Napping/balking - a critique on response? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 05-01-2019, 04:03 PM Thread Starter
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Napping/balking - a critique on response?

So some days Katie is perfect. Some days she naps/balks. I am always hacking her alone, I have no one to come with me on horse or foot. It is my goal, as mentioned in other posts, to be able to take her out alone for very long periods into new territory. I never expected that this journey would be without challenge but while we're ahead of it I'd like to ask for critique in my response to her specific behaviour in napping. Some facts:

- she is always happy to leave the yard. She'd trot immediately out of the gate if I let her

- she is light off the leg and power walks her way with happy ears

- always naps/balks when we hit what I now call "the one mile radius". It doesn't matter if I'm on road or which trail when we hit about a mile she'll stop and ask to come home. Inside that radius she's a happy bean

- I can lead her anywhere with zero issues, but riding is a different matter

-

When she balks it is always as follows:

1. power walking into sudden stop (after several rides I have come to decision that it is anxiety about leaving the safezone as she's usually thinking more about "behind" than whats ahead. Sometimes something spooks her but that doesn't always coincide with balking

2. when asked to go forward past the invisible barrier she will immediately begin backing up at speed; my reins are forward and inviting her forward, I continue applying very light leg pressure, as I do not want to invite a rear, not that she ever has. She will stop eventually but she will not go forward. It is not always possible or safe to continue letting her back up so I will ask for a "stand" instead which she usually obliges.

3. since she was only going backwards I decided to try disengage her instead. After a few step overs/circles I invite her gently forward, making sure I'm relaxed, heels down and hands forward. When she decides she is happy to go forwards she is very willing I relax completely and praise her. After about 10 seconds I'll invite her to halt and snack as a reward.

4. once we hit this one-mile-barrier she will frequently nap/balk and I have to repeat the process

5. on the way home zero balking (duh) but when we're near home, she'll slightly balk, but this is stubbornnes 100% as she will always move on no issue or back pedalling when I insist She doesn't want to go far but likes being out of the yard?

5. I have never had to get off and lead her. I've always managed to get her past the invisible barriers, no matter where I am, with little fight or faff. I generally just will calmly out-patience her and, so far, all rides have finished on a good note.

-

Questions:

- How much is too much? When should I say "good girl" and head home? (atm I just do it when we push out a little further each time)

- Should I work her when we return to the arena or even work her in the "safezone" so it becomes less appealing?

- Should I stick to a route I've planned and once successful do that route ONLY several times, at that distance, until all the balk and stress is gone?


-

Thank you for letting me pick your brain. When I asked staff they dont have any issues with her but neither do I, if I don't push her out of her comfort zone. While I know logically this is just how it is gonna be for someone of my inexperience, a slow learning curve, where all progress is a victory, it is hard to not get a little down hehe >.<

Last edited by Kalraii; 05-01-2019 at 04:08 PM.
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post #2 of 12 Old 05-01-2019, 04:09 PM
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Carry a whip and when she stops use it forcibly behind your leg and drive her forward.

This is a seasoned horse and I bet that she is just testing her boundaries.

Something else, if she likes going backwards so much, turn her around, somshe is facing home and make her go in reverse for a fair distance - if she won't go past her boundary forward, go past it in reverse.
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post #3 of 12 Old 05-01-2019, 04:24 PM Thread Starter
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@Foxhunter you're a fast reader haha! Hm I do use a crop in the arena but its just a backup aide, not needed for forward momentum. I might take it out with me and carry it just to see if it has an effect. She does work better when I have one in hand and is well aware I'll use it if need be without being afraid of it either. As for really really getting after her? Low hanging branches and school kids at the end of the path? This is what puts me off. I got after her, I told her to get on and gave her a really good kick - that's when she just went from backing up to spinning (spinning or run home) so I figured that even if I did get after her more that it probably would just mentally wreck her regardless. She generally gets MORE wound up if I escalate. She's got a good back-up I'll give you that. I'll certainly try it in reverse to see what happens and get back to you!
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post #4 of 12 Old 05-01-2019, 05:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
So some days Katie is perfect. Some days she naps/balks.
While one understands that everyone has off days, horses are usually more consistent (as in following a pattern) than we humans. What is different on her off days? Is there a change in routine or health, such as her going into and being in heat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
always naps/balks when we hit what I now call "the one mile radius". It doesn't matter if I'm on road or which trail when we hit about a mile she'll stop and ask to come home. Inside that radius she's a happy bean
Horses that are, pardon my terminology, "sour" (I don't like that label) have a radius threshold, depending on the severity. For some severer horses, it's any place other than futher than five feet (0.0015 kilometer) from X. Other less severe horses, like yours, have a larger radius.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
I can lead her anywhere with zero issues, but riding is a different matter
What is different between you leading and you riding her?

