A Decision Made: No More Rides At Home

It just isn’t worth it. Not worth the time, not worth the frustration, not worth ruining our relationship over. At least not right now.


There are dozens of reasons why riding Gem at home isn’t working out. The most important are the frequency she gets worked and the area she gets worked in.

Gem has always been worse behaved at “home” than trailering out. In fact, when we lived in WI the one barn had 200 acres of trails on property. She was a nut job on those. Trailer out to the trail head? Wonderful, well at least as good as she gets. Rides in the “home” arena were always a crap shoot. The entire first month at a new facility was always awful as I had to re teach Gem that she did in fact have to work for me 3 hours a week and that that didn’t qualify as animal abuse. I can still remember in perfect detail the first time I rode her in the grass arena at the last barn we were at. We would reach the far end of the field, she would break into canter and try to take me right back to the gate so she could leave. Fun? No, but with persistence she eventually learned that by doing so it just got her to a closed gate and circled back to work some more. Eventually she does stop doing that and the rides become more even and more purposeful. But back then I was riding her 3 days a week in an enclosed arena with fences and gates and all those other nice physical boundaries.

Now, however, I ride 1-2 times a week if I am lucky and have a completely open 5 acre grass field to ride in with no fencing or other solid boundaries. It is a recipe for disaster and one I am tired of dabbling in.

I had really wanted to ride Wednesday, but didn’t walk into the door until 7:45 pm. I had about an hour of light to play with, but hadn’t seen Wyatt all day and that is more important, so when he asked me to play Play Dough there was no way I was saying no. Friday was my next shot. Work was slammed and I got home at 9:30 pm.  Saturday Dusty worked then had plans to run in the afternoon. Finally, I got my chance on Sunday. Last week wasn’t a fluke either. My weeks almost always look something similar in one way or another.

Things started off pretty well Sunday morning. She had her halt back which was nice to see. I know she is getting bored with all the walk trot, 20 m circle, serpentine, figure 8 stuff so I thought I would get her cantering early on. She loves a good canter to stretch her back. I asked her for canter out of a decent trot and she gave it to me. Then she proceeded to grab the bit and run across the 5 acres towards her pasture. Ah hell no mare. I asked for bend, when she didn’t respond I asked for trot, when she didn’t listen I one rein stopped her ass and made her stand still all pissed off until I asked her to walk again. Then we walked up and down that field halting and walking and halting and walking.

At that point I let her trot away from her pasture and made her walk towards it. That lasted two laps when she then picked up the canter instead of the trot and tried to toss her head and run all the way back home. I shut her down immediately.

But here is the thing. I was having ZERO fun. None. I was frustrated. I was angry that she couldn’t just freaking walk down the damn field. She is 19 years old. 19! This isn’t our first ride. She can freaking WALK!

I took a deep breath, got off and was done. I did throw her on the lunge line and watched her w/t/c both directions mostly to see if she was lame somewhere I wasn’t catching, but also to just get her listening and focused. She wasn’t happy, but she was 100% sound and capable. While I know some people will judge me for ending the ride on a bad note, go ahead judge away…this is me not caring, at the time it was the best decision. My relationship with Gem is what is the most important to me. Not an all out brawl to see who can win. I don’t have the right tools in my box to work with this. I don’t know what to do when she blows me off and I’ve asked nicely, held my position, then asked again a little louder and louder and louder until I have to scream it at her. All I can do is get into a fight and maybe squeak out something decent, but in the process ruin everything I’ve been working on building towards. The short term gain of her minding me in that field Sunday isn’t worth the long term loss.

