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post #11 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 10:21 AM
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So true, Jaydee. Trying to work on not rushing into the barn driveway will only succeed if you are capable of carrying through whatever course of action you begin. Harley may get very agitated at being made to walk away from home when he thinks he has almost finished for the day, so you need to be aware of that and not bite off more than you can chew. If you attempt to work on not rushing home or on turning away from home and for whatever reason you fail, your horse will be coonsiderably worse the next time round.

I had a very buddy-sour greenbroke mare for a few months (fortunately no longer) and she always wanted to jog home. One day I got fed up with doing circles and so on and I said ok, if you want to go fast, we will go fast. I let her canter home, and when we arrived, I made her canter half a mile in the opposite direction and then we walked home. I was very chuffed with myself because I thought I had won the day. After that, her buddy sourness became almost impossible to deal with, she was way worse and started balking.

I'm not saying Harley is remotely similar to that mare, as I'm certain he's not. He has good basic training and is just excited about going out to new places and probably a bit barnsour after the winter. But you do need to work very carefully on the rushing home issue as it can get out of hand very quickly.

One good tactic with barnsour horses is to not always finish your ride at the barn gate. It's better to dismount before reaching home, reward your horse and loosen his girth, and lead him the last distance home. Perhaps you could dismount at the entrance to the barn drive, and give him a piece of carrot? And the next day, continue a short distance past the driveway before you dismount. Increase the distance and change the direction on successive days, so he never knows exactly when you're going to finish.

You say he has never balked, which is good. Don't push him into starting to balk! If you feel he is resisting very strongly about walking past the barn drive, don't demand too much from him but quit and ask him to halt before he does. It's much easier to gradually persuade him to go a bit further over the course of days than to expect too much the first time and provoke a meltdown.

You have probably guessed by now that I'm not a proponent of the "make him do as you want, and if he refuses, make him regret it" theory. I believe you need to be fairly certain of succeeding before you embark on a battle of wills like that wiht a horse. I tried the "make him etc." technique with my own horse who started balking going away from home, and she flatly refused because she wasn't yet ready to stop balking and I wasn't capable of enforcing my demand. After working on groundwork using positive reinforcement, she stopped the balking and now I can demand and she will respond, because I have prepared her and she is ready to do so.

Only you can really know what will work with Harley, what might be too much for him and what he can cope with easily. And what you can cope with too, which is equally important! It is so important that you keep relaxed, which will help him keep his cool in turn.
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post #12 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 10:30 AM
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I agree with the others who said that this reaction from Harley has as much to do with your comfort as Harley's.

It does sound like more repetition will help get things under control. Would your neighbor make the ride over and back with you a couple of times so you have someone to talk to and help keep the nerves under control? I think riding beyond the barn and back is generally a good idea too. Another strategy that may help calm him is to be able to drop your stirrups and do lots of deep breathing while heading towards the "exciting" spot. But if you're feeling nervous, that probably won't work- maybe having a riding partner would make you more confident in trying something like that.

For what it's worth, when I first started hacking out, Isabel wanted to dance home too- and we also have a bit of road riding as we approach the barn, so I get how tense that can be. A lot of the advice I got was "work her hard when you get back to the barn" but that never worked for us. I suppose I just don't ride in a way that's physically demanding enough, but there really is no tiring her out in the indoor arena, at least not in the amount of time I had available to "make her work." I found it was much better, over time, to let her use some of her energy in places on the trail where it was safe to canter a bit, and after she got that out of her system, she was very happy to walk home on a long rein. That took me a fair amount of time to work up to though.

You'll get through it, I'm sure! Just takes time and experience.

PS- singing is a major stress reliever when riding for me too! I sound like a fool belting out Christmas carols in the middle of the summer, but those are the only songs with words that I can remember. :)

Last edited by egrogan; 04-05-2016 at 10:36 AM.
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post #13 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 11:19 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Dreamcatcher Arabians View Post
WOW! You just borrowed a whole pot load of trouble in those 2 paragraphs.

YOU are having flashbacks to when your horse was terrified. This horse isn't.

YOU are re=playing the car coming at you, the horse has already moved on.

YOU are already worried about him trying to jump, the horse has not even thought of such a thing. Until you get there and YOU think him into it, it's not even in his brain.

YOU are already setting yourself up for failure by visualizing all these disasters and planning to duck out by using a lunge line "So I can hold on to him and get out of the way.".

You need to practice positive visualization. Every time you have a disaster thought stop and re-visualize a positive outcome. Your horse isn't spooky, you're terrified. You need to deal with your emotions before you try to work through these scenarios with your horse. If you can calm yourself, your horse won't be so apt to do any of the behaviors that has you spooked.

