Week 5: Grumpy Gus

I think it’s kind of like a chicken/egg situation when you have a hard day with your horse. Who was grumpy first? Did I make him grumpy or did he come out of the pasture with an attitude? Is he cranky because he’s sore, or is there something else wrong? One may never know.

Last night, I retrieved Smokey from the pasture and spent about 30 seconds grooming him since it’s an exercise in futility at this point (though I did get a significant amount of winter coat off him – by the way, where is it still coming from??).  I was afraid rain would be moving in, so I wanted to get started fast.

After currying him off, I went ahead and plopped the saddle pad on him. He flinched a little, but pretty much just wanted to look at it. Or bite it. I’m not sure which. He’s made it very clear to me that he doesn’t really like wearing things and a saddle isn’t his idea of a good time.  I took a spin around with the saddle pad on and fed him a bite of carrot in hopes of appeasing him. It didn’t work.

I plopped the saddle on, somewhat more carefully than the saddle pad since we seem to be a little more worried about the floppy noisy thing. He didn’t even flinch for this, but he did try to bite it on the way past his face. I bopped him on the muzzle for this. Addmittedly, I was probably a bit heavy handed with him last night. I was breaking my own rule of not feeding him carrots by hand and he was being super mouthy and all over me for more of them. Basically just setting myself up for failure from the start.

We did a spin with the saddle and saddle pad on and came back to the fence for the girth. He gets the girth. He does not like the girth. I put it back on the fence for some reason and he pulled it off and threw it on the ground. No, we’re not scared of these things anymore, we’re just kind of grumpy about the whole process.

I buckled the girth on the offside and adjusted the stirrups. He wasn’t happy about it and made it known but turning his head around and trying to nip me from time to time. Several more pops to the muzzle for this. I really need to stop feeding him carrots. I moved to the other side and pulled the girth under and pulled on it a few times to make sure he knew what was going on. He did. So I buckled it snugly, but not tight on him. Carrot reward! We did a spin in hand with the saddle on.


Such a happy boy

I the stopped him and tightened the girth some more. I was out of carrot, so no reward this time other than walking off.  Another in-hand circle and some maneuvers and I was comfortable with him going out on the longeline.

I hooked it up and picked up the training flag (which is becoming less and less frightening each day). I pushed him out and asked for a walk. He is light as a feather on the longeline and pays so much attention going clockwise, but it so heavy and awkward going counter clockwise. I’ll have to figure this out more. Maybe it just means more time going counter clockwise, but we’ll see. Either way, I asked him to trot and he did!

We got the trot down both directions with the saddle on. I’m not ready to ask for the saddle and the canter since both are pretty sore spots right now. Soon enough.

I coulnt video, use the flag and hold the longeline, so just trust me that he can keep going without too much encouragement.

His directions changes seemed to all of a sudden be very difficult. He did not want to turn back to the left once he had been going clockwise for a while. He didn’t want to so much so that he actually kicked out at me, maliciously, at one point. It’s probably the first time he has kicked at me with malice rather than being startled. I was not pleased. I made him go quite a bit more before I took the saddle off.

I decided that since we were both grumpy at this point, that getting in some positive momentum before we quit would be a good plan, so I trotted him in both directions for a while without a saddle and made peace with the fact that we were done for the night.

Several people were out at the barn last night doing lessons and such, so had he been less grumpy, I would have taken him out to the arena to be around the other horses and graze some. But since he was grumpy and had already tried to kick me, I didn’t really want to put anyone in that situation. I let him out in the paddock, scratched his ears and gave him a carrot (in his food bucket).

I think I’m trying to be a little more matter-of-fact with Smokey now. He’s shown that he’s gotten over the whole “I’m a wild horse and I’m scared of human things” and now we’re getting down to “I don’t want to do that” which needs to be nipped in the bud immediately.  This isn’t to say that I will just start throwing things at him left and right, but we’re about to get out of the babying phase. He’s smart and he knows how to move and deal with the things I tell him to. We just have to dance that fine line between I don’t know what you want, I can’t, I’m scared and I don’t want to.

I’m actually wondering if I need to backtrack a little and actually get on him before I push with the saddle more. He seems to like me and I question if he just doesn’t get the whole rider concept yet. He wants to be near me, but he wants me to be near his head still and I need to break him of that habit while I get on him. Can’t have both things happen at the same time. Anyone have any thoughts?

About smokeythemustang

I'm just a girl who loves horses, who's asking horses to love her back. Right now I'm training a wild mustang. Or he's training me. You decide.
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2 Responses to Week 5: Grumpy Gus

  1. marla2008 says:

    Oh God, this reminds me of my own 3 yr old mare so much. I was so frustrated and hard on myself when I had her, and now that I had to exile her faraway I was photos and videos and realize we actually made a pretty good pair. One thing that helped me enormously from the whole horsemanship movement is : sometimes you just have to go with them at whatever level they are. Just be cool and acceptant about it and work with them where they are on that particular day. There are good days and bad days but every day counts and is a positive step forwards, even when it feels otherwise. And yes, you should stop hand feeding him carrots 😉

  2. I think part of growing as a trainer is learning to stay on their emotional level; whether or not you’re having a good day directly relates to how your training comes off, so you have to meter yourself to be evenkeeled – even if they’re up and down in mood!

    Don’t worry, the carrots are only hand fed for emergency reward situations from now on! 😉

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