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Hold My Beer

You remember how I was all “his first ten minute temper tantrum has all but disappeared?”

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

The look of regretting your life choices
 

So yeah about that…

H’Appy got Sunday and Monday off, but Tuesday was 72F and there was no way I was going to miss that ride. My plan going in was to work on canter transitions and force my butt to sit in the darn saddle.

The issue? We had moved the horses to the pasture on the other side of the drive for the month of February and possibly into March depending on when the guy can come to spray for weeds/fertilize. The move meant that even with the Dynamic Duo left outside, Butthead wouldn’t be able to see them.

Who you calling Butthead?

The whole evening started out on a bad note. Tuesdays Dusty is supposed to get Wyatt from school which gives me the chance to finish everything up at work and head straight home, shaving off a half an hour plus. He was running late though and I ended up needing to get Wyatt. So I was already kinda peeved off that I wouldn’t be getting home until closer to 6 instead of 5. There went my shot at riding in the light.

Then Gem was being a complete witch about coming in for dinner. I was going to bring them all in before riding to limit the amount of chores needing done later, but the darn mare wouldn’t come near me and when she finally did she wouldn’t let me get the halter on her stupid bay head. I was pretty dumbfounded on what got up her butt. Ever since being retired she meets me at the gate, walks up to me when working in the pasture and is a general love bug.  Then it dawned on me.

I was dressed to ride. I even had my helmet on and there was no way in Hades that mare was going to be led in with me dressed like that. She is retired and plans to stay that way.

The look of thoroughly enjoying your life choices

By the time I caught H’Appy it was getting dark, Dusty still wasn’t home and the Dynamic Duo were still outside. This wasn’t going well. I took a deep breath though and shook my mind free of stress while I groomed my orange beast.

He was really well behaved in the cross ties and for tacking up which is generally a sign that he will be malleable for work. Nope. Not Tuesday night. As soon as he realized he couldn’t see his friends his brain melted out of his head and he was checked out.

Back on the lunge line and back to galloping circles around me. I wasn’t amused. I don’t have time to lunge my horse for 40 minutes at 630pm in fading light watching him get sweaty knowing I still had to feed afterward. This is ridiculous and completely unnecessary behavior and it needs to stop. He knew where his friends were as he had just left them yet he acted like he was all alone in the great wide world.

The only silver lining was that the lunging took about half the time as it did the week prior when the horses were left inside when I rode, so progress?

It was dog night at the hockey game last weekend and during an intermission/period break they held a dog race on the ice. Adorable!

Once he lowered his head and began chewing and licking his lips, I forced one last circle and mounted. We were not going to have another walk/halt ride. Big Boy was going to work.

As I walked him around he felt ok-ish under me. Super tense and wanting to look around and scream for two horses who could care less if he was dead or alive, but he was quiet about it and his halt was firmly installed. At least that lesson from the previous brainless ride had stuck, so I felt a little better about the work I’m doing with him. Maybe some of it is sticking.

He also had nice flexibility, giving me bend in both directions when asked even when he desperately wanted to stare off into the darkness looking for his friends. Eventually I felt like his attention was on me enough to ask for the trot. It was ugly and swung from short and choppy to near cantering, but he stayed in the trot the entire time and went where I asked without arguing. He still felt like a coiled spring under me but all four feet did as I asked and well it was a huge improvement from prior.

Old Man Winter is always well behaved. I love this old face. He will be 29 this spring.

I ended the ride after he gave me three nice trot transitions in a row and took him up to the barn to cool down before eating his dinner. Then I finally got to bring the other two inside at which point he settled down. Of all his quirks and nonsense this is the one that annoys the snot out of me the most. His friends are always around. He always gets to go back to them at the end of a ride. He acts like it is such a shock every time that he gets to see them again and other than more time and more miles I have no clue how to fix it.

The horses will be out in that pasture for all of February and part of March when the big one gets sprayed for weeds so he is going to have to learn to deal with not being able to see them when we ride. Hopefully by the end of the month he will have chilled out about it. Either that or one of us won’t make it to March alive and I have a strong suspicion who it would be.

26 thoughts on “Hold My Beer”

      1. that is what i keep thinking maybe once it warms up?? As long as no satan pigs come by. SMH….I swear…I can’t deal with stupid horses…..especially stupid ADULT HORSES? Babies sure!!

        Glad you got to ride. I am so jealous of your arena…..would kill for it at this point…

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    1. Herd bound is not a behavior I’m super familiar with and it can feel sorta dangerous when he is willing to do anything to get back to where he wants to be. I understand the basic theory that he feels more secure in his herd and I need to establish that alpha role for him, but it is hard to do

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  1. omg that is FUNNY about Gem seeing you in riding clothes and being like, “Nope!” she’s certainly got opinions! in a way these times of year when the sun is setting around around 6ish are kinda hard for me bc it’s soooooo close to either being “yes there’s daylight to ride in” or “nope it’s darkness my old friend.” in a way it somehow increases my anxiety when i’m trying to make the daylight thing happen haha….

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  2. Oh Gem. She is brilliant, isn’t she.

    What I suspect will happen with H’Appy is that you will have a couple more rides where he checks out. But each time he’ll focus in on you quicker. And you’ll get a longer ride in with less lunging. You even said it wasn’t as long as the previous ride.

    You’re doing the right thing, just keep doing it and doing it consistently. He’ll figure out the pattern of what it means to be the riding horse at YOUR barn.

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  3. The gem story was pretty funny despite it putting a crimp in your day (I’m sorry for laughing I know how inherently frustrating it can be to catch a horse that wants to be uncatchable). I’m glad you were able to get some riding in even if it wasn’t ideal.