Horses can pick up very small clues, so small that we might not even know we are giving, that plants a baby seed of doubt from your plant. Are you doubtful or nervous while riding?

For conformation, did you check how her tack fits?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
power walking into sudden stop (after several rides I have come to decision that it is anxiety about leaving the safezone as she's usually thinking more about "behind" than whats ahead.
Have you even played around with putty? Imaging holding the putting in your left hand. Think of her safe zone as the putty in your left hand and hold it in place. Grabbing with your right hand and pulling right, think of her leaving her safe zone. The putty stretches and will eventually break. That break in the putty is the break in the draw and desire back to her safe zone. However, she is not totally sure she wants that putty to break, hence her hesitation. Like when some children break a toy, they think that it is unfixable and they won't be able to play with it again. You have to convince her that it is okay to let the putty break. You can eventually put it back together (going back to her safe zone).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
when asked to go forward past the invisible barrier she will immediately begin backing up at speed; my reins are forward and inviting her forward, I continue applying very light leg pressure, as I do not want to invite a rear, not that she ever has. She will stop eventually but she will not go forward. It is not always possible or safe to continue letting her back up so I will ask for a "stand" instead which she usually obliges
You are positive that this is her being "sour" and not a direct fear related balking?

I think it is a good that you give her a chance, but when you make her stop, stand, and rest after running backwards, that is kind of like rewarding that behavior.

I suggest carrying a crop. When she balks, like you do, ask her to move forward. If she does not move or keeps running backward, use the crop. She knows what leg cues mean and is deliberately ignoring them, especially since there isn't really consequence by doing so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
on the way home zero balking (duh) but when we're near home, she'll balk, but this is stubbornnes 100% as she will always move on when I insist She doesn't want to go far but likes being out of the yard?
What is her living situation like? Some horses like to get out (but not far away) to take a break from their current living situation, such as if they are constantly being "bullied."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
How much is too much? When should I say "good girl" and head home? (atm I just do it when we push out a little further each time)
How much is too much what?
I think what you are doing now if good. "Sour" isn't corrected overnight; it is a process not an event.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
Should I work her when we return to the arena or even work her in the "safezone" so it becomes less appealing?
Sometimes that works, but sometimes it doesn't.

In of itself, a horse having a "safe zone" isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't really mind a horse having a "safe zone"; in fact, I actually kind of like it. I like for my horse to feel safe, both with and without me, in their safe zone. If I ever get lost, give the horse some rein and they'll take me home. If I ever do an "unscheduled dismount" and my horse, for whatever reason, leaves me, I know where they'll go. If a horse shows up tacked, loose, and without a rider, that'll give those at the barn (or trailer) a clue. Besides, it's natural horse behavior to like a place where they feel safe. It's not really a big deal; it becomes a deal when the horse or won't go anywhere else - with or without company. Right now, it sounds like it is relatively minor. Keep working on it so it doesn't get worse.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
Should I stick to a route I've planned and once successful do that route ONLY several times, at that distance, until all the balk and stress is gone?
I think that is a good idea to get her used to being further away from her safe zone. However, don't use it as a crutch. Some horses are fine going on a trail they've been on many times no matter the distance. However, if their rider tries to take them else where, even if the distance isn't that great, they balk.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
When I asked staff they dont have any issues with her but neither do I, if I don't push her out of her comfort zone.
Do you mean that the staff doesn't have any problems, both inside and outside her comfort zone, or just inside her comfort zone? If it is the former, what are they doing differently than you?
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Last edited by LoonWatcher; 05-01-2019 at 05:17 PM. Reason: Grammar. Adding.
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post #5 of 12 Old 05-01-2019, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
I might take it out with me and carry it just to see if it has an effect. She does work better when I have one in hand and is well aware I'll use it if need be without being afraid of it either.
You might not even need to use the crop if you carry one. Just the presence and knowing you aren't afraid to use it is enough for some horses.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
As for really really getting after her? Low hanging branches and school kids at the end of the path? This is what puts me off.
If you know this, then she definitely knows this. Is there a trail you could take that doesn't have low hanging branches or pedestrians?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
I got after her, I told her to get on and gave her a really good kick - that's when she just went from backing up to spinning (spinning or run home) so I figured that even if I did get after her more that it probably would just mentally wreck her regardless. She generally gets MORE wound up if I escalate.
You know your horse better than we do. Some horses do rise up to meet your escalation. It could be for a number of reasons, such as fear, feeling like they don't have a choice, or simply because that's what works.

What do you do when she tries to escalate?

