Update on hacking/trail riding with Katie - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 11:01 AM Thread Starter
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Update on hacking/trail riding with Katie

Hiya. I've been really busy with work. 12 hour shifts are killer. I'm not ignoring people once I get off at the weekend I'll respond :) I am on a quick break right now. I only have time for Katie between shifts heh.

I could really use some more input on how things have progressed. A quick reminder: she was in season when she spooked badly at a backfiring tractor and galloped off on me a few months back. A one off incident although she is still very cautious in that area. In the arena, when in season, she was also playing up except that was very easily solved just by me being a combination of laid back and firm about keeping her busy. Zero problem there. But hacking out... the young man I wanted to ride her regularly - who would be perfect for her - can't anymore due to having a new project. There are two members of staff that hack her out solo, one more than the other, who I spoke to the other day. I am aggressively focusing on improving my seat 4x a week and being doing tons of focused strength work literally.. just to ride better lol. Bearing in mind before I moved here and even when I hacked her out alone initially soon after the move I could trot on the buckle. It's rather disheartening that we're regressing even as I'm becoming more confident and secure in my seat and ability to sit her huge movements.

First I will describe her current behaviour with ME.

- in hand is perfect. Literally, what she might spook at in-hand lasts 1 second before she's back to head down and chill

- ridden on the trail: with so much foliage she is incredibly reactive to any sound she cannot see. Giraffe, ears forward and zero connection with me. Nothing I do, NOTHING I DO, can bring her back to me. I have just sat and waited calmly. It will always result in a spook. I have tried asking her to be busy - it will always result in a spook. Spooks happen and I can't prevent everything so my goal is how to bring her back down to me. Well... it can take literally 30mins to bring her back to me. If I dismount interestingly it will take longer than if I had began the ride in-hand. Me being on the ground isn't an automatic calmer. On the road she will halt and stand nicely (if not happily) as buses overtake and even ambulances at speed. I am firm when I tell her to stand and its very clear I will not tolerate her risking out lives by stepping into the path of an oncoming vehicle. I do a lot of in-hand work standing on the side of the road as a variety of vehicles pass us until she's relaxed. She is now better on the road and a nightmare on the overgrown trail which is opposite to where we began.

Staff member said this:

Her hacks have been reduced to 20minute walks now as she is so tense, tippy tappy and spooky. She is spooking at buses. This staff member is very gentle and sensitive - but a fantastic rider/instructor. She said the moment she saw the bus she began making a fuss of Katie, fully expecting a spook. And Katie did spook. The fact that now staff feel they can't ride her out properly is a concern to me and I was recommended to hack her out in company.


It's obvious that even my original small goal of just going on random hacks regularly to get her desensitised isn't working so I need to rethink a new plan. I have already been given a few opinions that she's not a horse that I can hack out alone. I refuse to believe this as I've helped various animals overcome their fears. I've just never had to ride one at the same time lol.

I am convinced 100% that she needs to be able to let off some steam. ATM everyone riding her out is holding her back, including me. You can't even blame us because there are traffic and pedestrians to contend with so it's a vicious circle.

So this next month I'm gonna have to find the time to ride her in the arena before going out. I think 30mins of solid work in the arena before a "relaxing ride out" might be a good alternate approach. It might make her a bit arena sour but I'll deal with that later. Right now I want her to see us going out as a good thing, a time to relax. I'll end the ride ON the trail at a set point, get off and let her graze. I am considering maybe asking staff not to hack her out in the meantime - if she's spooky and not enjoying it I don't see the point. I want her to enjoy it, it's more than just exercise to me.

Any suggestions welcome as always >.<
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post #2 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 11:17 AM
Join Date: May 2012
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Did you ever try a high level magnesium supplement?
I do find it helps.
I'd also be tempted to look at trying her on Regumate for a while to see if that makes a difference - you can get it via injection now so I'd ask your vet about that.

That level of tension in mares can be related to ovarian cysts - worth looking into
Ulcers will do it too
Did you think about Lyme Disease? Apparently becoming a bigger problem in the UK now and in your area too.
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post #3 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 11:27 AM
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Was hoping to read a very happy update. Sorry to hear Katie has begun spooking. I wish I had advice for you... but you know my history with Kodak, and you know I literally tried everything, from supplements to desensitizing to liberty and ground work. That doesn't mean those things can't work for you.

Have you done clicker training with her? Can you bring her back to you by doing that? I have even done it from the saddle (worked like a charm to get Rusty to stand quietly at the mounting block - I get on him, adjust everything, wait a few seconds, then cluck and treat and he waits patiently for it). I don't particularly like to treat from the saddle, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Those bushes can test most horses' bravery. Luckily Rusty is totally fearless, but Kodak still spooks at the trees outside her paddock sometimes. The trees she sees EVERY DAY. But yeah, that's Kodak. I have not tried hormones on her yet, but I may still. Let us know if you do find something that works!
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post #4 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 12:15 PM
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I second the clicker training. There's a good article on despooking with it that I will try and find.
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post #5 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 12:25 PM
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I read with interest the previous comments...and some things, cycling, definitely can have impact on behaviors in mares...
But this doesn't sound like it is just occasionally but near every ride...
I know Acadian has had success and failure with clicker training and that is more animal dependent mentally I feel.
This though is something new...something that is building in pressure and in occurrence.

