Tuesday, May 2, 2023

I Might Be Crazy

Yesterday I had a lesson with my trainer, and we rode the trails together. My goal was to work on going up and down hills with Tumbleweed, working on his speed, and stopping to rest midway up and down the hills.

I warmed him up on the obstacles, the arena, and short trails before she arrived because he had been left alone for five days, due to us having company in town. Everything was going pretty well, except a big spook for a deer in the woods. 

Rebecca arrived and we stood together letting the horses rest near one another. Everything was still good. Then we took off down the trails, and besides his goofiness riding with another horse he didn't know, he was still listening and trying.

But when we circled around to a hill we'd already done, Tumbleweed decided he was done. He started shaking his head, which we first assumed was a swarm of bugs (it might have started that way) but then it quickly progressed to jumping up in front and trying to race back to the trailhead, which he knows we were pointed towards.

I dismounted and worked him there on the trail. Mounted again. Same thing. It went on like that getting bigger and bigger, rather than smaller and smaller. Basically, I was dealing with two issues, maybe three: 

1. Barn sour (trailer sour)

2. A 2 hour work ethic

3. A coming electrical storm which had all the horses on edge

No matter, the same solution.

I was glad to have Rebecca there. She thought it was important I ride him out, rather than walk him out (which I was tempted to do). She told me to calm down, find my seat again, and direct him with my legs and seat, very little reins, and let him get right up on her horse's butt. 

We did that, but he was still worked up and pissed off, and he took a bite at her horse. I corrected him. Rebecca explained that it was normal, and that he was just taking out his anger on that horse, who was now the bad guy, rather than me. 

We rode like that until we got into a clearing, and then Tweed relaxed and rode further away from that horse on a loose rein.

When we arrived back at the trailhead, I released Tweed into the roundpen because I was going to work him (a new strategy: rest him on the trails, work him at the trail head). Well, he went ripping around bucking and snorting. Rebecca and I looked on, amazed. All that frustration and anger and anxiety was in him that whole time, yet he'd somewhat kept it together. 

This was not the worst of it, because it's about ten minutes later, but it gives you a little taste.

I worked him, then returned to the trailer, where he pawed and eventually pulled back really hard. I was watching the whole thing from my chair in the shade, and called my husband to bring me down a stiff drink to calm my nerves!!

I was in the waiting it out game, and I HAD TO WIN!!

I had arrived that day at 11, got back from the trail ride at 2:30, and left the park at 6:30, but I had, indeed, won.

Tweed had relaxed, his sweat had completely dried, and I took him through the obstacle course. Obstacles he usually balked on, he walked over without hesitation. Something had clicked, and he knew he had to submit in order to get home.

When I got home, I let him free in the pasture, and he ran like a banshee to mama Foxy to tell on me. Later, we ran them back in, and I saw him near the fence mutual grooming with Beautiful Girl. He stopped what he was doing, and he turned toward me as I walked by, and just stared like he had a new respect.

Damn right.


Fast forward to today. Would Tumbleweed let me catch him? 

Yes. He doesn't have to like it, but he does need to respect it. He stood for me to halter him.

Out on the trails today, he made a liar out of me. I ran into several of my friends down there, and I told them about what happened yesterday. Then they watched me working with him--the new plan--work him hard at the trail head and arena, and rest him out on the trail in the trees, and he did everything perfect and quite beautifully. They were ooohing and awwwing over him, and two of them even said that he'd make a gorgeous dressage horse!

One of my friends yelled at me, "You're a liar!!" Then laughed. I shouted back, "Yes, I'm a big fat liar!!"

Here are photos of us resting in several spots along the trail and in the woods.

We have a long way to go, but I am reminded that there are no shortcuts. I'm thankful that I had the time to spend yesterday to win the fight. I spent a lot of time alone (because my husband thought it was boring and abandoned me) and everyone at the park went home and left us there. But I won. Tumbleweed is a smart horse, and he knows exactly what that means : If I ever want to go home, I better do what this crazy lady wants!


  1. You are both brave and very very patient Linda!! Way more than I would have been. You worked through the issues that presented themselves, and did amazing. I am so glad things ended well, and the Tweed that showed up the next ride was such a good boy. No doubt he remembered his lessons from the day before. You ride and work with your horses so often, he will come around fast(er) every time you peel back another layer.

    1. Thank you, Aurora. I am probably more stubborn than crazy ! It does take a lot of time to do this right. Before it happened, I was telling Rebecca that my instinct is that what Tweed and I need is to ride off together for an entire day somewhere, camp out at night, and ride the entire next day. We need days, not hours. She told me that they sent their 4 year old off to a training ranch nearby that works the horses all day. She dropped him off for 2 months. Her clients asked her why, since she is also a trainer, and she said it’s because she has a job and other horses, and can’t give him 8 hour days.

      So, I’m trying to approximate that by spending as much time in the saddle with him per day as possible, until he develops a better work ethic. And also mix it up so that he never knows when he’s done.

    2. Another thought : when getting back to work each year, I remember there always being a point after the 3rd or 4th ride where something blows up. I think it’s a realization that they’re going back to work, and they have a meltdown. Get over it. And come to an acceptance.

    3. Agreed. Our horses got a lot out of our trail trips up north. We did too and spent most of our time with the them. Not just in the saddle, campfire time etc. Here at home there are endless things competing for our time. Sadly, now we ride much less.

      Interesting about the 3rd or 4th ride blow ups. Our struggles usually happen day one, and sometimes again (much later rides) often for unknown reasons. Probably the monsters in the woods *^*

  2. Well I hope that was the last baby pout he will have! Well done dealing with it.
    Having Rebecca there sure was a bonus!
    Getting to their minds is much harder than training their bodies. And sometimes our own minds/emotions/preferences/expectations get in the way.

    1. Yes, getting their minds, the partnership, especially after leaving him alone all winter, since November, does not occur overnight. He wants to be with his buddies in the pasture, and this work thing is inconvenient. Haha.

      We went back again today and he was less good than yesterday, but better than the day before. We were able to trot and lope circles, open and close gates, ride through obstacles, and even stand parked in the car wash, and go on a short ride with a few steep downhills to work on. We ran into a deer and some horses behind a fence that really got him amped, but I worked him slowly through those things on the ground.

      There wasn’t any snorting and bucking. We will get there. I probably won’t do a long ride until I feel softness and relaxation in the rides we’re doing around the equestrian area. It gives many, many types of hills, trails, wildlife, etc.

  3. Your patience (and stubbornness) seems to have worked! They're always going to test us and as long as they figure out they're not getting away with their antics eventually it will work in our favor...and theirs too in the long run.

    1. It will take more stubborn days on my part, and probably there will be many more tests from Tweed. But that’s what this is all about. I like to be safe, too, so I’m extra diligent. I have too many friends who went too fast and got hurt. No rush!

  4. This is so interesting to me. I see similarities to Quaid. He will shake his head too and express his feelings.

    1. Is that just on the ground? Rebecca’s suggestion to go forward with seat and legs, loose rein, really helped me. Seems counterintuitive though. Forward, forward. But controlling speed, without being on those reins, is tricky. If I feel unsafe, I have no problem jumping off and working from the ground. Luckily, it’s easy for me to get on and off.

    2. Yes just on the ground. He has t been saddled yet


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