Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Lazy Horse

By Laura Crum

So today I’m going to ask you all for a little horse training advice. Here’s the problem:

I’ve written before about my son’s horse, Henry, a twenty-one year old QH gelding, who was a good team roping horse in his day and who is an excellent babysitter now. Henry is steady and reliable, and has taken my kid on many, many trail rides. We have not had one truly difficult or dangerous experience—knock on wood. But Henry, like all horses, has his faults. A former owner allowed the horse to graze under saddle, and Henry has never forgotten this. Same owner fed Henry treats by hand, and Henry hasn’t forgotten this, either. These things haven’t caused much trouble—we don’t make a practice of feeding him treats by hand and my son is able to be forceful enough with his bridle and crop to forestall the grabbing at vegetation. But there is one more problem. Henry is lazy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Part of the reason I bought Henry is because he is lazy. My number one priority is to keep my kid safe, and Henry being lazy is a good thing. Henry does not run off—ever. Henry doesn’t jig or prance, almost never spooks. Henry is laid back at virtually all times—he is both reasonably well broke and lazy enough not to want to exert any effort he doesn’t have to.

The problem is that Henry does not want to lope as many circles as my son likes to lope. The older my kid gets the more competent he gets and the more he likes to lope along, rather than walk or trot. And though Henry is fit and sound and believe me, is never worked past a very light sweat, he is getting more and more adamant about not loping.

Because my son is gaining in competence, he has worked through this issue several times, developing a different way of applying his crop, becoming more focused on getting a good depart from the walk rather than letting the horse trot…etc. And he can lope Henry quite successfully….until the horse decides he’s had enough. At which point, on our last two arena rides, Henry came up with a new behavior. And this behavior was so frustrating for my kid that both times I climbed on the horse and gave Henry an “adjustment”, something I haven’t had to do in six months.

I rode in my son’s saddle, I wore the same soft boots with no spurs that he rides in, used the same mechanical hackamore and English riding crop. And I learned something. Henry was being a royal pain in the ass. I had to use a lot of force, with both bridle and crop, to correct him. I got it done and Henry minded his p’s and q’s (for me) quite sweetly, and loped exactly when told. But as soon as I put my son back on him he reverted. And I could see that my son wasn’t going to be able to work through this problem very easily.

What is Henry doing? Once he’s decided he’s done loping, he ignores the cue, puts his head down between his knees, bulls into the bridle, and just trots faster. He also uses this device to go where he wants to go…back to the other horses, to the gate, to the barn..etc. So, something has to change.

Now, here are the parameters. My son is cuing Henry correctly. Until Henry is done with loping, they get along fine. Henry is being flagrantly disobedient because he doesn’t want to continue loping circles. When I “fixed” him, I merely punished him effectively between bridle and crop and he quit defying me…and went back to doing what he was told. I need to find a way for my son to effectively discipline Henry and still stay safe.

That last phrase is why I don’t want to go to the obvious—put spurs on him. Henry minds very well with spurs. He’s been ridden with spurs his whole life, like many rope horses. But spurs can be truly dangerous. An old man of my acquaintance died last month…partly because of spurs. While making a team roping head run, he missed his dally, lost his balance, spurred the horse by accident, and the horse dumped him. A broken neck, and death, resulted. It is just too easy for a little kid to panic and grab a horse with the spurs, or lose his balance and gig a horse hard without meaning to. I’m not ready to put spurs on my kid.

I could get him a more deadly whip. But I don’t think I want to go there either. What I plan to try is putting a bridle back on the horse. I think Henry will be unable to bull into a bit the way he is currently bulling into the hackamore. Lets face it, Henry was ridden in a proper bridle with a bit his whole life until I got him. I put the mechanical hackamore on him for two reasons. First, many horses are more relaxed and comfortable in this, and this was true of Henry. Second, my kid, like many kids, would sometimes pull on the horse when he didn’t mean to, and this can be easier for a horse to tolerate in the mechanical hack. Overall, I just wanted Henry to let down and forget about being a ropehorse and pup around for my son.

