Thursday, October 18, 2012

Headstrong and Stubborn

Today, I went to the ranch to ride with an older friend.  She is in her 50's, and is not very commanding of her horse.  She has two horses: a morgan, and an appendix paint.

The morgan is the sweetest of sweet, she wouldn't hurt a fly.  However, her typical morgan personality is intimidating for my friend.  In the arena, they don't have much of a problem, but on the trail she is very hard to handle.  In the arena, she is very forward, and it is somewhat intimidating.  She has smooth gaits, it is just hard because of the intimidating factor of her forward moving.

Her paint is a big horse.  He's that horse that everyone has come into contact with.  He's deemed 'the safest horse on the ranch'.  He's super sluggish, doesn't want to move out at all, seems like he wouldn't hurt a fly, but there's that glint in his eye.  That glint of intimidation.  He's the horse that my friend primarily rides, he's calm and slow on the trail, he's calm and slow in the arena, and she has a very hard time motivating him.  She used to ride with spurs, but wanted to learn to ride effectively without them.  So now she is stuck in this weird in between area where she isn't great at riding without spurs, because she is not strong enough to stand up to him.  She is completely aware of this fact, so she doesn't get into fights with him when she doesn't intend to follow through.

I feel as though if you are not a strong, confident rider, thats okay.  As long as you are aware of it.  If you know that your horse doesn't like to back up over a pole, or open a gate, step on top of something, or pace another horse, then don't get into the fight with them if you don't intend to end the fight your way.  Once you have come to this realization, you will be a much happier horse person! If there is something you really want to work on, or make your horse do, ask for help if you don't think you can end the fight your way.

Some people may not understand why I think its so important to end the fight your way.  This is soooo important because the second you let your horse know that you don't intend to follow through, the learn that they can get what they want.  And letting your horse have what they want, is definitely the right times.  Our horses are great to us, they carry us around for hours, they run, they walk, they jog, they spin. But giving them what they want, should be a form of reward.  They should get to do what they want, give them a break, after they have completed what you asked of them.  After all, you do pay unimaginable amounts to give them a good home, the human should get what they want first!

Anyways, my friend likes to lunge her paint before she rides him.  He is still youngish (10) so she likes to quickly lunge him as a way of waking him up and getting him focused.  She only does a quick few circles, I don't believe in people lunging their horses to tire them before they ride them, only in a few cases.

However, lately since her trainer moved to a different barn, she has had a very tough time getting him to lunge.  He is stubborn and headstrong, and when she asks him to move out, he simply plants his front feet, looks at her, and pivots his back feet when she gets after him with the whip.  He knows she will get exhausted, give up, and he won't have to work.  So today, she asked me to try and lunge him.

He did to me, exactly what he did to her.  He planted his front feet right in front of me, and pivoted his back legs when I put pressure on him with the whip.  He was blatantly putting a huge  'F you' out there, and saying he didn't respect me, or care about what I was asking him for.

Honestly, I was flabbergasted, and had no idea how to remedy the situation.  If I am ever in over my head, I will always ask for help.  But since my friend was having the same problem, I figured turning around and asking her what to do probably wasn't going to be helpful, and I got myself into this argument, and I wanted to get myself out of it with my dignity, knowing I did a good job.

So my first question to myself is "what is the goal?'
The answer? To get him moving around me doing what I ask of him.

The largest problem I saw, was the fact that he was not moving.  He was not doing what I asked of him, so I figured the first thing I needed to do was to get him moving.  Any type of movement is better than no movement, if lunging is the goal.

So, my remedy to the situation? I took off the lunge line from his halter, and I got in his face.  If he was going to stand there in my face, I was going to get right back in his.  I cracked the whip on the ground, and when he started to retreat, I continued until he was actively moving.  Once he was actively moving, I stopped him, put his lunge line back on him, and there we go, problem solved.  He then let me easily lunge him.

This particular problem wasn't all that difficult.  I solved it pretty easily, and I was pretty proud of myself if I do toot my own horn.

In this situation, I think I used great horsemanship.  I didn't hurt my horse, I didn't make him work until he was ready to pass out.  I didn't punish him for the "F you" he gave me.  I simply corrected the situation, put pressure on him until he decided my way was easier, and when he gave me what I asked for, I let him have what he wanted. Which was to have a break.

I feel like that is a demonstration of good horsemanship, and that is ultimately what sets good riders, trainers, and horse people apart from the poor ones.

And here, are the two beauties I rode with today!


  1. I agree with you that if you're not going to follow through with an exercise then don't bother to start it. If you give up half way through then the horse basically has your number. It's also good to make the right thing easy and the wrong behavior wrong for the horse.

    I was thinking that if your friend doesn't want to wear spurs ( I don't like them personally) then maybe she could carry a crop. Usually, if you just carry it they will listen better without it even having to be used.

    1. Thats a good idea! Thanks! I think that using a crop would be a great stepping stone between having spurs and only having your legs! Its a great medium ground!


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