Monday, September 4, 2017

For a Mustang, Boredom Training is Torture

"When a horse doesn't do what you tell him, you think you've lost. 

It's not about winning or losing. 
A horse doesn't even know what that means. 
If something goes wrong, you start over. 
You have to accept defeat to gain success." - Ray Hunt

Boredom Training: Day One

After the little bucking fit last week, Rebecca's post-analysis really stood out to me.  She said, "It was as if B got bored with going in circles and she just had enough." She said she could feel it coming on the previous ride and was expecting it that night.  So, it didn't really come out of nowhere.  Did a wasp land on her? Did Rebecca touching her butt right before it happened bother her?

Maybe.  But my mind went back to the times B is standing tied, hits a wall of boredom, and starts to pull back.

It hit me, whatever the catalyst, the problem with her being able to stand still and rest is a root issue that has to be addressed.

To plug that hole, I started boredom training the very next day, tying her to the trailer, by herself, in the a.m., as I cleaned the horse trailer.  And, then again that evening, with a buddy.  Her evening tying session lasted an hour and a half, as my husband and I sat in my Cowgirl Cave directly in back of them.

B did great--for an hour--then, she got bored and started pawing, threatening Little Joe, and not eating her hay.

I wrote Rebecca to tell her what I was doing, and she wrote back:

Good plan breaking her from being a herd horse. Being a broke horse will be hard for a bit for her.

Boredom Training: Day 2

If  Beautiful is any indication, it's tough for a Mustang to be bored.  They're always wanting to do.  Rebecca said she's rarely seen a Mustang that isn't the enforcer in the herd.  Beautiful is definitely our enforcer.  

On day 2 of Boredom Training, or How to be a broke horse, or How to be a less herd bound horse...whatever  you want to call it, all the same, I loaded her in our trailer and hauled her two houses down to the barn. That is our barn in the background of the above photo.  Beautiful as not at all happy she could see her herd, but not get to them.  

She did good in the trailer, loading and unloading.  She was on high alert, with all the new horses, and knowing hers were so close, but separated by fences.   Despite that, she did walk well on the lead and had no problem navigating the barn and aisle-ways to the indoor arena.

Inside, Rebecca told me to let her go.

At first, she was a sweet heart, checking out the scary periphery, then coming back to us, venturing further out, coming back, and on and on.

However, after she finally made it to the scariest things in the arena, and touched them, there was nothing more to stimulate her mind, and it was as if whatever happened during the bucking fit was happening again.  

She had come to tell me, "Hey, mom, I saw the scary things. Conquered the scary things.  Been there, done that. Now, take me home."

I basically said, "No, honey, you go entertain yourself for a while as we sit here and chat."

And, the wild rumpus began.  There was trotting, cantering, head tossing, pawing, an all out brat attack.  She was like a teenager playing heavy metal in their bedroom so that the parents have to hear their anger.  She knew she couldn't make me leave, but she was trying to send signals that she was very unhappy with my choices.

Rebecca threw her a bone.  She walked out and started to build obstacles for her.  Beautiful followed her around as she did this, as if she was so wishing she could use her hooves as hands and do the work for Rebecca.  

I can't say she every fully rested like we'd want to see, but there were moments of rest and they were rewarded by moving outside and walking around the property.  

The work we're doing right now may seem small, boring (hopefully), and, to some, pointless--but I beg to differ.  Every horse is unique, and recognizing what each individual horse needs in order to progress, is always a good thing.

When we were done in the indoor, I went around scooping up B's mess--she followed at my elbow every step of the way--thinking, wanting to do it for me, trying to figure out a way that she could.  I love that about her.  I love that she's a thinking and doing horse--a horse who loves rules and knowing what the rules are--then enforcing them.  

When her basic personality can be tempered with a little patience and trust in a new--human--herd, we will be well on the way to a wonderful trail partnership.


  1. The boredom training is very interesting. She does seem to want a job to do all the time to keep her mind and body going.

    1. Yep, I think resting too long makes her nervous. All my other horses appreciate a break, but her reward is more jobs or stimulation. I hope I'm up to the task of challenging her.

  2. She may be a little like Lostine who was great on the trails, but let her irritation and anger seethe inside her until she pitched a fit during arena work. I couldn't take lessons on her, because she'd attack the instructors. As soon as she got nasty with an instructor, I'd switch her out with a different horse for the next lesson so that I could focus on learning. She bucked a lot in the first few years I rode her. I always wondered if her first owner tried and failed at showing her in an arena. She was broodmare when I bought her, never ridden by her seller. Yet when a trainer rode her, she said she was polished and didn't need any training, so some previous owner to the previous owner had to be riding her. You definitely have to get creative with some horses.

    1. Rather than "Boredom training", I'm sure B sees it as "Boring Training"! :) Yes, you do have to get super creative to keep them interested. This should be very interesting. So, Lostine was a bucker? What did you do about that? I'm going to be super curious!

  3. funny- I think that is part of Carmen's issue too. She does not like to be bored.

    1. It's an interesting problem to have. Like Shirley, I'm not sure it's the one I would have chosen at my age, but I do believe things happen for a reason and I have always been drawn to B--as you are to C. We will need a lot of tenacity!

  4. Fascinating! I've never given Boredom Training much thought, other then horse tying. I am sure it's going to pay off in spades. Your trainer sounds great.

    1. It's a lot like tying. Same concept. :) Just teaching her to be comfortable in places away from the herd--and to rest. I think that's the aim of everything any of us do--trying to get that unity--that herd of two. I called it Boredom Training, but there is a probably a better word for it!

  5. That message is so timely, I can't even remember how many times I've read it in the last couple of weeks. Ray also used to tell us that, "the slower you go, the quicker you'll get there". Wisdom by truth. I agree whole-heartedly with going ever so slow. For me, this still remains the summer of no riding, or working with my horses. Unless you count, hosing them off and spraying them for flies - other than that, we just keep going through the motions. Too much excessive heat, smoke from wild fires north, south and now east of us, dry, dusty everything. This morning everything was coated in ash, as the winds head west through the gorge bringing all that smoke into our valley. It's bad. Praying for some rain and the end of summer. You sure don't hear this Oregon gal say that too often! But, it's unpleasant to just be outside at all, even in the shade. I worry about the horses, but we're doing all that we can do.

    1. It's so hot and smokey here, too. Awful! I can't work with the horses in this. Even taking them out, getting their adrenaline going in any way, is out of the question. They need to breathe as calmly as possible and keep from inhaling this stuff in. We were at the HAZARDOUS air quality levels last night and it was so horrible--I can't even describe how it hurt to breathe. Yes, slow is always better--and going back to the drawing board as we realize new personality truths about our horses.

  6. I think I'd almost rather have a lazy horse than a bored horse! Only because I am getting old though :0)
    That's pretty neat that you figured out what she needed. I bet she would eventually be a good horse for Cowboy Challenge- lots of thinking required for that.

    1. I'm with you on that. I hope I have what it takes to keep up with this one!

  7. Rebecca seems like a gold-plated Frainer.


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