Friday, November 15, 2013

Nice...But Naughty

After almost two weeks off due to an increase in my part time work and a nasty sinus infection, I returned to riding Elvis yesterday.  Not sure how my six-year old gelding would handle so much time off I was curious to see what kind of temperament I'd get when I got on. My motto being "know what you have before you get on" told me as I saddled up that I had the same disposition as when I rode every day.  Good!

I must note that this is my first 'young' horse.  I'd always preferred older, been-there-done-that horses, thinking the younger ones were all balls of fire.  However, I've found my young horse to be refreshing.  His young age gives him a clean slate.  He's had minimal negative experiences; i.e., baggage that my older horses have brought along with them.  This youngster is still learning about "life" and I feel it's my job to do my best to keep his experiences positive so we keep the baggage at a minimum.

With all signs pointing to "go", Elvis and I headed to the indoor arena.  I know myself - if I don't ride for long periods of time my confidence level drops like a hard freeze.  As we walked I overwrote my worries by telling myself I have never had a bad ride on Elvis and that I had done a good job of knowing what I was about to ride.  I reminded myself how great I feel when I'm up on him and with that I tightened the cinch one last time and hopped on.

Elvis stood quietly, waiting for my cue.  In the past he has started walking off while I was getting on. I've been making him stand quietly for few moments after I get on, reminding him to not move off until I give the command.  On this day I took my time, settling in the saddle and getting comfortable. Then with the pressure of my lower legs I asked him to walk off.

....Nothing.  We still stood quietly.  I gave him the cue again to move forward.

....Nothing.  I do have spurs on my boots; however, I try to not use them as a first request.  I now engaged my spurs, small rubs on his sides, and behold - ever so slowly, we walked off.

We were pointed towards the other end of the arena to get out of the way of a lesson being held on the end where I'd gotten on.  At our destination were various riders exercising their horses. We would join in and do the same.

Now I know that the Western Pleasure walk is slow but at the speed we were going I could have gotten to a different State quicker.  I cued Elvis to pick up the speed a bit and get out of the lesson zone - first with my legs and then with my spurs.

...Nothing.  I cued again, this time with spurs and got a tiny bit of additional speed.  We might make it to the other end of the arena before nightfall.

We entered into the crowded group and walked a couple of circles and then as others started to jog/trot, I also asked for the jog.  Bet you can guess the response...yup, nothing.

With my feet paddling against his sides (tipping the front of my foot down to engage my spurs on his side) I finally got the slightest jog, almost a walk.  We gently jogged around - but I had to keep paddling with my feet or else we broke back into the slowest walk in history.

This lack of response was making us a target amongst our fellow riders, who had to get around us as we stalled out.  We'd never had such a slog of a ride and with a sinking heart I knew that Elvis was running this ride and totally ignoring his leader.

Elvis was being so nice that he was being naughty.  I needed to address this issue, to remind him that I was the leader and when I said trot, lope, etc., I meant it.  This called for a "come to dinner meeting" and I knew that might incur some rodeo activities for dessert.  In the crowded arena full or riders there was no space for me to have this "discussion".

Instead of allowing him to dictate any further, I decided to end the ride until I could address the issue (I expect to arise again). It was good timing on my part as a bunch of riders came in for a group jumping lesson.  My fellow riders were also calling it a day vs being in the way of the jumpers.

Walking back to the barn Elvis was his nice, sweet self.  It entered my mind that if this is what I get when I let my horse sit that this is ok.  I like that Elvis appears to be one of those horses you can pull out of the pasture and hop right on - sure, it may take you days to get to your destination but at least he isn't a ball of raging fire or argumentative.  He's just so nice that he's naughty.

Elvis and I have a date for a "come to dinner meeting" next time this happens.  And I'm betting that will be at my upcoming lesson.  Fine with me.  I'd prefer it to be in the presence of my Frainer so that I use the right tools and actions to get "my point across" should I need to use them in the future, which I'm thinking I will.

