Monday, February 13, 2012

Do I Trust My Horse?

I often write about getting our horses to trust us, but what about the time and work it takes for us to trust them?

I don't have that pressing need to ride despite anything anymore. When I was young I did, and I didn't think to care about whether I got thrown or not.  My bones and brains were made of jello.  As I got older, I started to care, but I felt invincible.  I had some close calls, but always ended up pulling out safe (I think in other, alternate universes, I did actually die).   In my 30's I came down with melanoma and realized I'd rather die on horseback than of cancer; at that point, you couldn't pry me out of a saddle.

But my cancer did not return and, slowly, more and more self-preservation set in.

Today, in the here and now, I have a new motto:

I want the horse I'm riding to be a horse worth falling for.

Basically, if I'm going to get something broken, it better be worth it.

This year I have to have a trail horse, so I'm going to finish off two and ride the one that does best.  I'm sending Cia to my trainer for a month.  There, she'll be ridden on a ranch, up and down hills, after cows; she'll be ponied, she'll pony other horses, and she'll get a work ethic.

While she's gone, I'll devote all my time to Beautiful and tackling her issues: basically moving away from the herd, being ridden in the arena and out, and tying.  Depending on how she does this spring and summer, I'll decide how much trail time, if any, she'll get.  Ultimately, if I'm not ready to trust her, I'll give her more time to mature.

Cia is at a mature age and more than ready for the trail if she can stay sound.  If she comes back from her training without lameness, she'll certainly be able to withstand my rides.  I'm going to have her hot shod by my farrier who has been working with her for the last four years before I take her down.

Yesterday, during Beautiful's TTouch, she was pretty bad.  Bad, as in, BAD.  She was extremely agitated and herd-bound.  She was also threatening Cowboy even though I was standing right there.  She was a very different horse than usual.  There's no sense in's the same answer, no matter what the reason, so we didn't get any TTouch done.  We spent about thirty minutes or more on the basics.  Half of her time was spent standing about three feet away from me on a loose lead.  If she took one step forward toward me I backed her up to the point I had asked her to stand.  I was really emphasizing Space, Manners, Independence from the herd, and Quietness.  None of which she had at the beginning.

But like I've always said, every day is a new day for a horse, especially a young one.  I won't hold it against her; I'll just work on the issues and make some changes.  But I will say, for me to ride her full time out on the trail, she will have to earn my trust.

Today is my TTouch lesson, but I'll probably write about it Tuesday.  I'm really looking forward to it.  Wish me luck!


  1. Anytime I read about people having mare issues out of the blue, I instantly think "is she in heat?" Some mares don't really show any physical symptoms of it, just mental ones. Once I started tracking my own mare's psycho moments I started to see the pattern and now I can plan ahead for when she will be nutso.

    Or Beautiful could have something entirely different going on...

  2. I don't know what's going on with could be a number of things. Even the TTouch practitioner pointed out how hyper-alert and fearful she was as she approached my barn today. I'm going to start separating her from the herd and working on the TTouch groundwork exercises....try to get her thinking and less reacting. I'll be writing about this tomorrow when I go over the TTouch session...which, btw, was 3 1/2 hours! I learned a lot, but my head is swimming.

  3. You touched on a lot of things in this post that I can relate to, especially "I want the horse I'm riding to be a horse worth falling for." I don't feel a pressing need to ride "just because" any more, I'd rather have quality time on the ground than an unpleasant ride. Chickory is coming along, but she hasn't quite earned my trust yet, and it's something to work on when I get back to riding her.

  4. I really like your approach with your horses and will be interested to read more on your Ttouch sessions. I'm using Ttouch leg circles on both my mares. One was injured and it helps to loosen her up and the other because she is not grounded and has no idea where her legs are at all.

  5. What you say makes sense! I'm turning 60 tomorrow and I honestly don't know which of my horses I trust enough to get up on right now. NONE of them! Scout takes off and does whatever she wants. Cali's pretty centered. Gigondas? She is EXPLOSIVE! Sunni is too spooky. Quad? My trainer has tried to get on him TWICE and he has reared both times...sigh...more ground work for ALL of them!!! My problem is that they are 40 minutes away from where I live and I only get up to the horse ranch on the weekends and this weekend was cold and windy and raining...typical winter weather! So, I'll have to decide this summer which one or ones I trust to ride.

  6. I totally agree with your philosophy of having to trust the horse. I can honestly say even though I don't trust Dusty completely I'm not afraid to ride her. She's so small to me (15-1h.) that I feel whatever she throws at me I can handle. She's the horse I've fallen off the most and never really gotten hurt...knock wood. There's a big difference falling from her than from Erik(17-2) when he was alive and I never trusted him, he was such a spook but surprisingly in 15 years I only fell off him 3 times. Go figure.

    The other thing your post brought to mind about trusting the horse you ride is about Blue. Blue is the safest horse in the barn, not spooky at all and basically on the lazy side. I trusted him the most of anybody and he's the one that dumped me recently. I never thought he would spook at a van coming down the road, he's never done it before so what's up with that. I blame it on the snowstorm that was moving in that day but still...I can't say I'm afraid to ride him anymore but also in the back of my mind I'll keep in mind that yes, even Blue can spook.

    Good to hear your TTouch lesson went well. I'm sure it will take a while to process it all and write it down for a post but I'll be interested to see what you learned.

    Happy Valentine's Day. Give Beautiful a hug from me even if she is being fresh. And all the others too.

  7. Shirley, I feel the same way. You know it when you see it, and I haven't seen it yet. I'm going to try my best to get her there this year...which will require lots of separating from the herd. I love the work with them on the ground, too, so I don't feel like I'm losing out on anything. I hope Chickory comes around for you, too.

  8. Sandra, how long have you been using the leg circles? Have you taught yourself from the books?

  9. Cheryl Ann, rearing is one of my least favorite reactions in a horse. :/ I hope she can teach Quad to stay on the ground for you, but you're like me, you enjoy them in and out of the saddle. Good luck with all their training!

  10. GHM--that is a good point, that any of them can spook and dump you. That's part of the deal with this passion. Buck Brannaman had a good quote came on facebook today:

    ‎"But the bigger issue is, is that he finds out you're willing to wait on him and that you respect the fact that he's thinking, that he's searching... if he ever found that out about you, he wouldn't dream of bucking you off." - Buck Brannaman

    TTouch is all about letting them think and search for the answer. The core of TTouch is to help a horse abandon what works for them in the wild--fright and flight or fight and flight (whatever!), but isn't necessary in domestic life--and learn a better way to respond by thinking.

    Beautiful, of all my horses, is the most insecure (probably because of the age she was at roundup). It's that insecurity and fear I can't trust. I really hope TTouch gives me the answers to help her become a thinker.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.