Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do I Understand Them?

That's been the question I ask of myself lately...

Everyone is settling in well in Kentucky. My horses have been living outdoors 24/7 and they are thriving with this lifestyle. They have stalls but everyone is living outdoors with the pleasant weather for now. They are both gaining weight and I've cut their grain down in half. I NEVER thought I would be doing that!! But having them on nice pasture has been a bonus. Ollie is really porking up. He looks like if I pricked him with a pin he would explode because he's so full and round.

Ollie's poops are as runny as they've ever been. That part disappoints me but is not unexpected. He had really good poops when he arrived but with the pasture and the excitement of a new home AND worming... well what can you expect.

It's nice that my horses are both starting to settle into their new home. It's been trying at times with them being so needy for one another. The arena is next to the barn and both their stalls look out at the arena. So when I ride one, I ride in the arena so the other can see us. Regardless, the one left behind usually has a fit and cries for the other. Eventually they will stop with this nonsense. But as I said, it can be trying at times.

Now I'm on my own in working with Ollie. It got me thinking about him and doing some analysis. I asked myself a bunch of questions about his behavior. Like, is he insecure? Is he nervous because of his insecurities? Is he trying? Can he become a pleasure horse? Is he just a "hot" horse? What EXACTLY is a "hot horse."

So this is what I think....

I think that Ollie is a very insecure horse. He needs routine, he needs to learn to trust before he can relax. He needs me to be his everything - which I am since I'm at a self care facility. Ok so maybe I'd like to think that but truly that is my theory. This idea came to me through a friend of mine who is actively retraining an off track thoroughbred in dressage. She told me all about her horror stories with her horse called Blake. Now they are competing in 4th level. Go figure!

My friend told me that she had to build a trust with Blake. The trust that started on the ground eventually went to the saddle. She said that if he acts up, that you need to be his pillar of confidence so he can overcome it and treat the situation more confidently next time. Also he needs to learn things such as, if he doesn't like your leg on him and goes sideways that it's important that I don't back off with my leg. He needs to understand that the leg is ok. It's no good to sit on my horse and be afraid to touch him! I also need to read my guy well. If he wants to go, don't say "whoa." Go is good. So if walking around the arena until he settles down isn't working for him, then go ahead and trot and if he wants to trot BIG then it's ok to let him do that for a bit. He WILL come back to me and be much more pleasant to ride!

The other thing I'm making a point of doing right now is going snails pace slowly with him while he learns about his new surroundings. Today it paid dividends. I'm doing things like tacking him up then hand grazing him (fully tacked) so his pee brain doesn't associate getting tacked up with "GO." I think this is working. I may end up spending an inordinate amount of time with him when I work him but I think it's important we do this.

Today it worked! We went through our whole routine and in the end, I had one of my best rides on Ollie that I've ever had. I can't describe the feeling when it happened. It's as if something clicked inside his head and everything came together. We had the most brilliant trot in both directions and we called it quits. So we walked around on a loose rein for him to cool off a bit, then I untacked him and took him out for a little hand grazing. He was so calm and composed. I was thrilled!

I also rode Toby today and he gave me a magnificent ride! It takes him a bit to warm up but once he did he was a charge to ride. He was fully engaged, on the bit, on the aids. He was swinging that hind end underneath himself. FANTASTIC!

I had a great day with my guys. And I believe the key to all of my success for today was my ability to read and understand my guys. I hope I can keep it up and we keep moving forward.



  1. Wow, what a beautiful place-glad to hear everyone's settling in, even if you're still going through an adjustment period:) Sounds like you're doing everything you can.

    Have you thought about Probiotics to help with the loose stools? ProBios is super cheap, and I've really noticed a difference in my TB...I used it for weight gain, but it's also recommended for any kind of digestion issues, particularly moving to new environments. And it's cheap! Just a thought.

  2. That is so great! It's so rewarding when everything comes together, and I think trust needs to be there for that to happen. It's lovely that you can read your horses so well.

  3. I used Probiotics on a 30 year old pony mare who was scouring so badly, that her owner wanted to put her down. They worked.

  4. Good plan! When my old barn moved, there was a lady with 2 super buddy-bound geldings. It was a disaster at first, but once she realized she just needed to establish a routine and stick to it, she did a lot better.

  5. @Miles and Kippen - I have had Ollie on Probiotics for over a year now. I even try different ones when one seems to not work very well anymore. Right now he is on SmartPak Smartdigest which was working GREAT but I think any kind of probiotic isn't going to work with all the changes Ollie's been through - he's such a nervous nellie. This morning I did notice that he had an improved poop - it had some shape to it. AND I have put both Toby and Ollie on the probiotics due to their systems having to adjust to the nice pasture. Toby is doing just fine. I think in time Ollie will recover as well.

    @Dom - I have no real idea if I'm reading them correctly but I sure am trying! I think I did it well yesterday and I hope I can keep it up.

  6. Thank you, the post is very encouraging: my guy needs to learn to trust me, too.

  7. Good post and good ideas on your part for keeping things moving forward without upsetting the horses.

    My OTTB worries. I have a picture of him at weaning. He looked worried then. Saturday he was in a halter class for a fundraiser for my dressage chapter. He's never done halter, never been with any of the other TB geldings in the class. The horse in front of us was on his tiptoes most of the time. My guy had to be awakened when it was time to move.

    Then he had an acupuncture session and the vet put a surcingle on him to hold the electric pulse machine she put on the pins in his throat, a treatment for roaring. He freaked out--the cross ties are like the saddling paddock at the track. He hasn't been at the track for a dozen years, but he remembered. And it was not pleasant for him. So, we took him out of the cross ties, I held his lead and put the pulse machine on my lap. Had to wake him up when it was over.

    They say dressage is a journey. Owning horses, whether from birth or later in their lives, is a journey too. Slow and steady, calm and cool -- all work well for these sensitive TBs.

  8. I think you are dead on, WendyU.

    Bar and I have worked very hard on trust and sometimes he still has his moments--yes, usually a change of routine sets him off--but he always comes back to me because I try really hard to be that anchor for him.

    Singing helps. He loves it when I sing, the dork.