Monday, November 21, 2011

How do you break the cycle?

Does anyone have a good routine to break the cycle of emotional escalation between horse and rider?

Scenario (cobbled together from various incidents): On a cool day, you take your horse to an unfamiliar place. He's a little "up" from the cold and a little "up" from being away from his buddies. There's unfamiliar debris next to the road or arena, and your horse seems more worried about than he should be. You mount up and can feel the high-headed tension of the coiled spring beneath you. He walks out short and tight, looking everywhere but forward. You catch yourself subconsciously gripping with knees and taking up the reins. His reaction is to be evasive and above the bit. Even the slightest leg aid gets an exaggerated reaction (i.e., silly sideways scooting that leaves you off-center). By now, your spine is rigid and your posture defensive. So is your horse's.

We've all been there. What is your strategy for dealing with it?


  1. I'm no horse trainer...but there are times, when I've had to pick up my toys and just call it a day. There are times that I might take three hours to cover three miles (I hate those days), there are times when you throw out the baby with the bath water and do a lot of bending and circling instead, and then there are times I have to call a trainer, and sometimes I have to step back and do ground work until the horse's brain is back in the right place.

    Another thing to consider might be the horse's diet. Not the whole picture but could be a piece of it.

    My advice? Stop. Get off if necessary, and work it from the ground. When it is relaxed from the ground, then try under saddle. Whatever the "it" may be. My current horse seems to find circles calming.

    Your feelings of frustration? I know that frustration, and most truthful folks will admit they've faced it. What I do is take myself out of the equation when I'm having a day like that. The only time I seem to help my horse is when I'm able to come from a calm and centered place (doesn't happen often but when it does it is a beautiful thing).

    Hang in there!

  2. I recommend getting some help from an extra set of eyes can help you diffuse the situation and break the cycle, and a GOOD instructor will give you other ways to respond to the situation.

    Good luck, keep us posted!

  3. I send the horse forward. If she's busy trotting and I'm busy posting correctly, we'll find our rhythm again. We've gotten through a lot of really ugly situations that way.

  4. I often do the same as Funder: Insist on "forward" instead of "upward."

    If I feel in danger, though, I'm not afraid to do like EG and just get off. Mind you, I keep working the horse through whatever task we were attempting, but I don't have any problem with choosing a safer way to accomplish the goal.