I know some won't agree with this you're about to read but, here goes anyhow...
I don't have a ton of what to do but some of what, how you write concerns me...
The staff is feeding her her attitude of spook, OK you want me to spook, lets go!!
Katie is very aware of rider presence and poise...
If your body language goes tentative and expectant...she is gladly going to comply and blow-up.
No one is trusting of her and her abilities to remain on task anymore...
They set her up for failure...
Yup, get them off her...no more hacks if that is their attitude.

I get Katie is a large horse.
Being a large horse she is a powerhouse beneath you of muscle and movement.
But she needs to be allowed to go, to run till she is winded and can't run anymore.
She needs that opportunity...being kept on a tight rein so much does her no good.
All her rides are so calculated and contained in energy expelled.

All I hear is a horse just looking for a excuse to blowup because she has so much pent-up, stored energy she doesn't know what to do and isn't permitted to use it up near often enough.
Probably one of the reasons she was so great a hunting horse, turned lesson horse was she was allowed, encouraged to run over vast properties when doing those hunts.
She was allowed and encouraged to run, expend her energy and then when needed to work in the confines of a ring doing lesson work she could.

When is the last time she was allowed, encouraged to get her giddy up in gear and go for it?
Taken on a real butt-hauling run?
This is not for the faint of heart as running at this speed and with exuberance is something few have ever done...
I can say I've done it a few times...once was not by choice but on a runaway, true bolting horse and if I could of dumped myself with little chance of severe injury I would of...terrified I was!
Another time I was intentionally galloping a racehorse and was told at a certain point to let him go and hang-on...thrill of a lifetime and couldn't breathe excitement...I loved it.
But it takes a faith in your ability and that of your mount...
I was also not alone the second time but running, galloping on a training farm with another horse & rider...mindset!
So we raced, truly raced both horses who were very evenly matched...as had been instructed by the training farm staff to let em go........

I was told there was a lot of screeching and laughing along the way done by yours truly...oops...

But my point is... Katie needs to move and move out to burn off her incredible store of energy.
She needs to be encouraged to use her powerful body and dig deep and run for the sheer joy of running...then when you ask her to come back and be miss dainty and small in movement she, I would imagine, actually will...
She has everyone's fears compounding, now are keeping her bottled up...she is going to explode and only looking for the cue which more and more she feels she is being given by tentative riders and handling astride.
My gut tells me you are headed in this direction and your gut tells you this too I believe...
Katie gets field turnout a few days a week...and she stuffs her face and eats probably near most of the time...
Again, she is not expelling pent up energies except for a half dozen galloped strides is nothing...this horse needs to run.

Know anyone who rides to a drag scent or actual hounds?
If you do, you might consider letting a good horseman take Katie for a round and let some of her pent up energy get spent..
Even you, in with experienced riders as long as the fences are far apart and not huge...Katie is to good at her job not to take care of you and give you a thrill ride of delight to feel her power gliding over fences, her stride lengthen, gather and then push her great body over fences to land and do it again in a bit...
I think she would love it, so would you and you would also have a very new confidence in what Katie and you as a team can do with trust in each other.
Right now, I don't think I've ever seen you write you've let Katie ever run full out fast as she can go with you or another astride..
Guts are needed to do it, and a large tract of safe land and footing to do that on is needed...cause she is big and big needs space to move on.

Not exactly what you were asking about...but I think if you can just trust her, trust her to let her run, really run not in some controlled canter collected, but a ground pounding gallop...you will be amazed the attitude difference she will have and you will have in confidence level of "we can do this!"
And if you can't, find someone who can take her for that ground-pounding gallop...

Would I also speak with your vet about the hormone side, yes.
But being it appears now every ride, every interaction with her...think it is more than hormonal and no, sorry, I don't see you clicker training walking a busy thoroughfare safely and the fact it isn't just you who rides and handles your horse is a large part of the situation needing remedy all can have success with.
When working in a livery situation, it is far different in what needs done, when and done now concerning how many head of horses these handlers take care of on a daily basis..they just don't have the time like can be devoted in a private backyard barn situation I fear.
I find that true myself... what you as the single horse owner permit, encourage and tolerate doesn't fly with me..
I learned a long time ago a different approach to keep me safe and my horse-charges safe too..
I've yet to find a horse how I was taught how to handle, then tweaked to my way of doing doesn't work on.
My feel though is this horse just needs to be allowed to go, to "explode", to expend that store of energy she is trying so hard to be good...
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post #6 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 12:42 PM
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Horselovinguy you summed up my feelings in a much better way than I. I deleted multiple responses. I feel it is a combination of rider expectations, anticipations and in some cases fears driving some of this. I also feel it is a lack of true freedom to express and spend energy. Not saying there aren't other factors but I don't see them as the main driving factor.