As for the jigging, every 10 ft of jigging gets 10-15 mins of extra work. You want to jig going west, then turn around and go east. If he wants to balk and try to go back west again, put him to a very brisk trot east bound until he's tired and asking to please please walk. If he wants to be impatient getting to the barn, you ride right past it and get really tough with him if he gets snotty about it. And you work him until he forgets being anxious about going back to the barn. The whole answer to his misbehavior is work until he doesn't want to play up anymore and will walk on a loose rein back to the barn. It's probably going to hurt/wear you out more than it does him, but if you'll put in the time and effort you can fix this pretty quickly.
That last part is reassuring to me. I do really just want to sit this out. I agree fully that I am part of the problem, but neither one of us is going to get better by me avoiding what creates the anxiety. Well, except the road, for obvious safety reasons, which I will try to work at conquering in small increments. But I am prepared to ride him out in a field, on a dirt road, on a trail. Yes, at my age, I fear a disaster (not so much falling, but something really, really bad happening) more than I did as a teen. But I don't want him getting away with stuff. I will likely have to get off and lead him across the brook because I have gone through that trail before when there was less water and had to do just that. I just want to be prepared for the possibility that he will jump it (where we'll cross, there is a reasonably deep and narrow ditch) and do not want to lose hold of the reins if he does.

I do think I'm going to work him outside the arena as often as possible for as long as possible.
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post #14 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 11:22 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jaydee View Post
Has he been hacked out on his own before you had him?
It sounds as if he was suffering from a combination of being slightly buddy sour and very over excited about doing something different
Its all very well telling you what you should do - work him harder, turn him around, ride on past the barn etc - but unless you're feeling calm and confident and you're 100% capable of dealing with a meltdown if he has one when the pressure gets upped even more than I don't think you should even think about those things.
If he needs to get used to riding out and you're nervous then can you not find someone to ride out with you the first few times so you can both build up some confidence?
He will get used to it eventually but it takes an experienced rider to throw a horse in at the deep end and succeed, for now if you do have to go back and forth on your own it might be safer to lead him.
Yes, he has been hacked out before. I was told he hacks out fine, but not sure he has been hacked out alone. Unfortunately, until we get a second horse, there is no one around who will ride with us. The BO has three horses, but they almost never get ridden.
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post #15 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 11:31 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Bondre View Post
So true, Jaydee. Trying to work on not rushing into the barn driveway will only succeed if you are capable of carrying through whatever course of action you begin. Harley may get very agitated at being made to walk away from home when he thinks he has almost finished for the day, so you need to be aware of that and not bite off more than you can chew. If you attempt to work on not rushing home or on turning away from home and for whatever reason you fail, your horse will be coonsiderably worse the next time round.

I had a very buddy-sour greenbroke mare for a few months (fortunately no longer) and she always wanted to jog home. One day I got fed up with doing circles and so on and I said ok, if you want to go fast, we will go fast. I let her canter home, and when we arrived, I made her canter half a mile in the opposite direction and then we walked home. I was very chuffed with myself because I thought I had won the day. After that, her buddy sourness became almost impossible to deal with, she was way worse and started balking.

I'm not saying Harley is remotely similar to that mare, as I'm certain he's not. He has good basic training and is just excited about going out to new places and probably a bit barnsour after the winter. But you do need to work very carefully on the rushing home issue as it can get out of hand very quickly.

One good tactic with barnsour horses is to not always finish your ride at the barn gate. It's better to dismount before reaching home, reward your horse and loosen his girth, and lead him the last distance home. Perhaps you could dismount at the entrance to the barn drive, and give him a piece of carrot? And the next day, continue a short distance past the driveway before you dismount. Increase the distance and change the direction on successive days, so he never knows exactly when you're going to finish.

You say he has never balked, which is good. Don't push him into starting to balk! If you feel he is resisting very strongly about walking past the barn drive, don't demand too much from him but quit and ask him to halt before he does. It's much easier to gradually persuade him to go a bit further over the course of days than to expect too much the first time and provoke a meltdown.

You have probably guessed by now that I'm not a proponent of the "make him do as you want, and if he refuses, make him regret it" theory. I believe you need to be fairly certain of succeeding before you embark on a battle of wills like that wiht a horse. I tried the "make him etc." technique with my own horse who started balking going away from home, and she flatly refused because she wasn't yet ready to stop balking and I wasn't capable of enforcing my demand. After working on groundwork using positive reinforcement, she stopped the balking and now I can demand and she will respond, because I have prepared her and she is ready to do so.

Only you can really know what will work with Harley, what might be too much for him and what he can cope with easily. And what you can cope with too, which is equally important! It is so important that you keep relaxed, which will help him keep his cool in turn.
Yes! Thank you Bondre. Exactly. I want to set us both up for success every time. Eventually, things will happen and it won't go perfectly, but hopefully by then, I will have established a pattern of positive training that will give us a solid base to work from. I want to improve and I do not want to let him win, but I also don't want a total meltdown.

