Friday, January 11, 2013

back in English tack

I wanted to wait to do another post until we had another breakthrough ride, but after two fairly questionable rides I am not sure when that will happen! Such is normal when you have a hot horse who hates the cold, and boy I cannot wait til winter Lucy goes back into hibernation.

On Wednesday I hoped we would have as fun a ride as Tuesday, but Lucy was hot and bothered and quite naughty. I did canter her around a bit, which was met at first with many protests but I persevered with Maddy cheering me on and saying "sit back!" and I finally got her to cooperate. That was all in the Western saddle and rope halter.

I really did not like my horse at all during that ride.

That night I went home and got myself all convinced that next time I asked her to canter and she rooted around, I would take a crop and give her a nice convincing whack neatly behind my leg. I envisioned her being quite shocked, probably throwing a buck, but then saying "hmm, maybe I will cooperate". I was ready and even came up with a little rhyme to get myself motivated, which I will not share here because it has a lot of foul language :D

Then on Thursday I got to the barn, tacked her up in her English tack but left her bridle off because I planned to work with her on the ground first, took her over to the indoor, and discovered that another boarder's lesson was about to start. Not only could I not lunge her like I had wanted to or do much with her on the ground, but she now had to behave while someone else jumped around in the indoor while we were in there. Normally this wouldn't be a problem - we've been in the ring many times while someone else is riding/jumping/lessoning, but given her behaviour the day before, I was very worried that she would be bad.

We had just enough time for a quick lunge and then the other horse came in the ring (which she spooked at, just to give you an idea of where her brain was at), so I had to either suck it up and get on, or go back to the barn and wait out the lesson. I decided to put my big girl pants on and get on and see how many brain cells I had to work with. She started out jumpy and stupid so I put her straight to work, shoulder in, haunches in, bending circles, etc. She accepted my aids very nicely and I thought hey, maybe we'll have a good ride! When the person taking the lesson was doing something complicated (flying changes across the diagonal or jumping), I brought Lucy into the middle of the ring where we would be out of the way and made her wait patiently. Then when the lesson student took a walking break to have a chat with the instructor, I put Lucy back to work. She tends to think that after she's been allowed a long rein for any length of time, or stood in the middle, she should be done. If I ask her to go back to work, she pins her ears and acts like an ass for a few minutes before resigning herself to work. Last night she started pulling that crap but I didn't put up with any of it and very quickly she realised it wasn't going to get her anywhere. The first time, she kicked out at my leg and I whacked her with my crop that I had bravely envisioned using liberally but in practice, I realised I would probably die if I actually hit her with it while trying to canter. She was so taken by surprise that she kind of startled a bit as her head went up like, "UM WTF WAS THAT???!" but went forward as I asked, and without any theatrics. By the second time she had gotten a break standing in the middle and then was put back to work, she just got to it without any protests. This was very good :)

She didn't have a problem with the horse in the lesson jumping the jumps we were standing next to, or cantering around. I was happy about that since I could just envision an explosion when the other horse came up behind her to jump down the long side. Nope, not a peep from her!

She was doing so well by the end of it, offering a round (but slightly tense) trot and putting forth a very reasonable effort. At one point I was like, wow this is going surprisingly well and I should stop now before it falls apart!

Two strides later, we were coming down the long side as the instructor went to adjust the height of a jump. Lucy was trotting nicely when she got to the jump being adjusted and absolutely lost her shit, throwing a tantrum where all four legs were kind of running in place (yet she wasn't going was like a piaffe from hell), with a lot of embarrassing farting and even a little squeal if I remember correctly. I kind of just sat there, my hands forward and my leg on, waited for her to get over herself, and when she was finished we continued trotting on as the instructor picked her jaw up off the ground. Yeah, my horse is speshul. The girl taking a lessons' mom was there watching as all this went on and she remarked, "you have a lot of patience".

Anyway, we got to the end of the ring and I really DID finish the ride before anything else happened!

Moral of the story: if you think you should finish the ride, FINISH IT!