Well, I got it done. And now I’m faced with wanting Henry to step up a little more and lope when he is asked to lope, even if he doesn’t feel like it. So, I’m going to put a bit back on him, and possibly a tie down, we’ll see. It sounds counter intuitive, but many horses, like Henry, who have worn a tie-down their whole lives, will raise their heads when one is put on them, as if they are feeling for that steadying restraint. I will have to try the horse in various headgear and see what works. But I have to find something in the way of a bridle that Henry can’t bull into and defy the signal to bring his head up.

The other thing I’m going to do is already happening. In the past, I have gotten past Henry’s “lazy” issues by giving the horse time off from arena work and doing trail riding, which he enjoys. Then when we go back to the arena, he’s more willing to lope. Its been raining for awhile, so Henry is getting some rest. And I have to admit, the two “lazy” episodes happened at the end of a week in which Henry had been ridden five times. And I have some sympathy for the old horse getting sick of loping circles.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that Henry is not being asked to do anything that is beyond him, not even close. He is merely being asked to do something he doesn’t want to do. And he needs to learn to obey my kid under all circumstances. When he puts his head down and refuses to bring it up, he is essentially out of control and he clearly knows it and is taking advantage of it. And this is not OK.

So there you have it. That’s the problem I’m currently working on. Anybody have any thoughts?

Oh, and also, we at equestrianink would love to get to know you all better. We were thinking of a “reader’s write” Saturday, where we could put up posts you have written about you and your horses and writing about horses. So if anyone is interested in writing a post for equestrianink, send it to Jami at jamidavenport@att.nete and she will post it on the next open Saturday.



Joy said...

I think putting a bit back on Henry is a good idea. And it will also help your son to learn how to use it and when to stay off the mouth and when to have a "discussion". I'm interested in reading how this progresses. My lazy one is also an ex-ropehorse. I think he figures, why bother? I love him though.

stilllearning said...

As usual, my answer is...transitions. They work to slow down too-forward horses and to inspire lazy horses to be more forward. I'd want your son to ask for a trot before Henry is "done loping", then to trot a few steps, then ask for the canter again. Repeat until Henry is up in front of his leg and listening to the aids. Add in walk/trot/canter/walk transitions. Try for prompt transitions, from seat and leg cues and very little hand. If Henry tries the dragging trot thing your son should haul him down to a halt, then immediately ask for walk, then halt, then trot, etc. Keep him busy, keep him guessing what's next, keep your son in charge.

Eventually Henry should be listening well enough to do whatever your son wants in the arena, loping until asked to stop, etc.

I agree that adding spurs would be a mistake. So would having your son "really get after him" beyond his level of comfort and skill. You need a way for your son to discipline Henry, but keep it safe.

Henry is coming off the aids. Transitions will help get him back on them, IMO. And it's kind of fun to keep changing requests on an older been-there-done-that who's bent on not listening. Sometimes you can avoid a direct confrontation by changing the question a little.

Laura Crum said...

Joy--that's a good point. My kid is mostly good with his hands and doesn't pull unless its needed. But I keep working on this. And stillearning, its a good idea, but... I climbed on Henry today and rode him and to my suprise he tried shoving his head down between his knees and bulling into the bridle as we walked off. I had the bit on him and I worked him for about twenty minutes until every time he tried putting his head down I could bring it up quickly. Then I put my kid on him and coached my kid, just at the walk trot. At the end of fifteen minutes, my kid could bring Henry's head up when the horse put it down. But it was strictly a matter of bumping hard with the bit and popping him with the crop until Henry got the point it wasn't allowed. I did try a lot of transitions to work on the problem, more or less by instinct. When I rode the horse, I walked him a lap, trotted him a lap, loped half a lap, walked three strides, loped half a lap...etc. My kid is not quite ready for that, however. We can work at this at a little. To be quite honest, the horse probably wouldn't have the problem at all other than he doesn't want to hold the lope for long periods. So, we'll see how it evolves. The bit did help. I haven't tried putting the tie-down back on yet.

stilllearning said...