I will push him a little bit at a time. I will not let him trot or canter home. We will walk a few feet past the driveway, assuming the road is clear (I can hear cars coming from miles away - it's that kind of a country road) and it's safe to do so. I will ride past the barn on the dirt road, ride up the trail a bit, make big circles in the field next door, whatever it takes to keep up the variety. And sometimes I will dismount early and lead him in. I do think that in time, we can conquer this. Harley is a well-trained, sensible, smart horse. He's fine at strange places we trailer to, he just doesn't want to leave his barnyard. That has to change.
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post #16 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 11:32 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by egrogan View Post
You'll get through it, I'm sure! Just takes time and experience.

PS- singing is a major stress reliever when riding for me too! I sound like a fool belting out Christmas carols in the middle of the summer, but those are the only songs with words that I can remember. :)
Thanks for the encouraging words! And you made me laugh with the Christmas carols... LOL... I was singing lullabies. Again, the only songs I know all the words to! But they were soft and slow, sometimes I would just hum and it seemed to help calm Harley (and me).
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post #17 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 11:49 AM
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I sing to horses when I'm riding them through stressful situations - I sing hymns because from my schooldays when we sang hymns in morning assembly every day they're also the only things I know all the words too!!!
I find it works really well - possibly because I've got such an awful voice they soon figure out that if they calm down and behave I'll shut up!!
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post #18 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Acadianartist View Post
I will likely have to get off and lead him across the brook because I have gone through that trail before when there was less water and had to do just that. I just want to be prepared for the possibility that he will jump it (where we'll cross, there is a reasonably deep and narrow ditch) and do not want to lose hold of the reins if he does.

I do think I'm going to work him outside the arena as often as possible for as long as possible.
I'm probably closer to your age (I'm 59) than you know and I'm real sympathetic. The post wasn't meant to be accusatory or anything like it, but to show you where you're "borrowing trouble" and how you are getting anxious before you even get to the trouble spots and to suggest a way to try to combat the Megrims so you don't get yourself so haired out mentally that you have a meltdown before the horse does. BTDT doesn't come out well if you do.

Had a thought, and I don't know if it's possible where you are. When introducing stream crossings to green horses I like to do one of 2 things.

First time, if there is room, I like to walk down to the stream and let them just stand until they paw, drink or whatever. Then I like to let them stick a foot or 2 in and encourage them to eventually just stand with their 2 feet in the water. Eventually they get all 4 feet in and then I like to turn them so that when they start to walk they're walking in the stream bed. Only if it's clear and not a treacherous bottom of course. If I can, I'll walk for a mile in the water until they are totally bored with the whole thing. Then go back to the crossing and out and on your way.

Second time, I walk down to the stream and then turn a 45 degree angle and cross at an angle that makes it way too broad for them to jump, they have to walk through. I have a mare (Patti, for those who know her, any surprise?) who will jump even with the lowest branches on the trees just for the fun of it, if I'll let her. First time she "steeple chased me" through a crick I almost came unhorsed from the surprise. I had no idea she could jump like that. So, to avoid any more rude surprises, I started approaching streams and cricks at a big angle and if she jumped she landed in the water. Rude surprise on HER, not me. She quit jumping and of course, the more cricks and streams we did, the less likely she is to get airborne now.

My last resort trick, and only if the water is still, narrow and no weird footing, is to back her through. Going backwards seems to convince them to quit being so silly rather quickly.
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post #19 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 03:42 PM Thread Starter
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No worries Dreamcatcher Arabians - your tone was not at all accusatory :) You're absolutely right about my anxiety being a big part of the problem. Yet I think I'd have to be stupid not to be nervous at all about this! That doesn't help the situation though, and I recognize that. Have gotten some good reassurance and suggestions here, and I feel I can keep at it and eventually get the result I want.

Thanks a lot for the great tips on crossing water! The issue is that I have two places I can cross. One is wider (like 4-5 feet, really not any significant water here normally) but shallow, however there is ice on both side of the bank and I don't like that idea. I worry he will break through the ice and that will create more stress (I know, I know, I'm already worrying about something that hasn't happened, but it's common sense! Ice breaks this time of year!). The other crossing, which I am going to try, has no ice, is very narrow, but deep. Also, there are trees surrounding the brook at both crossings, so taking it at an angle is not really an option (I'll be sure to remember that for other crossings though!). It will be straight down and up, but on the plus side, he doesn't need to step in the water - in fact, it would be best not to since it's a lot deeper there. He can easily step over since I can. I will get off and lead him over.

What about taking him to our property along the road because he is fairly quiet going in, and coming back by cutting through the brook? That way we don't backtrack at all. I could vary the ways of getting home too so he doesn't get into bad habits.
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post #20 of 49 Old 04-05-2016, 03:49 PM
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Dream, you are the only person besides myself whom I have heard use "crick".
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