She knows that you have some hesitation to correct her, which is why she does what she does.
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post #6 of 12 Old 05-01-2019, 05:38 PM
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So...you think it is the "mile marker" and then she objects...
I think it is the clock and time factor that she is objecting to...
When you ride in a ring, in a lesson you whether realizing it or not ride for a pretty specific time-frame and then you're done...
When you hit the trail you don't clock watch..but Katie does..
Seems to me she is balking when you get close the "quitting time"...then the attitude arrives.
Been there, done it and got tired of being dumped at the 45 minute mark off of one of my horses...
Fixed his butt real good...he was loaned out to a day cowboy to ride for a week of working cattle.
By the time day 5 arrived the attitude was gone and new attitude in its place.
...
jmo..

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post #7 of 12 Old 05-02-2019, 04:12 AM
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A lot of this might be your mind set. You are expecting her to nap when she gets to a certain spot,

Odds are that if a more experienced person was riding her without knowing of the issue that when she stopped and they booted her to go forward and she spun or went into reverse they used the whip correctly, behind their leg, and let her know that they were not going to take her shenanigans, she would move forward fast.

You are making excuses with children at the end of the ride and low trees, so what? No reason for her not to go.
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post #8 of 12 Old 05-02-2019, 05:10 AM
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Do you feel you are making progress, and that the behavior is lessening over time? If so, continue what you are doing.

My philosophy is to do what works.

If a horse responds to a crop and starts right up again, I use that. Some horses will stand and let you whack on them very hard and not be motivated to move - maybe even be less motivated. Some horses are more likely to startle at a sound, so hitting your boot is more effective than using the crop on the horse.

If a horse is forward thinking and wants to stop and ponder about going forward, it often can work to circle them (or have them step their front feet side to side) so they don't have the opportunity to stand and think. Some would rather walk forward slowly with the ability to focus on the environment rather than having to move around in a spot they want to stop.

For some horses, it is easiest to never give them an opportunity to stop. If they want to stop more and more, and think about things slowly, I tend to hop off the moment I feel them stall out, run forward and make them follow at a trot. So they can either walk with me on them or trot/move forward briskly with me leading. Once they're moving well, I get back on. If they stall out again, I get off and run forward again. This ability to "block" the behavior can make many horses just give up on the idea, and when they feel you start to leave the saddle they'll quickly begin walking again, to avoid having to trot forward.

I do not like to back horses quickly because I've been around and on horses that begin to associate their own mental insecurity or desire to stop with the behavior of backing. So they'll run across something that will stop them for a second on the trail, like a big tree down or a scary sight, and the second after they stop they'll expect to be backed, so will begin rushing backwards on their own. Horses going backwards are very difficult to direct and can go into ditches, fences, or fall. I've also seen these horses back through a line of other horses on a narrow trail, causing a mess.
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post #9 of 12 Old 05-03-2019, 07:54 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone for your responses I could not reply at that time but I did let it sink in and have ridden her twice since then.

Yesterday I went into the arena. She tried to spook a few times and this 100% felt like she was taking the mick. The first spook unnerved me coz it reminded me of her new balking behaviour. Then she spooked again at a dog walker on the other side of the fence. Being big even her little spooks are big but by now I'd really had enough, in spite of my fear. So next time I pushed her into a trot, staring adamantly to the other side of the arena and as I felt her tense I growled at her "DON'T YOU DARE SPOOK MADAM, GET ON!" with a firm kick and yeah.. she behaved after that, as if nothing had happened.

One staff member said she was napping with her but she, like me, got her past it eventually.

I rode her on a big hack with a different staff member. This young dude is like a cowboy. More metal than bone (literally btw) for all his horse accidents but can vault on any horse up to and over 17hh (seen it firsthand), is one of those can't-dressage-to-save-his-life but has a glue-like seat, prefers no stirrups at all gaits and is completely unflappable. What I liked about him though is that he was super duper soft, gentle and empathetic with the horses. He is not quick to get riled or get after them. When Katie napped at a double-gated entrance that had low arches and barely enough room for her he was very calm about it all. Said he's done this sort of thing a million times and all you need is to be patient and reassuring. So I got that going for me. He has also agreed to hack her out alone as he's been riding in the area his entire life and on average has about 50 hours of saddle time a week due to his work. He's more than happy to help her confidence with new routes and stuff. There is a second park that I can use to work on new places together and locally still but I'll have one big place can go to with some ease, at least!

@Foxhunter thanks for your advice. After reading everything on here it is definitely my mindset. When I was an even worse rider I still rode with more confidence so it just goes to show that I'm just overthinking it maybe.

