Alright so I have my 11 (12 on the 27th!) y/o OTTB Ice....he was on the track for a good chunk of time, so he's pretty used to being able to be silly and all of that fun stuff while being lead, as long as he got serious when the time called for it. Most of the time, I don't have a problem leading him. We can do trotting in-hand and he doesn't rush ahead of me, and he does stand perfectly for the vet/farrier, and he also stands well in cross ties. Single tied he's very fidgety, and usually unties his own knots, but that's another story. He also makes it a point to stop exactly shoulder-to-shoulder with me.
Anyway, this thread is about standing still, which he does seem to have a problem with. On our boarding facility property where he's comfortable, he usually stands no problem, or if he starts to fidget, I just have to remind him firmly to "stand" and he goes back to a statue. However, yesterday we were in unfamiliar territory, just down the road from where I board. I had taken him on a walk to stretch out his legs since they were stocked up, and we were on our return portion of the trip. He was looking a little white eyed, so I let him stop and look around and figure out where he was. When that was okay, he bent down to eat some grass (really they were dead leaves, but he eats them anyway) and so I asked him to pick his head up, and we did a few circles around me, like everyone always suggests. Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard, right? Well, he started pitching a fit and just completely mentally collapsing, trying to throw his shoulder/ run into me and put his nose in the air. So then we were doing circles and some backing to get his attention back on me, which didn't work as well as I'd hoped. Instead of standing still and collecting himself when I stopped, he started moving in the same circles and backing up even though I didn't cue him just so he could throw his little fit and have a freak out moment. I started working on his right side, which is the side he doesn't like, and that seemed to get him re-focused pretty fast, so we continued on our way back home. I am 99% sure his hissy fit was based on the fact that he was in unfamiliar territory, and did not trust me as much as he does in a familiar situation.....both at his old house and his new place, he was/is always fine.
So my question is, for a horse who would rather work than stand still, how do I get him to stand still? This is only a problem on the ground, in the saddle he has excellent whoa and stands no problem.
The art of doing nothing.
I was working with a student recently that had complained about her horses lack of a stop.
I could not help but notice that the woman had arrived about 20 minutes late and had hurried to prepare her horse for the lesson.
Each movement was as if it was late and had to be quickened to catch up to where it should be.
There was no pause.
I asked about her day and asked her to describe what she had done from the time she had gotten up that morning and she looked at me with a look that she did not have time to answer such a question and I was delaying the lesson by asking it.
I insisted that she follow the question and as she answered a long list of duties,chores,and errands that had been accomplished by the time she had arrived at the ranch.
She had never stopped.
So my question is "where does the stop begin"?
I feel that we as humans project so much on to our horse with our day to day attitude that we use to get us through our busy day and the horses see and react to that attitude.
How can we ask the horse to stop if we can not stop?
So we spent the lesson practicing to pause and it was so very hard for her........but .......her horse stopped!
Well said Marecare. In today's hurried world we often put out that frantic energy to our horses. Something I am always aware of and working on.
I like to "rock" my horses everyday routines. I have a horse that likes his routine way too much, so I am always changing up things. Like leading him from his right side (he doesn't like it much either) and little things like that.
I am a stickler for routine in feeding though. Walka first, T second. But, I will ask Walka to back and stand for however long I determine, just to reinforce my position as leader.
So Justsambam, maybe doing what he does well at home should now be taken in not so familiar surroundings. The more you expose him to the better. Take small steps, like you did, but take them often.
Good luck to you.
Definitely interesting; was your comment meant to say that I needed to not ask him so much (going around in unfamiliar grounds and then asking him to do something he's not all that great at in the first place)? I have never had any problem "slowing things down" with him. My BO has commented so many times on how I have the patience of a saint to not go nuts when I have to go back to square one and teach him just about everything a normal riding horse should know, and then at the beginning of each ride refresh his memory of what he learned last time. Although I do think the surroundings of the situation had some effect; when we started off on the walk there were no cars, but as rush hour came there were frequently cars passing. He didn't spook at them, but he does feed off the energy of things going on around him (if we're in the arena with other horses, and they're going faster than he is, I can feel that he tenses up and wants to move with them, starts watching them as they pass by, etc.). In general, high levels of activity distracts him.
What I meant was, from what I understood on you post, was that his behavior was not his norm at home when asking him to do what you were asking. So , based on him understanding what you asked of him, but just a bit over excited/nervous not being home doing it, to ask him to do this away from home more often. That way he will become less nervous being away from home and will see this as business as usual.