You're sons are grown and I'm rusty on little-kid thinking. I think you've actually come up with the answer here. You'll most likely have to pop on and remind Henry periodically that he has to listen, then help your son continue the lesson.

Glad the bit is helping.

Laura Crum said...

I should add into this equation that as an old rope horse, there are things Henry knows how to do and is familiar with, and things that he isn't familiar with. Loping steady circles is something he knows how to do. Making lots of transitions between walk, trot, lope is something he has probably never been asked to do much of. It is possible to do these transitions on him, because (aside from his new bad habit) he is obedient and pretty broke, but it doesn't come easily or naturally to him, this it takes a pretty competent rider to do execute a lot of transitions with him. Henry expects to walk circles, trot some circles, and lope some circles. He stops readily from the lope in a balanced frame and reins smoothly to left or right, will back freely and easily. That's what he's been taught to do (besides chase a cow, have a rope thrown off him, pull a steer, stop when the heel rope is thrown...etc). So, some exercises will not come easily to him, even if he isn't feeling defiant--and he's currently feeling defiant. I am truly stymied as to why he's suddenly being a poophead (to use a technical term) after being so good for so long. Is it just a case of "I've been good too long?" I was quite suprised at how hard he tried to persist with his obnoxious new habit with me, let alone my son. As far as I can tell, he just developed it three rides ago. I wish I knew what was in his head. Maybe I need Michele's "communicator".

Anonymous said...

If Henry wants to lean down on the hackamore, he's likely to do it in a bit as well - and a horse that's bracing with both sides of his neck is hard for even a full-sized adult to deal with. In my experience, the best way to break a brace like that is to turn, which doesn't allow the horse to use his muscle power and doesn't turn you into the other half of the brace. If your son can turn him as soon as he's thinking about bracing - or better yet even before - circle for a moment until Henry is responsive - at whatever gait he's in, doesn't matter - and then ask for the lope again on the straight, the problem might go away. I'd be inclined to focus first on breaking the brace and then second on reestablishing the lope. Trying to keep the horse loping when there's a big brace going on may not work very well.

Couldn't agree with you more about spurs - they take a very educated leg and even then they're sometimes used to cover up symptoms rather than deal with causes.

EcoLicious Equestrian said...

what I usually do when a horse decides not to co-operate under saddle is check a saddle fit (the saddle may rub the wrong way in canter and your horse might get enough of the discomfort after a while) your horse hurting somewhere?

my TK/TB gelding refused to keep cantering and upon closer inspection we found out his hip was out, some physio got him all better and now he enjoys a good canter...

if there are no underlying physical issues, I'd encourage you to motivate your horse with some good ol' young green broke filly refused to go forward, asking, forcing, using whip, she would not go faster or stay in trot/canter- vice versa in my husband went to the other side of the arena with her grain bucket...and she would canter and canter to get to her treats...after several times we removed the treat bucket and now she is very forward...if you place treats around your property or arena, your horse will soon figure out that it is better to canter and get a reward instead of being nagged with strong leg aids or a crop...if we show them, there is something in it for them, they will eagerly co-operate

stilllearning said...

Petra brings up a good point about something physical. It seems odd that Henry would suddenly become uncooperative after all this time, and persist in being a "poop-head" even when YOU are on him.

Besides saddle fit, could your stint of bad weather and not riding regularly led to Henry getting stiff or "out" in his hind-end? And then 5 arena rides (is that what you said?) with more loping in tighter turns than he's been used to doing just made him uncomfortable? Even mild discomfort can lead to the beginning of a bad habit.

The fact that he gave you a harder time the 2nd time you got on him makes you wonder why even more.

Laura Crum said...

Yes, I wondered if something was/is bothering Henry. That's a good point. He shows no unsoundness and no reluctance to move out at the trot, so it seems unlikely. But it was one of the first things I thought of. Two weeks of rest did not improve his issue--which I would expect it to do if something physical was bothering him. In my experience, horses left to "rest" in big corrals where they can move around, get freer, not stiffer. But it is a point worth considering.