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  4. Once he gets used to it he will be ok. He may always throw a little tantrum about it at first but it will settle. If he was a lesson horse before it could be that he was never ridden alone.

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  5. Just out of curiosity, does he have to get turned out with the other 2? I fixed my guy’s herd bound-ness (new word, just made up! lol) by separating from his BFF. They thought they were gonna die for about a day, then they forgot their love. 😀

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    1. Yeah I suppose I could put him out by himself but then it would screw up my pasture rotation system and I’m not a fan of solo turn out. It would also make bringing everyone in and out more of a chore than it already is. If he ever escalates it may have to happen but for now I’d like to keep him in the herd.

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  6. Although it helps you change the situation not at all, they think that social anxiety issues in horses come from poor weaning practices, so it’s basically like PTSD of being ripped off their mother which is a bit sad. Obviously not the case for all horses and doesn’t make dealing with it much easier.

    I can only sympathise as I had a horse very much like this and it made me want to pull my hair out.

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  7. On herd bound horses:
    As you know, I dealt with this with my previous mare. I can stick just about anything…except Lily’s bucks when she decided she wanted to get back to her friend(s). Herd boundness (not sure that is a word, but whatevs) is an undesirable trait right up there with rearing and bolting in my book. It is an insecurity issue on the herd bound horse’s part and it takes lots and lots and lots of work on the owner’s part to correct it.

    I did all the confidence-building groundwork stuff with Lily (back in Florida; we did 4 months of groundwork bootcamp.) It did zilch. The only thing that fixed it with her was consistent under saddle work. Not once a week, not twice a week. I’m talking 4-5 rides/week for months and months. Riding on trails *in the lead* helped boost her confidence because then she realized she could, in fact, lead other horses. Once she had led others, she could go out on her own. Once we were riding on our own consistently, she stopped seeking emotional support from other horses and we became what we were. Once we reached that stage, she could sit for a week or two without being ridden and I could pull her out of the field and ride without her losing her mind.

    However. Every time she had to take long periods of time off from work (aka a month+), be it due to injuries to herself or myself, she would revert: she’d lose her mind when away from her buddies. It would take a couple of weeks of consistent (nerve-wracking) work to get her confidence in herself back, but she’d get there.

    She would revert in times of stress: at endurance rides, she would get attached to other horses, which would affect her at holds if the buddy horse was out of sight. I never attempted to ride her without a buddy horse because I was afraid things wouldn’t go well for me. When we moved barns, she would become extra attached to Gracie or chestnut mares (I don’t know) or any gelding in her field or the field next door. It would be back to square one with building up her confidence in order to get her independence back.

    It was exhausting.

    Hopefully your doofus is not like her. I had never experienced herd boundness to this degree in a horse prior to her, and some horses do get over it for good, but it takes a lot of work, patience and consistency to get them there. Other readers have mentioned this in comments before, but the key lies in getting him to trust you and seek you out more than he does his buddies.

    P.S. I know you already said you wouldn’t do this, but I wanted to add my 2 cents to confirm your decision: we tried keeping her alone in a field during one of her many rehabs. That made the herd boundness worse.

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    1. He is an odd one, to me at least. Gem was never happy to be alone. It took me 3 years to ride her on trail solo and even after all we did together she retired never leading on trail. If I rode her in an arena with another horse it was awful. She’d try to tuck in behind them and just follow. She had no confidence at all but she never reared or bucked. She just lost all ability to steer.

      H’Appy is different with his. If I take him out and no other horses are around, he is fine. Behaves and is relaxed. It’s the same if others are around and visible. But if he knows other horses are there but can’t see them? It’s a shit show. Thankfully his reaction has changed from rearing and bucking to snorting and shaking his head and I’m hoping with more time even that will go away. I don’t ride very often. Twice a week if lucky and it’s still improved so maybe?

      What worries me is showing. I have no idea how a busy show with horses all over, coming and going is going to mess with his mind. Will he stand quietly waiting our turn to enter the arena? Will he even go in and once in will he relax and do the course? What about warm up? Can I control him?

      I so desperately want to go to a schooling jumper show this March but this holds me back. I’ll never know if I don’t try but it make me nauseous thinking about it.

      I agree that forcing solitude on him isn’t the best idea. I think he’d lose it completely.

      Time will tell how things play out with him. I refuse to not have fun and I refuse to be scared of my horse. Right now I’m having fun and he doesn’t scare me. Frustrate me at times? Yep. But he doesn’t scare me like he did in the fall. If that changes he will be retired or rehomed depending on how attached I am to him as a horse in general

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  8. How frustrating, he really is a tricky horse! It sounds like you handled it well.

    With Henry, he can be very attached to Coolie and I don’t think it helps they are kept together with no other horses on the property. I worked on it slowly and gradually increased the time and distance apart, especially when we went out for trail rides. Now Henry is fine to leave and to be left but we still have issues at shows. I am thinking that that will improve as he gets more confident in that environment.

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      1. take him to the first show and if you dont compete or even ride, fine but walk him around everywhere and let him see everything. If he is quiet and okay get on him, if not make him just walk around with you on a leadrope. Boring yes but at least it will get him out. Not sure if u have to preenter the show or not.

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      2. Thats basically my plan. The show is at Trainers facility, so super close and I’ve been there with him before. Hoping to trailer out a time or two before the show as well. Its like $10 a class and I can scratch or add as needed so it is a really nice first show experience. I still want to vomit thinking about it though.

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