I felt much happier out in the open green than on the roads. But what I really need guys is a more secure seat. If seasoned riders of significant experience and qualifications say that Katie is ranked in their personal opinions as part of the "hardest to sit trot" club that disheartens me a little. Because no matter how much my seat has improved she will always be hard to sit, or so it feels. I don't feel secure IF she spooks which I think is beginning to make me perpetually tense. It's the "IF" part that gets me. I never was tense before - I used to trot on the buckle remember?! So it's obviously my own mental state causing all this. When I was an even worse rider I rode her with a ton more confidence...

Well regardless. I think you're right @gottatrot . What I'm doing is working. It might not be as clean as what you or some others can pull off but I eventually get her past the napping. Not yet had to give up or get off but I will remember what you said about just getting off and making her trot focused after me. It might in fact be the only way if she naps on a busy road. Do it enough times and she'll learn there is a lot of fun to be had at the part at the other end. Very much as a "we're going this way anyway so get used to it!". I like that, as long as I remember not to reward her by relaxing or eating.

@horselovinguy next week I'm gonna go down the same trail at different times and get back to you on that. She will work but she is more on the lazy size (motivation wise) and makes it clear so it might just be she's trying to tell me "times up, get off this ride" -.- I'll let you know! Fortunately the guy I was with today is gonna put some rides on her and share his thoughts about her behaviour and how he would go about things.

@LoonWatcher thanks for your write up its nice to have someone break it down. All the tact, teeth, feet, chiro all that jazz is good. She was riding in the arena beautifully and she gets more worked in there than outside with me. The main difference? I think it's me, actually. At old yard if something happened she'd just run home via a private trail - it never happened but that knowledge brought me comfort enough to relax. But here that are many roads... I mean its London, right? So a LOT of car, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. I am personally more anxious. Give me a big field that I can see for miles and I wouldn't give a care. But a bouncy horse potentially spooking on the roads or a narrow trail with kids on the other end? It's me. I'm sure of it. Today she was spooking genuinely at scary things and there was a stark difference in her honesty about those. But with napping? She's very much thinking about behind, not a scary thing ahead. Or rather should I say the fear of leaving behind the safezone. I know it's a long process but just wanted to check-in as going through it with others helps highlight issues ^.^ Maybe expecting too much from ME, never mind her >.<
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post #10 of 12 Old 05-03-2019, 09:44 AM
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But what I really need guys is a more secure seat. If seasoned riders of significant experience and qualifications say that Katie is ranked in their personal opinions as part of the "hardest to sit trot" club that disheartens me a little. Because no matter how much my seat has improved she will always be hard to sit, or so it feels.

@horselovinguy next week I'm gonna go down the same trail at different times and get back to you on that.
So...those 2 comments responded concern me...
Especially this though... " If seasoned riders of significant experience and qualifications say that Katie is ranked in their personal opinions as part of the "hardest to sit trot" club that disheartens me a little."
Riders can be "seasoned" all they want but they sound as if they ride many horses...not one horse.
You, you as the owner of Katie only ride her, being that, you will adapt and are doing so already...
You will master her impulsion to sit and sit well and quietly her trot.
Do not let others words cloud your opinion of what you are capable of and just need to learn.
There is a knack to riding a jarring trot or one with much impulsion...
I had a horse no one could sit...I did and he taught me.
The secret...
I learned to relax my lower back...really relax my back.
It became my shock absorber and once my back relaxed I no longer got jarred loose nor moved off the saddle/bareback when he trotted unless I intended to post.
Some of the best riders in our region could not sit his motion...to me, once I learned how, it was easy.
To this day, I can sit any horse cause I learned to use my body as that shock absorber and absorb that motion not fight it and bounce.
Not only a trot, but could sit most any spook, spin or combination and stay in control and balanced...that will come to when you learn to sit this trot.

As for time of day ridden...no, no.
I was not clear.
It doesn't matter the time of day...
It matters how much time you spend astride...
Katies internal time clock is saying time to get off, rides up...then she gets a ****y attitude and balky when you not do as she wants.
You need to ride her past that time clock she has...actively ride her forward and moving so she can't get sullen, attitude given and balky and if she does...she shall feel that snap of get it moving applied behind your leg with force...
She, Katie does not dictate the time amount ridden, that time amount is up to you her rider to determine.
Did that make "clearer" sense?

OK...
Her having a kind rider who is not fearful of her size and strength to ride, guide and teach her the boogeymen man doesn't exist in her scary spots might be of great use and learning value to you.
I like this...
As far as I'm concerned, it isn't how you look to others, it is how you sit the horse, communicate with the horse and listen to the horses answers so poetry in motion and harmony exists between rider and horse.
We are not all tall "willowy" riders, but a effective rider who speaks to their mount is far more to me...
Being a effective rider is what makes those just sitting there look good....called the silent "trainer". imo...
...

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