And yes, we are certainly going to work on Henry's issue at the walk/trot for awhile. Loping in circles will have to wait until my son can reliably stop Henry from "bracing", as Kate says. Henry is also hard to circle when he puts his head down, and is using this device to head off toward gate or barn..etc, so it is defintely something we have to fix before we work on anything else.

Also, we don't lope small circles on this horse. The smallest circle he lopes is around the perimeter of a hundred foot round pen. It is still possible that just getting older is creating a situation where the horse doesn't feel good loping, as an old man doesn't feel good running. Just old and creaky. I think I will next take Henry to the beach, where horses usually love to lope, and see how he is about kicking up to the lope going in a straight line with other horses all loping along. If he doesn't want to lope there, I will be more inclined to think that loping is truly uncomfortable for him.

I ran this issue by two friends that know the horse. The first one said "Too much kid riding. You need to ride the horse for six months." The second one said, "That horse has a stubborn streak. I saw it when he was a rope horse. He's safe, but not always cooperative, and when he sets his mind against you, he's hard to change." Hmmm.. Its true that Henry has a stubborn streak. Though a reliable, bombproof horse, he is has always been lazy and getting him in the lope was an issue for my son from the very beginning. This is really a new manifestation of the same old problem.

So, anyway, next I'll try the beach ride. I'll file Petra's idea about treats in my mind...this is not the way I usually train horses, but never say never. First I want to see if Henry wants to lope under the more inviting circumstances of the beach.

Oh, and the saddle is the same one we've been using for quite awhile...nothing new there.

I may in the end put my son on one of our other horses for awhile...he has ridden Sunny in the past and gotten along with him...and ride Henry myself. At least long enough to see if I can figure out where the problem is coming from. And since, in the past, we have used Henry primarily for trail riding, I may decide that that's his job description, and loping circles can be done by a younger horse.

Thanks for the advice. And Petra--you never know--this may just be the first horse I try to motivate with food. He is really a chowhound (!)

Linda Benson said...

Laura - my first response is that maybe your son is ready to graduate to a more willing horse. And maybe Henry (no matter how much you want him to behave) has really paid his dues in the arena and would be happy to find a home where he would be appreciated as just a nice, slow trail horse. (and there are lots of people looking for a horse like that).

It sounds like you have got some excellent advice on things to try with Henry, but I also know how frustrating it can be for a young child to not have success with a horse. It can sometimes turn them off to riding pretty quickly, and I know you don't want that to happen.

Good luck with finding everybody a happy solution!!

Topaz said...

I also recommend having him checked out to see if there's something physical going on. Because he's getting more adamant about not loping it really makes me think that loping is uncomfortable for him and perhaps getting more so as time goes on. He's not a young guy and there's all sorts of stuff that could be making him hurt.

Laura Crum said...

Linda, I was thinking on similar lines. I won't be giving Henry away--he is still sound and a good trail horse--and trail riding is what we do most. But perhaps my kid can do his loping on a younger horse.

And Topaz, its a good point that something may be bothering Henry. I'll go further and say that almost for sure a twenty-one year old horse that has been a team roping horse his whole life has some arthritic issues. When I bought Henry I was pretty sure he had some bone spavin going on...most such horses do. We are always very careful to warm Henry up thoroughly and he does trot completely sound and (once warmed up) very free. I realize that doesn't mean there aren't some subtle issues. However, in a lifetime of owning horses I've found that in general, chasing these elsusive issues through veterinary or alternative professionals costs a lot of money and isn't often very useful. Believe me, I've been there. I could do numerous posts on this subject. Giving such a horse time off in a turned out situation works as well as anything on most of them. Since Henry is an older gelding, I am assuming that he doesn't feel as spry as he did, and if he shows reluctance to lope on the beach (where he has always been quite willing to lope before) I may decide he is a walk trot horse now. I have no wish to make him miserable. He has been a great horse for us, and I value him--as some of you know, I spent many thousands on him last year to save his life through colic surgey (he had a large stone). So I am not adverse to spending money on vet care--I simply know just how it usually works out to chase an elusive problem in a horse who is not technically lame.

