Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bless Me and My Sensitive Horse

 Yesterday was a full day of equestrian activities.  My day began with the Blessing of the Hounds ceremony which opens the fox hunt season for the Woodford Hounds at Shakertown, Kentucky.

Shakertown, an old restored Shaker Village, is like stepping back in time.  Having an old tradition, such as the Blessing of the Hounds, fits right in with the atmosphere of the Village.  Also, there are wonderful trails at Shakertown to take you horse for a small fee.  During WEG, this was the home location for the U.S. Endurance Riding Team. 

After the Blessing was made for the dogs, foxes, coyotes, horses and riders, the hunt galloped off throughout the surrounding countryside. 
 Later in the day, I had scheduled a riding lesson at a Lexington park which has a wonderful equestrian area.  Matt came along to help me load Ollie and otherwise be my assistant.  Of course he had his camera in hand. 

In a nutshell, Ollie was on his toes with the new surroundings as I suspected he would be.  He was doing fairly well UNTIL...

Three other horses entered the arena we were in.  Ollie made it clear to me that he did not know those horses and he had a meltdown.   There was just too much stimulis for him and he panicked.  I'll fess up that I did come off at one point and a gal who was standing nearby was able to catch him.  Several people remarked how beautiful he is and asked if he was an arab or anglo arab.   I told them, "Nope!  Just a thoroughbred who is lacking some brain cells at the moment..."

Julie arrived soon after our incident.  She directed me over to the dressage arenas up a hill.  But at this point, Ollie's brain cells were gone.  So we spent our time in the dressage ring getting him to settle down.  Even though it wasn't like a traditional lesson, I learned a lot about owning a sensitive animal and dealing with it.  Next time I'll probably be better at nipping things in the bud. 

Here are some not so glamorous photos of getting Ollie to relax and come back to earth.

We are finally walking flat footed in this next photo...  phew!

Here is a photo of an exhausted horse and rider.  My helmet still is askew from my earlier tumble...

So while he wasn't a rock star on this day, we did learn a lot.    Julie and I spoke about the show and she encouraged me to still go.  I'm going as a non-compete.  This way I'll be able to use my running martingale which we still need (especially under new situations) with Ollie. 

I can't say enough good things about working with Julie.  She's very supportive, still likes Ollie and she's been in my shoes before with a hot horse.   I truly value her input and her amazing understanding of a sensitive horse. 

This first show is going to be all about getting Ollie's feet wet with a positive new experience.  One from which we can grow.  Sometimes it takes baby steps...


  1. Good on ya for sticking with it and riding Ollie through the crazies. I'm sure it was a good learning experience for you both. :-)

  2. Having the right instructor is priceless; so glad you found Julie! Sounds like you have a good plan for the show; good for you for not bailing. Hope you aren't too sore tomorrow. :-/

  3. Dont give up! John and I went sideways... every where we went... for months.. He has now setteled down and is a good boy when we travel. We went on many excursions together just to expose him to many places and horses and it paid off! You have got this! Won't it be nice when we have nothing to complain about? LOL

  4. Phew, I'm glad you didn't get hurt when you came off!

    As the owner of a sensitive horse myself, I'm wondering if you'd care to share some of what you learned about getting him calmed down?

  5. Thanks everyone for the positive comments! I'm hoping that Ollie will eventually be desensitized to going to new places and seeing new horses as we keep taking him there.

    Smazourek - my hope is that at the show, I can nip it in the bud when I see that he's overthinking things and before he reaches the point of no return in having a brain. In this lesson we reached the point of no return - my bad. The main point is that I don't give up on him, that I sit like a brick in the saddle and make sure that he feels me. Julie stressed to me that his actions were not directed at me. He wasn't, at any time, being angry/pissy at me. He was just overwhelmed with everything and all he knows to do is to "run away." To avoid this behavior we worked on keeping him moving forward and keeping his head thinking about what we wanted him to do. I should be doing lots of leg yields, circles, spirals in and out, basically never letting him have a second to think for himself. And most importantly I need to sit like a brick with my legs hugging him to reassure him that I'm there. I try to imagine myself as a thundershirt for my horse.

    It's my job to do this to the best of my abilities and we'll see how he does! You know I'll blog about the show... LOL!

  6. The sensitive horse is usually a very smart horse--so it's important to be on your toes "ahead of him." As you say, doing LOTS of "stuff" to keep his mind on YOU rather than letting his very agile "OMG I GOTTA GET OUTTA HERE" mind take over. There are times (like a month ago ;o) when I just gave up and got off because MY horse runs backward and I can't always control where we're going. I get off, he stands like a ROCK (bless him), and he gets his confidence from "his handler on the ground." New places, cold weather and strange horses with TONS of activity make for meltdowns for the sensitive guys. You will get stronger and more confident--and Mr. O will learn to depend on you. It won't take long.

  7. Yay for you in getting back on! I hope you're feeling okay (Advil is your friend). That Ollie, boy, he sure is teaching you a lot. :-) You are definitely on the right track taking him to new places and situations. I just know he will keep getting better and meanwhile, you will keep figuring out how to deal with him (I like the thundershirt imagery). TBDancer knows what s/he is talking about!

    Chortling over the Anglo-Arab comment. Now that I've seen him for myself, I get where they're coming from, and I think his flighty behavior only reinforced it! :-) He'll get there...

    (And thank goodness you had on that helmet!)