Saturday, July 17, 2010

Running off an Attitude

Today I went to the barn with one thing in mind.

Working the attitude off my horse.

Thus far my experience with Cibolo is that he only works appropriately if I am very strong. I think of it as a sort of military type of toughness. Fair, but a level of intolerance with any variance. Intolerance that is met with immediately and with great intensity.

I came to the barn and he was in his stall, finishing up eating. He turned away from me along with his stall mate - expecting to be turned out.

But you don't turn your butt to me.

I tossed a rock at his butt and he was startled. He turned back around. I continued gathering my things. Then I went in to get him. He headed for the other gate.

Wrong answer. I whirled the rope around, snapping it on the ground. He dashed around for a second, dancing around, then turned to face me.

I put on his halter and took him out.


I believe I've finally figured out what it is that makes this such a problem for me. I find it tough to bond with a horse where I have to be this way. I have never regained the sense of bond I had with Cibolo way back in the beginning. I can get respect, I can get appropriate behavior. But I can't get partnership.

And at the end, after a session of being tough like that, I don't feel good, don't feel like I accomplished anything, even if everything went right in that he did what I told him to do. Instead I feel residual tight intensity, as if I've had to ride herd (an ironic statement if there ever was one) on a room of irritable teenagers and my neck is still tight.


We worked on gaits in the round pen. I only asked once, then I got intense the second time. He finally got it down, dripping with sweat. We both were.

After 45 minutes this morning he tossed a shoe, killing our plan to ride. I put him up after that, loaded with hay and some alfalfa. I need to get more weight on him.


My new test if I have him in the right space is trailer loading. Today, after his run around the round pen he loaded immediately, and no longer balking one iota.

Because I'm all over him like horse flies on sweaty flanks.


Maybe I am no good at this. Maybe I don't get that you can be strong like this without feeling like a jerk. I've tried to find that flat space, where the energy is intense but the anger isn't there. But he doesn't respond to that. Or somehow, the way I'm doing it is signaling a level of weakness that makes him feel insecure.

So I'm going to stick to being a witch, because I'd like to be safe and I can only be safe if he has a certain level of respect gained from my witchy attitude. I want to ride him, work on collection, and I can only do that with him in a 100% listening mode. And I can only seem to get this "snap to attention" and "yes ma'am" attitude with this witchy mood. And, as time has taught me, I have to be that way, all the time.


I can't imagine this is what I'm supposed to be getting from my horse time. But I'm out of ideas. I'm just going to demand the behavior I expect. I'm not going to trust he's capable of maintaining appropriate behavior if I don't get after him every single time. I'm going to ask, then I'm going to demand harshly until any time I ask, there's no question. I want softness, but I'm a million miles away from understanding how to get it with this horse.

And I'm not going to expect that to change anymore.

Because it won't.

I just don't know that it'll be "fun"


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

This is exactly how I felt with my mare Baby Doll, and you're right that it wasn't fun at all. I never felt like she was a willing partner. I felt like her jail warden, allowing my prisoner to go outside with me, only if she obeyed me every second, with no variances. bleh. Not my cup of tea.

Now I've got a willing partner in my Apache mare, a kind and gentle partner who watches out for me and does what I ask when I ask kindly, fairly and firmly.
If I am ever too strong in my requests, she will become worried and then seems to try even harder.

But I don't want that from her. I want her willing partnership, and for that, all I have to do is just ask gently.

Are you really up for this experience? Is this the journey you want to take? Sounds like you're up for it, but at what cost?


Anonymous said...

He may be a horse that needs the security of a very predictable routine, and very predictable behavior from you. If he knows that you've got the backbone to deal with what he might dish out, at some point you may be able to back off and ask more softly - sometimes horses do things like this, and can become very stubborn about it, because they've been taught that that's how they're supposed to act. If you can begin to bring a high degree of consistency to your routine and work with him, he may begin to trust your leadership so you can be softer. He sounds like a horse that doesn't really trust people very much, and so he's had to take matters into his own hands.

But it's hard to tell. Only you can say if this is a journey you want to be on.

Melanie said...

Ughhhh...I can feel your pain. Your predicament reminds me of mine a few years ago. After my horse of 17 years passed on, I bought a rebound horse: a yearling 7/8 Arab gelding from a reputable breeder. (I know, what the heck was I thinking, right?)

My sister, who is younger and has no children, took over his training and she did an excellent job. However, Camino was one of those horses (maybe similar to Cibolo?) who could be a wonder horse in the arena and on several trail rides, and then just lose it and act like a silly goose...bucking, spooking, charging, etc...