That said, Henry has always been lazy and reluctant to lope--and yet in the two years I've owned him he has had many, many sessions where he loped freely and reasonably willingly (for a lazy horse). He had to be talked into it rather firmly, but he was clearly quite able to do it. My gut sense is that this is another manifestation of his same old issue, and its just a particularly difficult one, as he has hit on a very effective way of being defiant.

However, I am watching him closely for any sign that he has some new discomfort going on, and will be careful not to ignore any signals he gives me. I have given him two weeks off, ridden him once, very lightly, and think I will give him some more time off and then take him down to the beach and see if he seems "normal" there. So, I'm sure not ignoring the advice that he may be uncomfortable at the lope.

I'm also wondering if it could possibly have anything to do with his colic surgery. He seems to have recovered completely and there is no obvious sign of this, but does anybody out there know of horses that have had colic surgery and then exhibited something like this?

The vets that did the surgery have rechecked him many times and told me to go ahead and use him just as I did before--asserting that he is fine for normal use. Still, I can't help wondering.

joycemocha said...

Laura, quite simply, it may also be an issue of your son growing and gaining weight/height. Henry may well feel that he's ready for more challenges because your son is feeling bigger in the saddle and be a bit more pushy as a result (I say this having observed many old schoolies at work who will adjust their behaviors based on rider age and skill levels). A strong-minded, stubborn horse like Henry may be feeling that he's reaching the end of his babysitter period.

Also, since he was initially successful with his resistance, it's a bad habit that is now hard to reteach. One of the most perceptive comments I've ever heard came from a clinic held by the late Jean-Claude Racinet, where he stated that it takes two to four times as long to extinguish an incorrect behavior as it does to establish it. Easy to learn the evasion, harder to extinguish it. That may also simply be what you are dealing with.

That said, even though you had good reasons for going to a mechanical hack, I've never ever been a fan of them. I had one horse as a kid who was broke to a mechanical hack, and the problems caused by it outweighed any advantages. My attitude might also be shaped by watching a skilled professional trainer start kids out riding in curbs, without the bad getting-into-the-mouth habits that I saw in my youth with kids riding in the mechanical hack (but, of course, these were lesson-riding kids, and without the lessons, you don't have the skills). I understand many people's reasoning for using the mechanical hack, but I don't agree with them (my own bitless bridle is a leather sidepull which is very effective) because I think the ineffectiveness of the hack if you need to discipline or school the horse, coupled with its nasty potential as a leverage device, outweighs the benefits.

I suspect it probably is time for your son to be riding a different horse while you school Henry. Could be the cold of winter is causing some muscle issues related to the colic surgery, and Henry may well benefit from a course of advanced schooling. You don't say if you put him back into a curb or a snaffle, but I think a horse like Henry would benefit from some basic, simple, dressage bending and flexing schooling exercises in the snaffle. Spirals in and out at walk and trot, two-tracks, side passing, haunches turns, forehand turns, different figures, serpentines--he may just need some more advanced rider help at the moment to assist him with some temporary muscle imbalances.

joycemocha said...

Laura, I might also add that when I was a working student in lessons with my trainer, I spent a lot of time on horses like Henry who had come to the barn for reschooling for these types of habits. Generally, doing a lot of the simple bending and flexing exercises (even in the curb), and not letting them get away with bracing often fixed the problem after a month or two of consistent riding. It usually took a skilled adult rider in concert with the young rider to fix it, though. It's not an unusual problem, and it is fixable with a little bit of maintenance (that's what we call it in the barn, horse who needs a bit of maintenance work). Now that your son wants to do more challenging work, you may need to do more maintenance riding on Henry to keep him tuned up for a less-skilled rider.

