|the face of innocence, clearly|
So now that he's back in full work and roughly a year post-track he's feeling very good about life indeed. He's started to show us that he does in fact, have some sass! The work is getting harder, we're asking for a lot more under saddle, and he's got some opinions about working correctly. That's okay because it's just a part of the learning process and he's going to have some growing pains (literally and figuratively).
For the sake of this post I'm going to characterize attitude into three categories (leaving the PAIN category out).
1. Feel good sass: maybe it's a little buck after a line of jumps, or a head shake during a canter transition, or a squeal for no reason. In Scout's case, it's usually a tail swish:
|Literally after every jump... someone was very pleased with himself|
2. Naughty/tantrum sass: bucks, spooks, scoots, kicking out, bolting -- these types of behaviors could fall into this category. They're generally brought on by an objection to an aid or environment.
In Scout's case, he like to kick out or buck at leg aids:
3. Hard NO sass: this is unique for every horse. Scout's hard NO has just recently revealed itself and it comes from a place of insecurity. It only comes out when he doesn't understand something and gets worried. We first discovered it at Fairhill at the water complex:
|Cue tail swishing, dancing, wanting to be anywhere but here|
|Even watching another horse, he just didn't understand.|
A few minutes later, he started rearing. Completely uncharacteristic for Scout. I can say with some certainty that he does not have a mean bone in his body. He was trying to communicate to us that the pressure was too much and he needed to understand what he was being asked to do. So, we let him take a breath and I led him in. He initially tried to pull against me but I reassured him that we'd go in the water together and then he was okay. But, despite him going in and not caring about the actual water, he wouldn't go in without me leading him. We had pushed him just enough that he was left feeling very unsure. This was not because of anything we (the pro and I) did, it's just the first occurrence of the hard NO, and it caught us a bit off guard. It was clear that getting after him, or applying even more pressure might break his good nature. So we regrouped. We let him gallop around and jump a few more things and then we went back to the drawing board.
Because Scout has been so easy, I've taken for granted some basic groundwork training. And you better believe I'm kicking myself about it. Ever since Nolan, I've completely changed the way I think about training horses, and so I feel pretty stupid that I've let my easy horse get away with little things (because they add up to bigger issues -- duh).
So I broke down Scout's Hard NO reaction in terms of ground work, busted out my trusty rope halter and got to work. At a very basic level, I need to be able to control his feet, ALWAYS.
|Clearly the face of a horse that's naughty|
|The feets stay where I puts them|
Then I took him on a walk behind the barn into the state park to see if we could find some things that might make him unsure.
|Apparently none of this is even a tiny bit scary|
While this ground work is useful, I was curious to see how it would come into play the next time he met a Hard NO trigger (water). So I set up a two day plan to get him schooling at a stream followed by a day of xc schooling to further the lesson.
The first day, he went on a hack with a solid buddy and I followed on foot. We were prepared to pony him or lead him on foot if needed but the goal was never to let him get to the point where he was shut down. Naturally, he followed his friend right into the stream, but then shocked us all by throwing a bit of a fit IN the water. Tail wringing and backing up, but once his moved his feet again he was golden. He went in and out by himself without issue, even trotting through a few times.
|Looking super earnest<3|
And I'll write up more about the schooling later, but the Hard NO made a very dramatic appearance, this time at the ditch. Boyd has a series of ditches in a row, right up against the busy road that are fully revetted and DEEP. He's never seen one before, and very nearly stepped right over it before he stopped to look into the abyss.
|Don't look in there Scout!|
|I SAID NOOOOOOO!|
What we found, was that in order to shut down the NO, we just had to snap his brain out of it. That wasn't going to happen with a whip, or leg pressure, or by forcing him. He needed to move his feet, get his brain refocused and try again. In a weird way, I'd rather he have this kind of behavior that a dirty runout/stop. So when she moved on to the banks and water she was able to recreate this idea without my assistance. I helped him get his feet wet the first time, but he never got to the point of the Hard NO again.
|More complicated than he seems|
So tell me bloggers... Does your horse have a Hard NO or a way of showing their extreme displeasure about something? If so, how do you work with it, ground work, under saddle, utilizing professionals? Any advice for how you might handle my situation?