know?

We have to pass an automotive garage on the way to the cemetery. Pie will not walk by without visiting there.  It is sort of embarrassing, but I like that he is interested and not frightened. My mom was walking along with me so you can see her talking to the mechanic in this picture. We gave the man treats for him to feed Pie.  Pie loves him now.  He took our photo (below), but unfortunately he got his hand in front of the lens.

Pie continues touching "targets" everywhere because of our clicker work.  A few days ago he was determined to touch every single plastic bag that had blown over from the auto-auction.  Our treats were long gone, but he would not stop!  Today in the cemetery he wanted to touch the monuments but I would not let him.  He had to settle for this trash can.  He loved it, but of course, thought it was smelly and made his "stinky face".

Pie and I headed down a path and somehow got lost from my mother. He was determined to go home a different way than the way I wanted to go.  He started throwing his head and popping up and down in the half-rear that he does when he is nervous and wants to go home but won't listen to me.  I stay with him and have small successes with sitting tight and pushing him forward. He gets very frustrated, but we are working on these tantrums.  As usual, I am kicking myself for not going home when we were at the trash can. I always have to push it and not quit when ahead. So, I kept working, but it was clear that he was not moving forward.  He started backing up and tearing up the cemetery grass. I only ride him on the pavement or way over at the grass edge near the woods, but still I didn't want him to be destructive.  I had to dismount which is the kiss of death for me because I am not as confident with him when I am on the ground.  I let him graze and pulled out my cell to phone my mom for moral support.  Pie really calmed down when I started talking on the phone which is weird, but tells me that my body language and voice probably calmed down first.  My mother was wondering how a huge horse could disappear in a cemetery.  She had started home when she lost us.  

I walked back out to the neighborhood beside the cemetery and found her.  She gave me a leg up while complaining how much I weigh.  She said that it was much easier to give me a leg up when I was in high school.  I reminded her that my mare was only 14.2 back then and Pie-Pie is almost 17 hands.  I was so proud of how still he stood.  I have been using clicker and treats to get him to stand better for mounting and it sure paid off today!

Back on our property Pie put a nasty rear in when a loud truck passed.  I just couldn't get my breathing together and I held my breath when the truck approached.  I'm not entirely happy with today's ride, but I am not mad at Pie.

Foggy is out all night tonight with the boys for the first time.  I hope I can sleep!  


  1. Funny Pie making a stinky face. I think it's great that you are taking your time with Foggy, no reason to rush. I know the feeling, but I would consider the ride successful as it ended safely.

  2. Despite what people say, licking and chewing has very little to do with relaxation or learning - it's an autonomous response to the release of pressure. For me, the true sign of relaxation is posture - lowered head position, and relaxed ears.

    Good for working things through with Pie. When he balks, what happens if you turn in a circle - does that get the feet moving again without rearing? Knowing how far to push things is something that's really hard to get right, in my experience.

  3. Oh that Pie! I am so impressed the way you DO keep it together through the rearing. I would probably pee my pants! But I read Kate's suggestion above and I really like that. Rearing is something mine have never done and I think I would, if I could keep it together, try to circle if they did... Sounds like Pie is really responding to clicker training though and it has inspired me to try a little myself. It worked for the dogs after all. :)

  4. Knowing when to stop is so tricky. You want to make progress, so pushing a little past the comfort zone makes sense, but too much can take you backwards too. Just went through this yesterday with Val on an impromptu trail ride.

    Glad you're feeling better and back to riding :)

  5. I know you wrote about a few scary or less than perfect moments, but you and your mom make me laugh so hard! Your mum is so hilarious! her wit cracks me up! And the man's finger over the lens! that too is very funny! I love that Pie is so curious at the auto shop!Lilly would be very afraid of all of that I am pretty sure. I gave never ridden in a cemetery but it seems like artery good place to ride because it seems like it would be quiet and kind of pretty. I don't blame Pie for rearing at a loud and obnoxious truck, but if only our horses could manage to feel fear with all four feet on the ground! Thank goodness your flu is gone!!

  6. Sounds like a great ride. I'm too afraid of traffic to go on the road, so I'm impressed that your horses do it, even if there are a few dicey moments.
    Nice that you're taking it slowly with Foggy. I know it will pay off.
    I'm like you - pushing a little too far when things are going well. It's such an easy thing to do! :) Oh well, progress isn't made if boundaries don't get pushed occasionally.
    Glad you're feeling better.

  7. Carol,

    I don't go on the road except to cut through a very tiny cul-de-sac neighborhood. The "road" in there is like a driveway with no traffic. One car went by us, but the road is wide and the people drive very slow. I am afraid to go out on the main roads. That is why Pie and I were having a problem - he wanted to go home via the main road. His sense of direction was telling him that was the way, but he doesn't know about cars!

  8. The only time my mare has ever licked and chewed was right after she had been scared half to death by a plastic bag. It's like a "please let that awful experience be over" response. I agree with Kate, a head-down sigh is what I look for to signal relaxation.