Some people don't care for maintenance riding, but I have to admit it's one of my favorite things to do (I actually find riding in figures to be relaxing). Probably why I have a sensitive, high-tuned, high maintenance horse for myself....

Laura Crum said...

joycemocha--those are good points. And its true, one thought that occured to me is that Henry is going to up the ante a little and teach my child some new skills. My kid was able to get the horse's head up successfully last ride, and, in fact, learned something through doing it. So, that's not a bad thing.

And this is going to sound weird, but I don't like mechanical hackamores either. I have never ever used them--except as a kid on the ranch horses and for my kid and me to trail ride Henry and Sunny. I do like them for this..the horses do, too. Unlike a sidepull, they have some bite if you need it, and when trail riding we mostly leave the horses heads alone--they're just cruising along doing their job with little or no help from us. I put a long shanked broken bit on Henry to ride him last time, and he went well in it. As I said, it helped with the problem. But, as you said, since Henry had success with this behavior the first time around, he's persisting with it. That is oh so true.

In the end, I didn't buy Henry because he was easy for a little kid to get in the lope. He has never been easy for a kid to lope. He's a lazy horse (thus my title). It took six months before my kid could be forceful enough to make Henry lope (you could say that Henry taught my kid to be a more agressive rider--and it would be true). I bought Henry because he is a safe, reliable, bombproof trail horse. And, he is still that. I think you are right to say that I may have to ride this horse regularly if I want my kid to get through this particular "bracing" issue. I don't have much trouble getting Henry to quit it...what suprises me is how persistantly he tries it again. But this is Henry's basic personality, so I can't think why I'm suprised. Rather, I should expect it.

Anyway, thanks for the advice. I have found it very helpful to contemplate this problem from different angles based on what various people have said.

joycemocha said...

Sounds like you've got a good handle on this, Laura.

The worst bracer I ever rode was a most decidedly NOT bombproof big grulla mare with QH racing bloodlines--Go Man Go on the top of her pedigree, Dash for Cash on the bottom. Big girl, moved like a warmblood and talented, but totally brain-fried. Hit her with something she didn't want to do and she'd drop her head and brace until she stopped--in a ring snaffle. I remember holding on firm as she pulled against my hands, not letting her get any loose rein, making her back up.

Usually, this would happen in the middle of doing something else, and she'd break out into a sweat, brace and lose her brain for a moment. Then she'd come back, relax, and be rideable. The brace got better over time and handling. The trainer sold her to someone who didn't try to make her school figures but just casually rode her. Last I heard, she'd been bred to a fugly paint stud to produce grulla paints.

But there's currently a big red former rope, all-around show horse gelding in the barn who will try to brace a little with novices at a certain level. He's great with rank beginners, but about the time they start getting a little skill, he starts upping the ante on them and can get bracey. When I've lessoned on him in the past, he wasn't above giving a little crowhop if you weren't sitting correctly for a flying change.

It sounds like your son is learning from Henry upping the ante a little bit--and that's just what you also want in a schoolie babysitter horse. He can work with the easier loping horses later on, and occasional sessions on one like that now probably would be a good idea so he doesn't get discouraged, and can master the feel of an easy lope. But working through these issues with Henry as well won't hurt him, either, and it'll make him a better rider.

Joy said...

What joycemocha said just rang a bell with me. My lazy one, the ex-head horse will also up the ante once someone starts to figure things out. For me, he's a piece of cake. I know his buttons, and he's totally push button, but he will definitely push to make his rider learn more. With total newbies he walks like he's got a glass of water on his back. But if somebody is learning, maybe had lessons for a couple of years, he will try and brace or even throw a light buck in there. Not the get you off of my back kind, but not polite either. Interesting.

Beth said...

I am going to suggest a saddle fitter or a massage therapist/ chiro/ etc. Something could very well be wrong with this old reliable horse. Sometimes things just don't heal in a few weeks off, especially in an older horse. Somethings can hurt at the lope but not at the trot. Before figuring out how to force him to behave, make sure that he is not trying to tell you that he is hurt. You can bute him for a day and ride him. If he is still not loping, it could very well be a training issue. If he seems better it could physical.

