Saturday, May 15, 2010

Out Smarted by An Arab

So a few weeks ago I posted about how great the ground work training was going with Eclipse. Today that all officially ended. He's got my number and he's not really impressed anymore. I'm kinda stuck with my hands in the air. What now?

It started a few days ago when Eclipse stopped meeting me at the gate when I came to the barn. I thought it was odd, but I waited and eventually he came over. Forget it, it's not happened in a week now and I'm starting to wonder what I've done wrong. I haven't changed anything in a negative way. I haven't been doing the same thing over and over...I really just don't know what happened.

Today I tried free-lunging him in his paddock to see if he would eventually come in to me, but nope, didn't happen. In fact, he gave me even more attitude than normal and really came close to running me over a few times. He's really glued to the other horses over the fence and definitely goes to them to rescue him. I eventually let him rest and he took a step and put the halter on him.

We worked to the left and right at a walk and a trot. He yielded his hindquarters and when I asked him to go back to the right he refused. And not just refused, he fought. He pulled and reared and reared and pulled. I had no idea what was going on. I asked him to come in and he resisted, but eventually came have way in, then I asked again and he refused again. I eventually walked him around by hand and reassured him the best I could. I asked him to walk left and he went, but when I asked for the right again he refused.

I asked him to zig zag and same thing each time...not to the right. I played friendly games with him and the stick to let him know the stick was not threatening him. I never even touch him with the stick, but none of it made a difference. I ended up just walking him around the arena a few times by hand and releasing him back to the paddock.

A few girls were at the barn at this point, and of course everyone has their way of doing things. I don't mind advice, but when it's unclear whether the person is offering advice or criticism that's when I start to bristle a little bit. I know the person meant well, but it didn't come across very well. I'm using the methods my trainer gave's not supposed to serve the same purpose as lunging and I'm sure you think I look like I have no idea what I'm doing, but really I do have an idea and it was working just fine.

I'm just frustrated. I rode him for an hour and a half and he seemed a little more relaxed than usual. He's still not bending or giving to the bit when we increase the pace to a trot. He cuts in his circles still. My trainer and I have been working on this for some time, and nothing seems to work. I open the reins and he collapses his shoulder and cuts in, I then lift the rein to pick him up and he cuts the circle again. He softens in a small, tight circle, but opening it up is sloppy and stiff. I flex and bend and stretch him at a halt and a walk, but at the trot he's stiff as a board--even in two-point. He does loosen up at the canter, but he's so fast and out-of-control--it's like he's over bending.

I guess I'm looking for some advice, but I just have to be more patient. I don't want to lose my spirits, but I just don't know what he wants. Sometimes I think he enjoys being with me, but right now I feel like he's being a spoiled 10-year-old kid throwing a temper tantrum so he can get dessert for dinner instead of his vegetables.

I'm not looking forward to that reality either in the future, but maybe he's preparing me for that.

Alright. Tomorrow's another day. We'll get there.


  1. I hope I can offer a bit of encouragement here - my first thought being: I know it's hard, but try not to take Eclipse's feedback personally. One of the most important things I've learned from studying Parelli is exactly that - feedback is just feedback and taking it personally doesn't help solve the problem! Of course, it's easier said than done by a long shot, and it's hard not to feel hurt when your horse acts like they don't really want to be with you - I know that one from experience, for sure! Learning to accept feedback from my horse without getting frustrated or upset is something that has taken me a long time and I'm nowhere near perfect at it, but my wonderful girl continues to offer me opportunities to practice every so often - as I'm sure she will until the day I am perfect (read: until the end of time, because I will never be perfect).

    I wish I could actually help you out with technique suggestions, but not being there to see it or knowing Eclipse it's hard to do that. I would, however, ask you this question: Does he not want to go to the right because he's worried/unconfident/threatened or because he's being defiant/dominant? It's good to get a feel for that, because either way you'll probably need to be more passively persistent with him, but if he's worried you would be persistent at a softer level of pressure and if he's defiant you'd be more firmly persistent. In my experience, you really need to be willing to persist until he makes a little try in the right direction and then release as soon as he does. What I've found from teaching is that many people don't have the confidence to keep asking if the horse doesn't do the right thing within the first minute or so - sometimes you really need to stick it out for way longer than you think!

    Apologies for writing a crazy-long comment on your blog, but your post totally set off the helper in me. I've been through quite a journey of frustration and hope and despair and success and absolute bliss and lots and lots of learning with my horsemanship, and I am so very grateful for every minute of it. There's hardly anything I love more in life than helping someone else with their horse, because I feel like it's my way of paying back the people and horses that were there for me when I most needed it.

    ~Sarah from Parelli

  2. Ah, outsmarted by an Arab? Don't worry, you aren't the first and won't be the last! haha. We used to own a very smart Arab; loved her. Someone once told me that it takes 100 times of doing it right for a horse to "get it". I'm not sure if that's accurate, but it sure makes a statement of the TIME it takes. Don't give up. Eclipse is just waiting for you to rock that world!

  3. Sarah,

    Thanks so much. Your words are very helpful. That's a lot of what my trainer is helping me with as well. Everyone at my barn thinks I'm a crazy person. I just want to find the RIGHT thing that WORKS!


    Yeah, I've heard that phrase before too. I think though, in this case, my horse knows the first time he gets it right and just DECIDES not to do it again. He's really TOO smart lol.