Working Out the Kinks, Part One

Last Saturday was December 21st — also known as the Winter Solstice — and good lord, it was 60-freaking-degrees in cold as shit Massachusetts.

So, I did what most people with horses did: rode!

Before I even started stalls, I popped into the paddock to say hello to Simba. He greeted me with his usual wiggly nose and bright eyes. It’s been almost a month since he’s been here, and after some discussion with D, I started Simba on a capful of Pony Prozac (aka Omega Alpha’s Chill) to see if that helps his obsessive stall walking. He is one tense, anxious critter. Image was tense and anxious under saddle, but had a pretty good handle on the ground. Simba is constantly “on”. I have a feeling it won’t help the stall walking, but it did seem to help his overall demeanor a bit.

I decided to do a bit of ground work before starting stalls, just to see where his brain was truly at. The last time I worked him on the ground, I began teaching him a couple of simple things: yield the forehand, yield the hindquarters, back up with voice, and walk up with voice. We worked on that today, along with just a little bit of lunging for funsies. He was focused on me and really only got “stuck” when I asked him to move his forehand away from me. He gets worked up and tries to shoot forward. Eventually, with small, baby steps, he got one good turn and I quit there.  He was much more “in tune” and quieter than I’ve seen him since bringing him home, so that was encouraging. He may be blonde, and he might not always have all his “lights” on when working, but he’s not stupid, that’s for sure!

I buzzed through stalls, ran over to L’s to grab her saddle, and zipped back to the barn. I’ve been having some serious issues with my Bob Marshall saddle slipping and being stable in general. It seems that the style I have (square backed, western rigging, longer in general) just does not do well with rounder, mutton withered critters. So, in an attempt to see if it’s just MY Bob Marshall, or ALL Bob Marshalls in general on Simba, I borrowed L’s endurance style model.

I let him warm up the memory foam pad on his back while I groomed him, and it was the first day that I saw him rest a hind leg in relaxation. Simba is a bit odd: he’s rather dominant, but has a tense, anxious streak a mild wide that isn’t conducive to being a dominant lead type. Seeing him chill out enough to cock a hind leg was lovely. It could be that he’s settling in, it could be a result of the little bit of Pony Prozac he’s getting…but it was a good sign!

I finished tacking him up and readjusting the bridle (more bit experimentation; I’m not sure if he’s ever going to really be “happy” with any bit, but I don’t know or trust him enough to try bitless just yet), and mounted with more ease than I have ever in my Bob Marshall. Sigh. There are a few more things I can try, but L’s saddle is shorter and has English style rigging, and I think those are the two major culprits. So, I’ll have to figure out a plan B. I’m already looking into purchasing a lower end but sturdy Abetta endurance saddle from work to tide me over until I can scrape together the money for a new saddle. I cannot bear to part with my current Bob Marshall — it’s a very special saddle to me and next time, I’ll be buying a horse to fit that saddle!

Simba and I set out down the road for a bit of a walk, and he was his usual fire-breathing dragon self for the first five minutes. He’s never done anything bad, ever, but he’s a ball of electric tension under my seat. I kept my hands, seat and energy quiet, and by the time we hit the dirt road, he was a little less frazzled. We kept it at a walk for a bit, and then picked up a slow gait down the straightaway. I noticed that he was travelling cockeyed — his shoulder kept popping out and he seemed resistant to travelling straight. I noted this in the back of my head and we continued on while I kept correcting him and keeping him from popping random body parts out of place.

He showed me what his true “ohmigawd there’s an oogyboogyMONSTER out there!” response is: stop and refuse to go forward. Okay, that’s not a big deal. I can handle that. He tried to spin away from the imagined (or possibly real, but I honestly couldn’t see anything and I’m pretty good at picking out oogyboogies) scary monster of doom. I caught him with a leg and pushed him forward. It took some encouraging, but he finally said “okay, if you say so, but I PROMISE THERE IS SOMETHING REALLY BAD OVER THERE SO IF WE GET EATEN IT’S ALL. YOUR. FAULT.”

Needless to say, we did not get eaten. Hah!

I turned him back towards home and we gaited a bit on the way back. He’s already able to hold his gait for a longer period of time, and seems happy to do so, so I let him gait for a bit. We hit a slight uphill incline, and without actually really thinking about it, I asked for a canter. It’s pretty obvious Simba has not been asked to canter much, because the first few strides were hysterically discombobulating. Once he figured out what, exactly, his legs were supposed to be doing, he gave me a couple of nice canter strides. I sat back and rocked him back into his gait and he came back into my hands with no fuss. Good boy!!

The rest of our ride was mostly uneventful. He gave me one spook that made me go “oof!” right at the end of the ride — his spooks are not explosive, but he throws on the brakes, and hard. I haven’t been unseated by a horse throwing on the brakes in years, but I think there were will be many reminders of “shoulders back, heels down, deep seat” in my future. It’s a bit of a bone jarring experience when you’re walking along at a decent clip, and all of a sudden your insides are rocking around because the critter has decided now is a good time to slam to a stop. Good thing I don’t have ANY plans of jumping him, because I have a feeling he’d be one hell of a dirty stopper!

We got back to the barn and D came out to greet us. I mentioned his inability to travel straight, and she asked me to gait him up and down the driveway…it was pretty obvious that he was popping his shoulder and resistant going AWAY from the barn, and a perfect gentleman going back to the barn.



I corrected him heavily with my leg going away from the barn, and he tucked his shoulder back into place and traveled kind of straight. Straighter, anyway. What was more interesting, was that if I switched what side of the driveway I was on (I had been traveling up the driveway on the right side, closest to the fence…so I switched which side of the driveway I was travelling up. Curiously enough, he barely popped his shoulder.

He’s got a lot of oddities that are taking some time to figure out. He obviously wasn’t EVER treated badly, but he is certainly used to getting his way in a quiet, passive aggressive manner. I wouldn’t classify him as a dangerous horse, but if not given the proper correction, I could see him escalating into being a big butthead.

I have much more to say, but I’m going to separate it into two posts because this one is already long. Here is a zoomy snow pony for your viewing pleasure!

Wait for meeeee!

2 thoughts on “Working Out the Kinks, Part One

  1. casey marcotte December 28, 2013 / 12:13 am

    The way he reacts reminds me solo much of my rescue horse. ” shaddiw” was belaten a few owners ago and had armatures between that and me. I found that the more ground work I did the better he was. I started small and made sure I was clear, consistent, and forgiving. When I got on he was so anxious he'd either take off cantering for a food 10 mins or stand in the middle of the ring and pace covered in sweat. Now he's schooling 1st level, jumps and I can pretty much do anything with him. Keep up the good work!!! It gets better.
    PS. On the bit subject….. check the roof of his mouth. He may have a very low palate. Shadow had the same problem. If they have a low palate regular bits are too thick for them to close their mouth. I ended up with a km loose ring berdune (so?) Bit. Its made for a double bridle so its much thinner than regular bits.


  2. casey marcotte December 28, 2013 / 12:17 am

    Oh my goodness! I should have proof read. Stupid auto correct. ” good” ten minutes
    “Shadow was beaten”
    ” the bit is a kk not km”
    And sp?


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