I also second that ol' Henry just may not be enough for your son anymore.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Do you have him on a joint supplement? I see a big difference with my rescue mini-Cooper...lots of physical joint problems besides being hit by a car (we think). When he's off it for even a week, I can see him stiffen up. I have my mare on it too, because she was started too young and framed too early, and I am worried about residual damage.

Also, I just gave her a break for several weeks...two trail rides ago, we were walking along and she started bucking...double-barreling with both hind feet. Thought she was being pissy, couldn't find anything wrong. The next day she had a welt across her hips, but was not lame. Took her on an easy trail ride, she was fine but did the same thing tied to the trailer. Figured she was in heat and over reacting to all the horses around. Did two more trail rides, and at the end of each, she started to buck. By that time the swelling was gone (I had agressively treated it with Absorbine), but I could see a small lump. When I lunged her, she had a funny two-legged push on the canter at certain spots. I went to massage her back,suspected she had a vertebra out of alignment, took the palms of both of my hands, and gently pushed...and the vertebra slid back into alignment! I let her have two more weeks off (partly guilt, partly weather). When I lunged her last night, she was back to normal! She also had stepped on her pastern scrambling in the trailer, which filled up but never quite went down all the way even with wraps, and now it's back to normal, too, with all that rest. This whole process, from injury to healing, was about 5 weeks total.

My point...there may be something more going on, and it can take more than 2 weeks.

Geez...I should have blogged this!


HorsesAndTurbos said...

Oh, and I agree with the others...after he is checked, it may be he's just testing :) My mare can be trusted with beginners, but with me tends to be a handful...for fun, I've discovered.

I rode a Hano-Paint mix the other day who was supposed to be very laid back, used for beginner lessons...and he just bounced around with me, jumping trotting poles, little bucks, little spooks. The trainer thought that he realized I was just having fun (which I was), and played along with me. Or maybe I should pat myself on the back and realize I might be a better rider than I think I am :)

Horses are smart!!

Laura Crum said...

Jackie, Beth, Joy and Joycemocha, good points all. Henry is getting more time off, as it is raining and my son has a cold. Its my gut sense this problem is behavioral, not physical, but I will continue to keep a close eye on the old guy for any signs that he is hurting. I have seen no clue of this so far, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible. In any case, Henry has a home with us, whether he becomes a walk/trot trail horse or can continue loping along with my little boy, and he will be retired to the pasture, along with my five other retired/rescued horses, when it is apparent that his riding horse days should be done. In the two years we've owned him, he has taken my child on well over a hundred trail rides and beach rides, not to mention giving him many happy hours of loping along. And none of this would have been possible without his steady, reliable, bombproof personality. My son is a confident, happy rider with a good seat and the ability to be assertive, thanks to Henry and our pony, Toby. So, I'll just keep working my way through this little puzzle, sorting out if its behavioral or physical, keeping Henry's best interests in mind, as well as my son's. We have other horses my little boy can ride, now that his skills have improved, and if its time for him to move on from riding Henry regularly, that can easily be worked out.

Thanks again for raising many good points that got me thinking--I will be checking into several things I hadn't thought of previously, thanks to your comments.

oxymoronic said...

You know, a snaffle really is a good idea.. IDK in english hackamores are actually considered worse for a child because the nose is considered more sensitive then the mouth etc etc......Anyway my horse sounds alot like Henry and basically as soon as I feel him slow down, he gets bumped with the leg. If he continues, Mr. Whip will have a guest appearance heheh :P

Transitions are also a good idea, because it may just be that Henry needs to learn to mind your son's leg more. With my horse, I found that when i feel him slow down, I bump him with the leg to correct it :) So I would do transitions before loping circles, then do the circles and when Henry begins to slow down have your son bump him with the leg or, if he does not respond smack him with the crop. This usually keeps them moving fairly well :)

Unknown said...

You should ride every day, within few days your horse will become use to .
English saddles