At this point I am trying to decide if this is really the Lucy that I am going to have to deal with every winter. Would she be better at a barn with massive amounts of turnout? I really would hate to leave my barn - I am very happy there, the barn owner rocks, I love my fellow boarders and overall it's the best boarding situation I have had so far. The turnout is so small, though. Would she be happier if she could have some space to zoom around, stretch out, continuously move? This year she will turn 7 - the age I've heard so many people say that TB's calm down. Will she magically take a deep breath and chill out on January 24th? Or will she still be a nutter in the cold weather next year?

Not really sure.

There are a few boarding options, none as convenient for me as the one she's in now, which is a quarter mile from my house. One is about 45 minutes away but she could be boarded outside with a run-in in a large grass paddock, big enough for her to stretch out if she needed to. I think a lot of her soreness issues would resolve themselves if she was able to move around and not be stalled at all. I also think her princess complex might take a hit if she had to rough it outside. That is a reasonably priced option as she'd be on pasture board and my costs would be about the same as they are now, BUT is it worth risking another disastrous boarding situation? The farm in question is a beautiful farm that needs some major help in terms of footing and fencing, as it has been neglected in recent years by the owner. My current barn has awesome footing both inside and outside.

So I am trying to decide if it is worth the risk to give up my spot at my barn to try a different turnout situation, or if I just need to tough it out for another couple months until it warms up and summer Lucy returns.


  1. Unless you thought the turn out would be a miracle for Lucy I wouldn't do it. Questionable footing would be scary for me. Hopefully winter Lucy will go back into hibernation. 45 min is a long drive rep if she is currently literally right down the road- but ultimately you know your horse best... I probably would stick it out and you can always reevaluate next year if its an issue?

  2. I second Hillary. Boarding situations where the owner has let things go are not even remotely workable, because they don't ever catch up...they just continue to let things go, no matter how good the intentions. Plus, just because she has more space to move around doesn't necessarily mean she'll use it enough to put winter Lucy into hibernation during the winter.

    Can you clone Lauren and get another half-leaser?

  3. So tricky. Has she been better in the past with more turnout during winter? If yes, it might be woth it, but yeah, BOs aren't going to change.

    A thought: I moved my mare to a place with incredible turnout and great facilities. I structured her entire routine to ensure her maximum happiness. I did everything the way she wanted it.

    She was calmer some of the time, but the explosiveness was still there. The attitude. She was who she was. Turnout and supps and training can maybe augment the issue, but you aren't going to change who she is. Either you learn to get along or you figure something out.

    So I'm not saying don't try it. I'm just saying it isn't magic and you shouldn't beat yourself up over it. Good luck!

  4. Such a hard decision. I'm an avid fan of 24/7 turnout for Laz BUT in all honestly, he has 6 acres with two others and in the winter, (100% seen in the snow tracks) they use about 1/20th of the space. They just don't move!! They can if they want, and maybe that's the mental idea?? I do think, if you are happy there, stay and just do more and more ground work (even outside, is that possible?? in arena?) before riding inside. I know, time issues can hinder that.

  5. I have an 8yr old TB that used to have a horrible rearing problem no matter how much groundwork/training I put into him. I recently moved him to a barn with acres of turnout and he is a completely different horse. He has not reared once, and now he's lazy! Something he's never been. For us, changing barns was like magic. I moved him an hour from my house though... But the barn has the great turnout, huge indoor, full jump course, outdoor, miles of trails, and an awesome barn manager. I could never move him anywhere else!
    But you really need to do what works for you! I could never give up good footing just for more turnout. Think of all the possible tripping/pulled shoes-- injuries!

    1. My Charlie (yes, the Charlie Kate has been writing about) is having a big rearing issue right now that I NEVER saw or knew about before I moved him to New England. He was sold to me as a "lazy quiet non-TB TB who requires spurs." Right. I have been thinking a lack of good turnout is mostly at fault but I chose this barn over the other one (which had GORGEOUS turnout but no indoor) because I wanted to have somewhere indoors to work over the winter. After reading your comment am even more inclining to move in the spring to someplace where he could really stretch his legs (or at least have the option of doing so). I'm really beginning to think it might be a better option in the long run.