Trainer can come to me, but right now I don’t want her to. I have no interest in paying $55 to spend an hour being miserable trying to get my mare to walk. If I had an arena to work in, it would be different. If I could consistently ride her 3 days a week at home, it would be worth it. But to ride her once or maybe twice a week in the big 5 acre field? No, I don’t think it is. Instead, I am going to continue to trailer her to Trainer’s barn. She behaves there, or at least behaves within our current skill level which allows us to work on things like bend, geometry, leg yields and jumping. Having free access to the barn is amazing and I plan to trailer out more often to ride on my own there. Take advantage of the dressage court and jump arena to practice for now. I need to find out what the barn hours are. They have great lights on the jump arena, so I can ride year round and after work even when it is dark, but I don’t know what time it officially closes to the public.

Anyway…those are a lot of words to say that I am putting a hold on any rides at home until such a time as I can ride much more consistently and/or set up an actual closed off work space to help with defining boundaries. It isn’t fair to either of us to hop on once every 10 days and expect work to happen in a large field where she has room to make really big mistakes that I can’t fix. Someday we will revisit using the field, but not until we have a lot more rides with Trainer under our belt.




13 thoughts on “A Decision Made: No More Rides At Home”

  1. No judgement here at all. P is much worse at home than he is away, I have no idea why. And we have arenas to work in at home, but he’s so spooky and always has been. But put us pretty much anywhere else and he’s fine. It’s just weird. Hopefully you can find a way to close off a space to ride in at home so that she doesn’t have 5 acres to blow you off in. That’s no fun at ALL.


    1. It isn’t and really at the end of the day I do this for fun. Im trying to figure out a way to create an arena but it is an active hay field so I can’t ruin it or do anything permanent. It’s going to be tricky but I’ll figure it out!


  2. Not many people will admit it, but sometimes ending on a good note, is the horse not kicking you when you turn it loose. Especially on a mature horse who is trained and has an opinion. I think you are making the best decision for you and Gem. 🙂


    1. I hope so. It feels a little like giving up but I just can’t handle it with my schedule at the moment. Maybe this winter when the hay is all dead and I can get away with putting up some temporary fence or something we can try again

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If it’s not working why would you continue? I totally get where you are coming from. Instead of riding her lunge her in the field when you can and establish that you control the gait- she gets to make zero decisions about it. If you’re comfortable walk up and down the hay field with her on the lunge (if you haven’t done that it takes a bit of practice but is worth it). At 19 she doesn’t need ‘training’ per se anyway and work sounds a bit busy at the moment.


    1. That’s a great idea. I got her accustomed to trails by running beside her on the lunge. It really helped her learn to figure out her own feet without worrying about balancing me. I’ll work on that. I have a lesson tomorrow (finally!) and will be picking trainers brain too


  4. Aw I’m sorry to read this 😦 my guy is definitely worse at home and it’s caught me off guard a few times. No fun. And it’s supposed to be fun, you’re absolutely right about that.

    If you do decide to give it another shot at home at some point, I found with Isabel that visual markers or barriers helped a lot too – not necessarily needing an actual fence or wall. Like for shows her barn would set up a roped off section of the field. And even tho it was just rope strung through little poles stuck in the ground, it actually helped demarcate the area as a “riding space” for both me and the horse. Anyway good luck!


    1. I’m hoping to use my portable corral for endurance and make a small arena out of that. I just need to figure out how big I can make it. That way it is portable so I won’t be trodding over the same area all the time and ruin the hay. A bit of work to put up and take down each time but I think it may work if I can stretch it a bit


      1. oooh that’s a good idea! i’d even wonder if it’d be fine to have big gaps in the ‘fencing’ too – like, so it’s not so much of a solid physical barrier but rather a visual reference point and a delineation of “this is our riding space.” that way you could adjust it bigger too. like with isabel, somehow even just marking out a space with cones helped reinforce the idea. idk if it was bc i personally needed that mental or imaginary “wall” or what, who knows. i’ve also seen ground poles work well for this purpose – like when people mark out a “dressage court” just using a couple ground poles to define the corners and then a couple spaced out down the long sides.


  5. My old paso mare was like this too!! An absolute (almost dangerous) nightmare at home, but she trailered perfectly and was a saint everywhere else! In the end I only ever rode her away from home as well!


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