Willow. She has NONE.
After our no good very bad horrible ride on Saturday, I have done a lot of question asking, reading, research, soul searching, and self pep-talking.
(Big thanks to my COTH friends for putting up with me. ;))
What I came up with was a few different things.
First, I took a hard look at what Willow was eating. We’ve cut back her rations by a quarter, and I also broke down and added a calming supplement (Vita-Calm). If we find that she starts losing weight (she isn’t the easiest of keepers) we’re going to add an oil (fish or soy) and up her hay flakage. She’s currently on a Senior feed, as it’s easy to digest (oh that tummy!) and I’d like to keep her on it for that reason. If this doesn’t help, we’re going to try switching her to a lower protein grain, and add a Cool Calories type supplement. I need to learn A LOT about grain, it’s not a strong suit of mine, but we’re getting there. It’s going to take a little bit of time before we can really tell if the new combo is helping.
Second, I looked at how I spent my time. I usually am rushed. I show up, throw tack on her, ride, then leave. When she was at Frog’s Leap, I spent lots of time just chilling with her. Playing on the crossties, whatever. Now, every time I show up, we work. You might that I’m crazy, but I think it has something to do with her being sour about me. I spent some time on Tuesday just hanging in the arena with her, letting her stretch her legs.
She was happy to zoom back and forth, trying to kick my head in and refusing to let me walk up to her. That was fine. I just kept quietly pushing her, letting her get her emotions out. I don’t prescribe to the natural horsemanship bit, but I have learned by watching, and I was able to get Willow trotting in a figure 8 using just my posture. Her ears were up most of the time, and her eye relaxed. After about 20 minutes of tooling around, we went from head high and snorty monster horse, to chill, just walking, do as I asked chill mare.
I kept pushing, though, asking her to move away. Not quickly, just walk. Her ear was locked on me, eye relaxed, head low (ish… low for Willow…). When I took the pressure off, she’d stop and look at me. When I put the pressure on, she’d walk off again. Cluck-trot… easy walk… totally chill. Big change in physco horse of last week.
Third, I looked at Willow as a whole. There is only so much that feed and ‘nice-horsey’ will get me. She’s a hot horse. Her breeding is hot. Her pea brain is a flaming inferno of naughtiness. I have to accept the fact that we’re going to have bad days, and when they are bad, they are going to be really, really bad. As a rider, it’s my job to say “No. You cannot be a brat. You must do as I ask. When you get over yourself, I’m still going to be here.” She is not the kind of horse that I will ever be able to say, “Ok. That was good enough, I’ll let that slide.” If I give her an inch, she is GOING to take a mile. She’s not the kind of horse that I will be able to bully into doing as I ask. She is not a patient horse that will stand for hours while I piddle around.
I took those thoughts and I applied it to my approach. She does need to learn to be patient. That is our goal for the moment. Patience. I went up with a plan.
I tacked up, and lunged her both ways until she was listening to each sound that came out of my mouth. She was in tune, and good to go. Then we wandered over to the mounting block and just stood there. And stood there. And stood there. I watched her go through little mental stages. First she was interested in what we were doing. Then she tried getting out of it by walking forwards, backwards, sideways, etc. Then she started inventing monsters and snort snort snorting away. I just kept ignoring her. Then she gave a huge sigh, cocked a hind foot, and fell asleep. Lots of patting, good girls!!!! cookies, and home we went.
The next time, I did the same, tacked up, lunged (so she didn’t think that she was going to be getting OUT of any work with her shennanigans), and then pulled up to the block again. This time the stages came a lot faster. Once she relaxed, I climbed up on the block and played around like she was a baby horse. She ‘woke up’ a bit, but didn’t move. I swung on and she stood like a rock. 🙂 We did some walk, whoa, walk, whoa, wait wait wait and then ended it on a good note (whoa, a few minutes of standing, and GOOD GIIIIRRRLLLLL done). We need to work on her patience. I should be able to ask her to stand as long as I need her to. It’s going to be a fight. She’s not EVER had to be patient for anything in her 8 years. We’ll get it done though. 😉