The better of two evils?

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The better of two evils?

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  • Evils of dressage

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    05-02-2010, 10:36 PM
Green Broke
The better of two evils?

*sighs* Back to this song and dance. So I've been working Zierra in the yard, some of you may remember that I posted awhile back with what a demon she's become with bolting. Lately, she's been fantastic - I got a new Western saddle, and not only has she been working at all three gaits on a loose rein in a snaffle, I've even got her rounding and respecting the bit when I ride English and ask for a contact. We're even reintroducing crossrails and she's doing fantastic - not bolting at them and jumping wildly.

And then we hit the trails and it all ends. At this point, I think she's got an extreme case of the "herd bounds". I can walk her out on a totally loose rein, the most relaxed horse alive but the MINUTE we head home, she turns into a raving lunatic. She's NEVER done this before - she gets jiggy and stupid if other horses gallop by, but this is just ridiculous.

My question is, would I be better to work her hard in big circles when she refuses to walk? Or should I spin her in tight, tiny circles until she whoas? Essentially, she wants to jog the entire way home. Which is one thing in itself, I don't even MIND jigging, I can compromise. But she's resorted to FREAKING out when I won't let her run home. She'll jig a few feet and then flip her nose hard, leap into the air with a buck, and try to bolt. The harder I hold her in, the tenser she gets. If I give her her head, she bolts.

I tried the last ride with a tiedown and a mechanical hackamore because I have more control but it effectively reduces my ability to straight rein her when she's going insane. I'm going to take her out in her snaffle and martingale next time so I have control over spinning her or making her lope figure 8's.

She knows how to neckrein, but she chooses to forget when she's focused on running. I tried everything, I swear. Anytime she trotted off, I'd ask her to back up. That worked a few times and then she REFUSED to back up anymore. If I insisted, she'd threaten to rear. This is her new thing - when I lay into her, she threatens to go up.

I tried RiosDad advice - shut her down HARD. I threw her back on her haunches a few times while hollering WHOA as loud as I could and all it did was make her neurotic - flipping her nose constantly and trying to rear. I tried stepping off and lunging her - none of it matters because as soon as I'm OUT of the saddle, she calms down and thinks straight.

I have NEVER run this horse home before, so I have no idea where this is coming from. This is the same horse a year ago that pretended she didn't see the driveway because she wanted to keep going. She's never acted like this before.

I'm not even considering a "pain" issue seeing as how she's working just fine in the yard and heading out and only gets stupid going home or when another horse tries to get ahead of her. She does it regardless if she's alone or with other horses.

Sorry that was such a novel, I'm just a bit dumbfounded. I've tried loping big figure eight's until she stops, I've tried doing leg yielding, I've tried everything to make her focus on ME.

I'm going to swallow my pride and tell RiosDad I need help. I'm willing to take any advice because I am FED UP. This horse needs a nice big dose of I'M FREAKING SCARY AND YOU NEED TO FEAR ME. Laying into her only makes her freak worse though and get neurotic. And tiring her out has little effect, but I'm willing to log 10 hours in the saddle if it teaches this little witch she needs to fear me and my consequence more then she desires to be home with her friends.
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    05-02-2010, 10:49 PM
This sounds western to me, but are you familiar with the term shoulder-in? It's a dressage term that basically displaces the inside hind leg under the horse's center of gravity. Instead of heading dead straight, it basically puts a 5th leg down and prevents them from running forward. It also connects the inside leg into the outside rein which puts the horse on the bit and buys you a ton of control. I've used it when my horse had himself all worked up about passing a cow or something and wanted to run home. It pretty difficult for even a skilled dressage horse to do, so most horses decide it's easier to calm down after a few dozen strides and go back to walking.
    05-02-2010, 10:50 PM
Hmmm. Tricky little girl!

I would head out for a ride, and make sure I had the whole day free. I would ride out for maybe half an hour, and then I would find a good spot, and make her work. Lots of circles, patterns, bending, using her body, using her mind. Work until she is sweaty and paying you good attention.