  6. I'm a fan of turnout as much as possible. Mine are turned out on 3 acres... There are two of them, so they work out each others' energy. Maybe she needs to be turned out in a bigger pasture with another horse so they can play and be stupid turned out and calm to ride? It doesn't always work like that, but as much as I've seen, horses are herd animals... When it comes to turnout, they like to be in groups and are usually happier like that. I don't know if Lucy is turned out with other horses or not, but its something to consider. Also, if she is turned out with other horses, consider the pecking order: is she happy? Just suggestions, I hope this helps!

  7. I'm a firm believer in turnout too, but while I think that bigger turnout is always better, horses are usually pretty good at making the best of the space they have. My horse was recently turned out in a different pasture from his normal one, and the new one is ridiculously small. But apparently, he still managed to fly around bucking and galloping at top speed and nearly taking out the other horses in his way. I think I agree with others that bad footing and a neglectful owner makes the other barn an iffy situation.

  8. I have no help or insight to offer you, but admire your gumption for sticking with her and sitting all that. I tend to turn into a puddle of fear when my horse acts up, and I admire those who don't!

  9. My OTTB disliked the winter as well and would do similar things, although he was a gelding. Regardless, he did better when he had a bigger paddock and a run in, etc. However, I would wait it out....she may get better and/or convienence is a huge factor...especially for you and her. Winter is almost 1/2 over.

  10. More turnout would be great, but bad fencing is an accident waiting to happen, especially for a lively horse like Lucy.

  11. Yankee chilled out around 7, so maybe that holds true. My favorite part was the "whack my horse neatly". loled.

    anyways, I find OTTBs do better with larger turnouts. Maybe that will help>?

  12. My mare can sometimes be the winer mare from hell, and I do think the extra turnout helps her, but only for a short period of time. Eventually she gets fed up with winter and her inner demon returns making it impossible to do anything productive with another horse around. To each is own I suppose, but that's just been my experience.

    In my opinion I would stay where you are. Being at a barn where you are genuinely happy is a rare and wonderful thing. Plus, as someone paranoid about footing, I'd say stay where you know you can rely on it being safe and high quality. Again, that's just my opinion.

  13. What a bummer. More turnout would definitely be good but not if the cost is less care etc. I would consider some other factors, perhaps feed, training, etc? Thoroughbreds are hot for sure especially in the winter but she also sounds like maybe she is truly having some melt downs.

  14. Piaffe from hell made me lol.

    You poor thing. I don't know how I would handle Lucy's meltdowns.

    I'm with everyone else. More turnout good but not at the expense of footing and poorer fencing.

  15. I also am an avid believer of more turnout the better, with a stall for bad weather and when winter temps drop. But all horses are different with how much is actually needed. The amount of space, the amount of time outside, the turnout buddy, supplements, a trainer, an exercise program. Its all the little things added together that can make the difference. Just providing more turnout might work, but you also might want to look into help from a horse trainer. Not an instructor but someone who works directly with the horse. Just like how Maddie helped with groundwork and personal space. Maybe someone who has dealt with horses that blow up on occasion.
    We had a horse come to our barn last year, who was only given like 6 hours of turnout, and it was in a small dirt paddock. She was wired, hot, and didn't respect your space. Was a handful to ride. After getting adequate turnout and some training with the barns horse trainer, she did a complete 180. But her owner will have to stay on top of it, and cant let her take advantage anymore. Now that wont work for every horse. But maybe a little bit of everything is needed at once. Not just trying one thing, then trying another, and another.
    If you have time and are interested, you should make an appointment to come see the barn where I am. We have the turnout, the trainer, and plenty of people willing to offer help.

  16. Never commented on a blog before, so it wouldnt let me put in my name only my screenname from aol. This is Candace just in case you were wondering.


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