You'll find that if he is solid in these exercises at home, that each time you take him out of the comfort of his normal environment, he will little by little, get more relaxed in the new environment. The first few times will probably go like it did this last time. But will improve if you stay calm (sounds like you do) and consistent. Don't let this time discourage you. I
As far as the "slowing things down", that was directed at myself. I am always 3 -4 steps ahead of myself. That never works well when working with my horse Walka (more sensitive type). Something I am always working on.
I might suggest that there is a place somewhere in between.
This place is where the horse is kind of out of his element,but not too far.
He feels a bit anxious,but still holding it together.
He is cautious or a little nervous,but you can sooth him and calm him down.
That is the place to pause and wait.
That is the place that he will learn to look to you and trust in you.
For an extroverted horse like that who MOVES AND MOVES when they are unconfident you can use a couple different strategies, depending on the horse.
First one is to say "You wanna move? Let me help you!" Increase the rate at which they go but HAVE A PURPOSE when doing it....go somewhere, have them do something meaningful, not just go in circles. Circles (having them go forward forward forward) is the worst thing you can allow them to do, that just adds fuel to the fire. You need to use the same amount of energy he is using, and then ADD a little more so you get noticed. This is not done in an aggressive fashion, just very calm and confident.
Second, you could give him the task of standing in a certain spot and if he moves you put him back immediately. Do you use a rope halter? If not I would. Practice sending a nice big coil down your rope so you can "bite" him if he gets rushy....when horses are in this state they need a big "Thanks I needed that!!" moment to snap them out of it. It's very important that when they do tune back into you that you have a PLAN. If not, they will just go right back to freaking out again.
You also need to become more in tune about his thresholds. The SECOND he gets hesitant, slow, tense, etc. stop and allow him to settle. Back him up a couple steps, wait, and if he is relaxed (head low, blinking, relaxed muscles, soft ears, etc) then continue forward.
Thanks for the comments! Spirithorse, he's more introverted than extroverted...he tends to explode more than he does "express himself" at every little thing he does not like. But he's not lazy, movement is what he is good at....when his feet move, he knows whats going on in his world, and when they stop he kind of gets ADHD and needs to pay attention to everything at once. He's one of those that like to work ;)
He really was absolutely fine until we turned to go home; his nose was borderline peanut rolling and I had a bunch of slack in the lead line. However, when we turned back, he didn't know we were going home, it was his first time on that road, so maybe I just need to cut the trip shorter next time.....We went in "T" shape, first going to the right and then doubling back to the left....we were on our way back right again towards home when he freaked out. I think part of it was also that I was telling him "no, you have to stay HERE", and I was actually being a little more insistant than I normally would be.
In unfamiliar surroundings he does not do so well (for example, last Friday they were teaching horses how to load calmly, so the trailer was moved from its normal spot....Ice and I spent 45 minutes in the round pen because he seemed to have forgotten how to act in a round pen....he was freaky and totally unfocused, but he has to be pushed through it, otherwise he'll do it "just because" next time. I ended it when he FINALLY gave me an inside turn, and stopped without turning away from me).
My trainer has suggested that I lunge him in more places than just the round pen to get him used to unfamiliar situations. Obviously he needs it, but he doesn't fare well on a lunge line, so I guess we'll just have to stick to taking walks.
And no, I do not use a rope halter, just a simple nylon one. I have been considering getting one though, just haven't had the funds really to go and buy one.
So is there anything that I can really do to improve his "standing" techniques? He "whoa"s fine, but the longer we actually stand without something happening (say I'm talking to the BO in the barn aisle) the tenser he gets. This was really just his expression of the fact that he has a hole somewhere in his training, but since he's not lazy and likes to work, how do you "punish" him and get the results wanted?
It sounds like, then, that he gets introverted when in new environments...but only in new environments, any other time he's more extroverted...would that be accurate? If so, IMO this is the most dangerous kind of horse to work with because you might not be able to see the explosion coming...unless you know what to look for.
Fixing his standing issue will come when he gets more confidence. He might not be moving his feet in some situations (like if you talk to the BO) but the pawing is a displaced behavior for his emotions running away. Since this is a confidence issue, you don't want to punish him. He's simply acting like a prey animal, he just needs you to help him gain more confidence in the 5 areas horses need confidence in: in themselves, in you, in new environments, around other horses, and as a learner.
I have only ever seen him paw a handful of times in the time that I've known him....he is more apt to swing his butt in all directions. I hate to be a complainer, but everything seems to be a waiting game with him! I think this is the exact reason that I love him so much....as long as he knows what he's doing, he's cocky and arrogant, but the second you introduce something new, he's a huge puppy dog and needs lots of reassurance and comfort, like the new thing is something I can save him from. I think he likes to be a perfectionist at things the first time around, which is exactly how TB's were bred to be, lol
Thats his eye up there in my avatar, after we did some new work with side reins, and it always makes me smile because he's so soft after a workout.
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