Nice...but naughty.  We'll fix that to Nice!


  1. I'm interested to see what your Frainer has to say, as to me, this is not normal 'time-off' behavior, but rather something not just quite right in Elvis that day. My gelding can be like this when his back is slightly 'out of adjustment' and rather than throwing a hissy-fit, he just walks like he's on eggs. It took me awhile to realize this was his way of saying, "My back's a tad sore today. Can you check it out?" Another point, my guy won't flinch or react if I touch a sore spot; he just gets stoic. But if someone else looks like they are even pointing at a sore spot, he gets 'all hooves & teeth' with them, so maybe have someone else help rub him down. This says A LOT about how much this horses trusts you and wants to please you!
    Bionic Cowgirl

    1. Good information! I am going to check his saddle to make sure it still fits correctly and have already decided to replace his saddle pad as it's getting worn. Will update with what I find.

  2. I'm glad you're feeling better from your sinus infection. I hate those.

    Silly Elvis! He must want to extend his vacation lol. Would longeing him work as far as getting your point across about go mean go? I don't know if you have a round pen at your barn where you could work with him without all the traffic. If not then a lesson definitely sounds like the best place to work on it.

    Also I wanted to mention one thing... I know I'm a worry wart, but spurs freak me out! I have a friend who has been riding horses his entire life. He is in his sixties I think. He was riding his young horse (around Elvis' age I think) and she spooked at something. His natural instinct was to clamp on with his legs when she lunged forward and in doing so he got her with his spurs. She of course freaked out even more and he ended up coming off. He was hurt, but I don't remember how exactly. I think he landed on his back or something. He's okay now, but he doesn't use the spurs anymore. I just thought I would mention it, because you just never know and if I can help prevent someone going through what he did it's worth saying something at least. :)

    I can't wait to read about your lesson!

    1. Thanks for the feedback on spurs. I was using a crop with E in the past because he does tend to be lazy and need to be motivated but upgraded to spurs as I am riding Western Pleasure and don't want to carry a crop with me. I will be careful to be sure!

    2. Hehe yeah a crop in Western Pleasure would be kind of odd. :) It's just something to keep in mind. It scared me really bad when that happened to my friend. I agree with the other comment you made that he has your number and I'm sure you will figure it out in the lesson. :) Chrome is lazy too so I have to use a crop to get his attention. I probably should have a discussion once and for all with him about moving off of my leg instead of using the crop as a crutch hehe. I don't want him to turn into one of those horses that only moves forward when I'm carrying a whip. Thanks for the reminder! Have fun with E!

  3. Oh I forgot to mention regarding the spur thing. If I'm riding a balky horse I prefer to use a dressage whip or riding crop because if the horse spooks I can drop it. You can't just drop spurs. :)

  4. Maybe Elvis was picking up on your energy level and could sense your apprehension. At least you didn't have to worry about him taking off.

    1. Ahhh! I think you are onto something! Prior to owning Elvis I was concerned about being assertive with E when he ignored my cues (asssertive not aggressive/abusive). I was too nice, because in my mind he wasn't 'mine'. Seems so silly now.
      I think E has picked up on this and "has my number". He immediately responds to cues from my Frainer but ignores me! I now realize that there have been times when E has tried this behavior with my Frainer but she immediately addressed it (didn't let him get away with it).
      That's why I'm thinking of the resolution as the "come to dinner meeting". I am going to have to step up and let E know the 'honeymoon' is over and I expect him to respond to my cues just as he responds to my Frainers. Ugh...I am thinking I dug this hole and now I need to get out of it... Keep you posted, thanks for the response.

  5. This was like reading about Libby. She walks at a snails pace! Only at my lessons though. When I ride her in the pasture her walk is not that slow. I keep telling her, that if she picked up the pace a bit she would not have to exert so much energy! LOL Anyway, My Libby is so gentle, so mild, that I can go all winter without riding her, and come spring Hop on and we walk out at a snails pace. LOL