Once I finally had more time to ride him, I found that I had to constantly be in charge, dominant, and on top of my game-always. Now, when I was younger, I would have gladly accepted the challenge, but now? I like a horse that is my friend. One that I can just go out and have a good time with.

I still like a naughty ride or two, as long as it isn't the norm....
And that is why I now ride a spirited, but well trained, ex-show horse who listens to me...even when he is being!

I am too busy, and my free time is too precious, to spend all of my time and energy arguing, fighting, and/or dominating a horse.

So, I contacted Camino's breeder and told her that I was going to sell him (he was now seven). Luckily, her horses are in high demand and one of her friends came out and bought him.

Now, only you know what is good for YOU, and it does sound like you may be up for the challenge. I am sorry that you are in this situation, and just know that whatever you decide to do, your blogging readers will support you, right? : )

PS-Sorry for the rambling post!

Leah Fry said...

I have been there and felt that.

I think it's important that you have come to understand what it takes to deal with Cibolo. Now the question is: do you want to? Can you find a way to enjoy that kind of interaction? There's no wrong answer.

I know Lisa agonized for a very long time about what to do about BD. To hear her talk about Apache and to see photos of them together, there's no doubt that she made the right decision.

What Kate said is also true: that possibly over time he will come to trust your leadership so you won't have to be as hard-assed about it. That has been the case for Poco and me. It's taken me a long time (4 years) to get to the point where I can say I enjoy my relationship with my problem child.

You'll make the right choice. Don't worry.

Wolfie said...

As you know, I am no expert. But I believe your approach of being a witch is the right one. Once Cibolo respects and trusts you, I would think that everything will fall into place. You have experienced how great a horse Cibolo can be....I have my fingers and toes crossed that you won't have to be a witch for very long. :-)

restoration42 said...

I've been thinking a lot about your posts. Confession - every time I get ready to ride out on the trail I am so tempted to saddle Autumn instead of Red. Why! Because I can ride her past anything and she will barely flick an ear. Because at the end of the ride I will be relaxed and calm. Yet I ride Red more than Autumn. Why? Because we have come so far (our 4 year anniversary is coming in a couple of months). Because we have a deeper relationship. Because he was SO bad when I got him, I can see how much progress we have made. I am usually exhausted at the end of each ride with Red. I have to be present each second. Sometimes my exhaustion is accompanied by a sense of elation and accomplishment; sometimes by a sense of futility and frustration. It is worth it because we are tightly bonded. It is worth it because this is my heart-horse.
(My Red Delicious, Crunchy Face, Redlish, Red Horse.) While he has scared me, he has never hurt me or seriously tried.

But it is not easy. It took FOUR years before I was able to ride him solo on the trail. At the end of our first year I still questioned what I was doing with this horse. Funny though, I never once thought about trying another horse. I'm not sure why, maybe I didn't know enough then to ask what would have been a good question.

The end of your first year with Cibolo is coming up fast. I have followed your blog for information and for inspiration, oh, and cuz you are such a wonderful storyteller. I'm with every one else when it come to saying yeah, you've got the moves to make it with Cibolo, if YOU want to. Guess the question comes down to are there any reasons for you to try a second year with this horse?

Unknown said...

Seriously, everyone here gives me so much strength. I kind of have been nervous to talk about it (because you know just cuz I'm a woman of a certain age (ahem) doesnt mean I don't need my peer support).

Sharing your own experiences is particularly powerful as I consider the future - looking within is helpful with other who provide perspective.

allhorsestuff said...

You know, sometimes it is hard with your horse.
I know...been through the ringer with mine. She is damaged goods..but I have been so faithful to make sure she is RIGHT in soundness, feeding, turnout, and I try to make sure her routine is consistent..that really bothers her tons, when it is messed with. She is a super fussy TB mare..and I LOVE HER TO PIECES! Of late, after a trail taught her something bad...balk and get off the hook..we would time out and now..she is pulling stunts on me..not good, as I get super duper mad at her jeopardizing me and another horse I am leading now.

I am like you..I act FAST and HARD. We have been through this..and she must know... consequences are real and she has asked for them...

I make the right thing is easy..the wrong thing hard- and painful!

Something I found out the hard way last year, after a blow up and spill injuring me badly......
I do give her a day off, or sometimes 2-3 in between lessons/rides now.
I used to need to ride all the time and train too...but for her..the time off is "training time"..she actually THINKS about it all.

That single point has made our respect level heighten..she seems nicer to me and also more willing to comply..when she wants nothing to do with me...I change the routine from demanding, to a walk in the woods for grazing or simply a lunge or bareback ride.Sometimes nothing at all..I have had to change what I desire and must have too...what is right for her or I am the one unhappy along with her!!

I hope your Cibolo can tell you what he is thinking, so you may meet again with partnership...