Often I see older riders that buy the horse they feel they are finally ready for and end up over their head, be it from lack of time or underestimate on animal's needs beyond turnout and their riding. The talented younger riders are offered leases of little to no cost just to keep those horses sane for their (the owner's) rides. It may be the horse loves to run or jump and the owner is an avid dressage rider or only interested in flat work or low, slow jump courses with no interest or inclination to do something like cross country or just let a horse go in open spaces on trails. Brings balance to the horse and the horse stays dependable for the owner.
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post #7 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 02:50 PM
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@horselovinguy think you got that right horse needs to burn off some energy. My gelding needs this every so often just let him giddy up and go. Find a good straight stretch of trail, and I let him run and go full out.

Some horse's just need that..first time doing it is a bit scary. I'm on a young horse and he can be spooky, jumpy but when I let him run he's all business.

I know the feeling of a ticking time bomb underneath you not good. The more you hold them in the worse it gets till they explode on you. If I get nervous or unsure my gelding pickups on it, and reacts he'll get nervy spooky.

Katie sounds like she's also very in tune to her rider.
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post #8 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 02:59 PM
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HLG makes a very good point, particularly because Katie was previously a (Fox) hunting horse that came from Ireland.
Iím not sure if she was used as a hireling or privately owned but could have been doing 3 days hunting a week with 2 or 3 days of serious work in between to keep her fit. They often get turned away for the summer, not ridden at all.
This is a very different life for her, some adapt to it and some struggle.
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post #9 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 04:21 PM
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Yup, I also have to agree with HLG on the very valid point that Katie was used to running long and hard. I have often thought that if a rider were able to ride out Kodak's spooks and ride her hard, every day out on the range, she might be ok. I haven't yet found someone willing or able to do that with her so instead, she sits and thinks of new ways to spook.

BUT, Katie was fine before. Kalaii has had her a while now (how long again?). This behavior is new. So what has changed?
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post #10 of 25 Old 07-11-2019, 05:45 PM Thread Starter
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Woah thanks for all the responses it gave me a lot to think about when on shift. I'll work my way up I guess.

@Acadianartist it's just over a year and a half now.... crazy right?! It's since the move. Not immediately but over time. When I first moved I hacked out and it was just as good as before (except for the first big dicey hack on the busy roads). What changed? Well the yard manager from previous place who really connected with her. She did (and preferred) a lot of solo hacking. It really set us both up for success. Which leads me onto @QtrBel . That's exactly why I got staff (paid for) to ride her at old yard and new. I was hoping that their experience would lend a hand in filling in the gaps to keep her ticking over for me. Staff do jump her weekly in their staff lesson and she seriouslllllyyyy loves it. I need a horse to take me over a fence atm and she really relies on her rider for guidance. I had a sharer in the past who was super confident and set up gymnastic stuff but she was also too scared to hack Katie out, saying she even needed a pelham just for jumping work (no troubles with staff here though). If staff are only willing to hack her out for 20mins it's not working as intended. The one dude that would be happy to take her on though has just got a rescue greenie he's working on and has no time. Most of the other people at the yard don't hack out alone or prefer jumping/dressage but are not confident outside. One horse hasn't left the premises in a decade o.O not even for a hand walk...

@lostastirrup she's clicker trained but she also works off an independent voice cue (instead of a click). She doesn't respond to either. It's crazy I will have her favourite treat (a pear!) and can be ramming it in her gob and she still wont open it or does and drops it immediately - looking left and right for the monster. I even tried sticking a finger deep in her ear... you think she even flicked that ear back or reacted? I rubbed a hand over her eye and she didn't care. I pinched her chin. Her chin! Obviously I tried all that after kinder methods. That is how far gone she is. I would like ANY reaction sometimes just to acknowledge she remembers I'm there. If you find that article though that would be great!

@Rambo London's green zones are strictly regulated. Believe me - if I could find a plain stretch, safe and out of sight of meddlers (coz everyone loves to get everyone in trouble around here) you bet I would. I would LOVE it. But your comment along with the others has sparked an idea to maybe try and book a weekend away.

@horselovinguy & @jaydee I'll defo try magnesium at least and keep the lyme and pms issues at the back of my mind as I go forward. I am pretty confident not ulcers though as I'd say she, outside of hacking out, is at her happiest I've had since owning with 24/7 hay (I love). Farrier did mention a few months ago that his family bred IDs and offered to take Katie out sometime. I was a bit nervous to say yes but maybe it's not a bad idea. He 100% is not the type to be intimidated and handles all the horses very fairly. Farriers generally aren't are they? Or the ones that are, are dead? >.<


Immediately though what about these ideas:

- a real good flatwork session in the arena immediately followed up by a hack out. If all is good I'll go straight out on the trail opposite the yard and begin just by trotting, not giving her any time to stop and think about spooking. As if we're on a mission to deliver a letter to the queen! (haha). Usually I don't do work in the arena because I didn't want her being fresh as an excuse to fuss. But now I think it might be necessary, more to connect with her than to actually tire her out.

- a weekend getaway out in the country? Fri-Mon sort of thing at a yard that will have us and pay for a guide to show me around, with some land I can let her run. Being away from home alone together will be a unique first for us, too. My current yard offers transport and I'm only thinking somewhere 3 hours away ish. Have any of you heard of such a thing?

thanks a ton!
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