Wednesday, August 17, 2011


There is a very real difference between the horse who wants to go his own way, and the horse who WANTS TO GO HIS OWN WAY.

Otto is the uppercase version. He has his own ideas about where he wants to go and what he wants to do—and he doesn't care if you come along or not. In fact, I think if it were up to him, he'd rather go alone.

Blue is the lowercase version, which I much prefer. If he has one behavioral fault, it is a tendency toward barn-sourness. He isn't particularly concerned about being away from the other horses, but he does want to turn toward home whenever there's an opportunity to do so.

Case in point, Heather and I went for a short ride on Monday night. Bunny again proved her worth by being fearless and unflappable. Blue, on the other hand, had a couple of fits about being taken away from The Pen. 

As we come out of the tree farm, we have the choice of turning right to cross the bridge and go up the hill to home or turning left to go up the hill past the firing range. I gave Blue every possible cue for left, which he interpreted as "speed up and make a sharp right." D'oh!

Bunny, ever the angel, headed left without him. He didn't care what she did. He was making a beeline for the bridge. I pulled him around in a variety of tight circles, backs and spins before I finally got him turned back toward Bunny and the firing range. He was huffy and mad, but I kept my hands light and spurs ready. He went forward begrudgingly at best. If he was a toddler he would have been stomping along with his arms crossed.

Unlike Otto, he never tried a buck or a rear. Yes, he was a butthead, but he was a manageable butthead. 

Later we were trotting downhill in the wheat stubble. I saw there was a deep cut at the bottom (basically an 8-inch-deep hole across our path, semi-obscured by loose straw). I tried to slow Blue down so he would see this hole. His opinion was that perhaps we should go faster. Yes, we got a lovely canter out of the experience, but I didn't care for the attitude, thank you very much.

On the way back, I kept making him turn and do circles away from home. Again, tons of resistance, but no dangerous behavior. Just stubborn and crotchety.

Bunny walked along quietly, basically ignoring his childish antics, as I forced him to turn and weave and pay attention. With Bunny headed toward home, I turned Blue back out in the opposite direction. After a long battle, I got him to take three steps in the "away from home" direction and then halt without spinning. I decided that was enough of a victory, and we again turned toward home and caught up to Little Miss Perfect, who was lolloping along as if none of this nonsense were taking place.

When we got back to the trailer, Heather tied Bunny up and started untacking her. I decided I wanted to make Blue walk away from the trailer before we quit. I needed to be sure that stopping for the night was my decision, not his.

I could almost hear him whine, but moommmmmmmmm, the other horse got to stop!

Another battle of tight turns and backing ensued. He was coming dangerously close to running into one of the cars or my truck, so I relented a tiny bit. I dismounted. I dismounted just long enough to jog him over to the arena. If he thought he was done with working for the night, I was going to prove him wrong, dagnabbit. We did hard arena work for 20 minutes before he decided I was in charge. Circles, serpentines, sliding stops, rollbacks, sidepass, walk, trot, canter, halt, faster, slower, spiral. Had enough yet, Mr. Blue? 

In the end, I WON. With Otto, it felt like I was never winning. With Blue, on Monday, I won.

I know I won on Monday because on Tuesday he was the softest and most responsive he's ever been. He had canter transitions to die for. He wasn't exactly happy to see me, but he was unusually respectful.

So the plan going forward is to work very hard at home until he begs to go somewhere else. It is so crazy, it just might work. We're doing things on my terms, buddy. I AM the boss mare.

PS: We'll be at Elbe. Laurie offered to haul the horses, so my cost is cut nearly in half. For that, it is worth the effort to introduce Blue to life in camp. Thank you, Laurie!

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