Time to pull out less artillery!

As you loyal readers know, on rides #13 and #14 the VLC, having previously been utterly perfect, realized he was bigger than me and proceeded to develop some unpleasant behaviors including rubbernecking me into the middle of the arena and balking and refusing to move.

I realized a lot of this was due to having been lazy about getting him flexible in the neck. As a result I had a stallion with a big thick neck that was locked up and refused to flex. It was like pulling on a rhino. Nothing was working. Obviously I had to fix that problem or we weren’t going to progress.

So, today I went back to square one. I started off with groundwork, asking him to turn circles around me both directions and flex his nose into the circle and give to pressure. That went very well. I put the headstall with the bit on him and while he still wasn’t thrilled, he wasn’t as angry about it as he had been the previous night. He mouthed it and made faces but it was just normal colt stuff – not “OMG GET IT OUT OF MY FACE!” So I decided we would try to ride with the bit on, but I’d just snap my reins to the halter. After all, if he was responding to pressure on the halter on the ground, why wouldn’t he respond to it under saddle? I love the bitless bridle, but because it crosses over underneath the horse’s head, it doesn’t provide the direct pressure I needed to fix this problem. A sidepull would have been nice, but for some reason they seem to size them for teeny tiny little colt heads – it’s like they only come in cob size. I have never seen one that would fit the VLC’s very large head and massive forehead.

Good about girthing today (I did go back to the western saddle), bad about standing still for mounting. It’s amazing though, when I finally growled HO! right in his face, he caught on that Mom meant business. Works wonders.

Well, I can’t say enough good things about how riding in the halter worked out. He rubbernecked off the wall once, I pulled him right back to it, he never balked or stopped moving, and after a few more halfhearted attempts, he flat out gave up and was perfect again. Hooray! We’ll be doing the next few rides this way and then I think I will probably attach a second set of reins to the bit and start getting him used to that.

Like most of our rides, this one made me think. How often, when someone has a problem like this – a big strong horse buffalo’ing right through their aids – do they pull out the heavy artillery? More bit. Draw reins. Drop noseband. ‘Cause damn it, they’re not letting that horse pull them around – no sirree! Of course, what do these tactics usually produce? Yup, a horse that learns he can barge through more bit, despite the draw reins and the drop noseband! The problem here wasn’t that he was trying to be a beast – he was simply inflexible and wasn’t really connecting the pull on the left rein with turning his nose left – he was taking it as an invitation to stop. He’s basically lazy and he’s really happy with stopping! Going back to the halter made it super simple for him and I got the exact results I wanted. I was extremely pleased and he got a nice bath and I hand grazed him out back where the deep clover grows until he was dry.

And how was your holiday? Did you ride? All of my friends went on a trail ride and I thought about it, but these folks like to go out for 4-5 hours and neither he nor I are fit enough for that yet! I need to get my friend with the Cute Spotted Stallion to haul so we can go on the wimp’s trail ride (an hour max, somewhere flat and well maintained!)

Published in: on May 27, 2008 at 3:26 am  Leave a Comment  

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