    I still think it's hysterical that he goes around targeting everything, but I'd be worried about the rearing. Maybe head lowering on cue should be next on the docket for Pie.

  9. I can relate to SO much in this post!
    First off, with Foggy. I can't remember if you got Pie and Sovey fresh off the track, or if they had some down time. Foggy is still pretty fresh meaning, he hasn't done other work other than racing, I believe. So the tacking up, would yes, trigger some anticipation. Laz dealt with that, and still has days where his past days of "whats next???" sneaks up causing him to chew anxiously and head bob. Now, he also does a lick, chew that is a content version. VERY different and I'm sure you will, or do, see the change. The whole body relaxes and lick/chew is soft and like a slow motion of if they were finishing an ice cream cone. The anxious version is chomping gum while drumming fingers on a desk top, action. Does that make sense?? ;)
    Introducing things slowly to Foggy like you are doing will go SO far to set him up for success, so way to go!!!
    For your ride with Pie. I LOVE that he's touching everything, what a brave boy. Laz did that today on our hand walk. He marched up to a windblowing mailbox with streamers on it, as if to say "This is the scariest looking mailbox and for sure I deserve a carrot!!" lol! Such a great thing for our sensitive boys, to be rewarded.
    The rearing thing...funny, I dealt with that this weekend too. I opted to 'reset' and start over so he could bring the nerves down and understand he was ok. In the quick second of the truck scare/rear, that is trickier. I think there are some days where their instinct is stronger than our 'requests' and he'll try better next time, hopefully. It is so hard to be the constant stoic rider, even when faking it.
    I think you do amazing work with your boys though!! I always think of your rides out when I push myself to take Laz out and then enjoy it so much!

  10. Kristen - that is so great about Laz touching the scary mailbox with streamers. I feel inspired to work through all the scary things with Pie. He is really trying hard. Just like your sweet Laz!

  11. I am trying to imagine my mums reaction if I phoned her up and said 'I'm in a cemetery and having a spot of bother with my horse, can you give me a leg up? :) You have strong nerves and a patient heart and you got back ok so all good!

  12. My Cassie is inclined to rear as well and I usually lean forward almost against her neck and then bring my hands right down beside her neck. In a bitless bridle that will create a bit of poll pressure and it helps to convince Cassie to bring her feet back to the ground. Cassie's second option is always the fast whip-around, so I don't turn her into a circle! When she comes down, I just sit breathing slowly, stroking her until her head comes down and I feel she's calm again.

  13. Juliette, Oh, what a challenging time you had with Pie! But you did great - dealing with lots of different things with him, and knowing that somethings make you a bit nervous as well, and all things considered, you did GREAT! I, too, have times and things that make me more nervous about my horse, and I get extra worried, which I wish I didn't, but I am working on keeping myself calmer. Just knowing when those times happen is helpful, so good for you- you are quite self-aware!!

    wonder why the cell phone chat calmed you- maybe it allowed you to take your focus for a minute off of the "out of control maybe horse" and talk to a person. Maybe you can try to do that in the future, even if you don't have a cell phone or actually make a call. Just a thought.

    I agree about the chewing vs sighing on a horse. I always go by his head and the sighing; when his head is low, and there is a sigh/exhale noise, he is relaxed (cause sometimes he does chew when he is nervous). Good work by you, Foggy and Pie!

  14. Jules!
    I'm so glad the flu bug is off finally! I'm nursing a sore throat that I'm hoping is not Strep. Can barely swallow.

    Wonderful ride through the cemetery, loved how you heard him ask for the destination. Favorite rides, are those that I've let the mare choose. But sometimes, like you experienced, they"THINK"it better to go a certain way, and we have to intervene. And my intervention came around like yours, the other day solo rearing, just canter in place in a most unapproved area!
    No amount of licking or chewing would convey calm to me.... (cause it doesn't, as Kate said) her head down, adrenaline turned off, and a "loose nostrill" blow Is what it required, before she and I went forth.

    He sure is funny with the garage...too bad the dudes finger took center stage in that photo! And your mom, cracks me up...of course you weighed less then (all of 5 lbs!) Its the height difference in horses!

    love to hear more of the clicker training!
    I've been using it for attention for years...instead of a"go"command, like others use it for, I click, the mare comes to me for a treat.

    Thanks for including behavior issues-I feel so alone sometimes, and the NH types I am around, blame me for all behavior Wa comes up with. All I know is, helpful people to me are the ones that go through what I do, with a TB, and tell me what they humanely do with common sense, an nd patience!

    Foggy is going to be great. The best partner possible has all the time in the make sure! Still so pleased for all of you..
    XO Kac

  15. Love your blog. I am experiencing a lot of the same issues with our OTTB. He can be a handful, especially now that spring is here (well, just barely in Maine). He'll be my trail horse extrordinaire one of these days. I'm having a blast, even when he's a naughty boy. Keep up the good work and the blog!

  16. Hi Imel - welcome! I just popped over to your blog and "met" your adorable birthday boy, Harley!

  17. Yippee for Foggy, out all night. Glad you are post-flu!

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