Then walk back a while, and as soon as she starts freaking out, stop and do it again. As long as it takes for her to settle and pay you more attention. If she won't settle, turn around and go back to your original spot and work her there.

Head the whole way home, only accepting a nice walk, and as soon as she does anything else, don't shut her down, don't growl, just hard, hard work. Not just tiring, but mentally tiring.

I would fully expect it to take hours from your description.

If she gives you the nice walk, take it, and walk her all the way home if she keeps it up.

Don't know if it will work, but that's my two bobs worth! I hope you can outsmart the little tart!
    05-02-2010, 10:58 PM
Because of the way the land lays where I ride, it is hard for a horse not to know where the barn is so they tend to get pretty barn sour at the beginning of thier training. To combat this I push them relly hard on the way out and let them coast back if they will. If they won't then I work on changing directions when they get too fast. When I get back to the yard the real work starts. I never get off right when I get to the barn. I practice backing or leg yields or if a horse is really sour I will lope circles and work them real hard in the yard then I ride away again. If they don't think that they will stay at the yard they are not as eager to get back. You could let the horse come back pretty fast as long as you turn right around again and leave just as fast.
    05-02-2010, 11:11 PM
Many small circles home if she's jigging. If she is going faster than a walk, then do one rein circles as tight as you can. Don't even bother neck reining, when a horse is that agitated they could care less. Just use a snaffle and direct rein her into circles, tighter and tighter the more she fights. She can't run with her nose at your toe.
    05-02-2010, 11:11 PM
Green Broke
Thanks guys, I'm examining many options. Zierra technically "enjoys" being ridden, which is why it's difficult. I can say in true honesty I doubt she'll care working at home because she's in eye sight. I was so livid with her when I got back, she got to stand tied short to a tree in the rain for 30 minutes. She didn't care at all - as long as she can see her friends, you can put her in her own tiny paddock. I'll definitely try it.

I'm going to be making room for an entire day and see if we can't resolve this. I know a lot of people swear by the "turn around" method where if she gets stupid, we immediately turn and trot/lope back away from home until she's tired. Everytime she acts dumb going home, we turn around and go the other way. However, being an Arab, I could end up in Texas doing that

Last ride I seemed to make SOME progress by pulling her nose into my knee and making her turn until she stopped. It took about 20-30 of them, but I got her walking (VERY briskly) home the last half mile. This was also, however, after about 45 minutes of HARD work in a field - cantering looping circles and serpintines, asking for quick changes of direction, and kicking her forward when she was tired enough to want to stop.

My ultimate question probably is - will exhausting her into submission each ride work to the point of her learning it sucks, or am I better off doing "knee spins" which she absolutely DETEST. She loves to run, so I feel like I'm giving in when I'm letting her move at the canter she wants to, even if it is on a circle.
    05-02-2010, 11:15 PM
I never go over a trot on my way home, and then slow down the last half mile or so to a full walk. Yes, make her tired. If she realizes that the more she fights you the tireder (is that a word?) she gets then she will figure it out.

Lots of circles, both directions. =)
    05-02-2010, 11:21 PM
If you would rather not let her run, have you tried backing? It is unnatural and difficult for horses, so is a good way to make them realise the error of their ways. When Latte had an issue with moving forward a while I ago I spent probably half an hour backing in circles.

Maybe when she starts freaking out, shut her down but don't give her time to be upset and just back, back, back, and then offer her a chance to stand. If she doesn't take it, back, back, back again.

If it doesn't work, at least you will have an awesome back up :]
    05-02-2010, 11:25 PM
She can only learn to walk home calmly by walking home so make several 20 minute rides away from home then ride back. Deal with the jigging or trotting how you were but give her plenty of time to learn it.
    05-03-2010, 04:48 PM
Whatever method you choose, make sure to reward with a release (however momentary it is) the split second she relaxes and does what you want. Horses work off of the release of pressure. Reward is the only way she'll know she did well.

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