Friday, August 26, 2011

Frustration in the Pasture, but Progress Under Saddle

Well, there's been a certain re-occuring trend happening the last couple of days....

And no, its not just a "cute" picture of the ponies running in the pasture. 
Witness more as I tried to catch him on Tuesday:

Yeah, ten minutes of this crap two days in a row was not ok by me. He already worked himself up into a sweat and huff, but his little booty got a serious session right there in the pasture as well. And too bad for him that he was tired, because he still got a regular riding session. Not my fault he decided to work himself twice. 

I was so frustrated that morning, I was literally in tears. Why has my horse decided that now, after four years of my ownership and always meeting me in the pasture, he has decided he should just blow me off and run amuck with Chica? I'm sure he has learned the behavior from seeing Chica do it to her owner, and I'm pretty positive that the bond they have now created makes him want to just spend his time with her. Either way, I am not at all happy about the situation and am truly at a loss for how I can correct it. 

On Wednesday, instead of running away, they trotted away. And on Thursday they walked away but I was able to grab ahold of Chica before she looked like she would escape again (thereby coaxing Milo to go along with her). But even with Chica in my holds, Milo walked away. He eventually got closer to Chica as I led her away, then I was able to snatch him by his fly mask and halter him up. 

What is the best way to correct this? I refuse to use food as a motivation to catch a horse, who, knows better. It is ridiculous and only a band-aid in my opinion. Do I work him after catching him as a disciplinary action,since normally if he would meet me there would be no extra working? Or might he associate then my catching him with additional work? I have no idea how he might interpret it. I guess the good news is that the antics were decreasing in magnitude as the week progressed. But I must say, I am nervous for Saturday when I need to catch him and load up for my early morning lesson. Will he make Boyfriend and I wait for god knows how long before I can catch him? Planning for ample time will have to be done, but I am so frustrated by this whole situation. It is wrong to have to plan around a stubborn and disrespectful horse. 

With that out of my system now (and please, if you have advice, give it), I have to say that our other work together has been going great. I have been working much more on the off side (but have been forgetting to lead from the off side when catching and putting him away...just off side work on the longe. But I will work on it more!), and have seen improvement on his way of going since then - much less diving to the right (even under saddle now, interesting how addressing something on the ground can help under saddle), and he is much more comfortable taking line and expanding the radius of the circle. 

With the ground work going well, the under saddle work has too. Great trot work, loping is coming back along one handed, and he felt so well on Thursday (and the arena was clear) I was tempted to work on lead changes. So I did. An interesting thing happened: instead of difficulty changing from left to right (finding the the left seat bone), this time that was the easy change (and easy it really was, much more smooth than we have ever had a lead change before) and changing from right to left (finding the right seat bone) was an extreme challenge and both times I only got a change on the front. What is going on there? I wasnt able to figure it out but I'm hoping Sarah can address it at the lesson this weekend. I even pushed the envelope a little and from one lead change I asked for another without counter canter work in between after only the length of one side of the arena. And Milo changed (this was from left to right, btw)! Maybe we will try lead changes at the horse show next weekend? Maybe it would be a good challenge for us....


Anonymous said...

Having trouble catching a horse can be really frustrating. I expect he thinks it's a good game, really.

I don't do the make the horse work harder thing to catch a hard to catch horse - that just ups the energy level when I'd like it to go down. I use the "cut 'em off at the pass" method, which usually works although it can take some time the first couple times you use it. After the first few times the horse usually gives up on trying to get away.

It's easy to do, too - as the horse heads away, just walk to the point the horse is heading to, keeping your body language very quiet and keeping to a walk - if you're upset the horse is likely to pick up speed. As the horse turns in different directions, adjust your path to the new destinations. Eventually you and the horse will end up at a point near one another and the horse will usually stop moving.

With a horse with a confirmed habit, this will take a while, particularly if the pasture is large. The objective is to slowly, calmly convince the horse that he's going to be caught eventually every single time, and that you're smart enough to anticipate where he is going and go there too and that nothing bad will happen when he is caught - and in fact he's going to be praised when you do catch him - that's why staying calm and not getting angry are very important. If you're angry when you catch the horse, why would he want to be caught? His running away and your emotions can be self-reinforcing.

Good luck!

Cedar View Paint Horses said...

Gosh, I almost feel guilty laughing, but those lil' f-ers are funny!

I've been there, done that.

Treats. They work. Nothing ridiculous about em.

Sand. said...

I've done Kate's method (heck, used it twice yesterday on the boarder's horses!), and must say, the KEY is being calm and slow on the cut-off. Otherwise you get running/kicking/bucking going on. Make the whole running away 'boring' and pointless. It works, but like she said, it's a bit of a slow process and takes a lot of patience!

in2paints said...

I feel your pain, girl. There isn't anything I hate more than a horse I can't catch in the pasture. The problem is always made so much worse when there is a second horse involved. After watching the video, I think it's pretty clear that Milo is just along for the ride and he's really just avoiding you because of Chica. Still no excuse, though...

I went through this once with Lilly so I know how difficult it is to stay calm... it makes your blood boil (at least it did mine). I didn't use food to fix it either because I'll be darned if she's going to get food for being a brat. What worked for me was something similar to what Kate suggested but I wasn't nearly as nice about it, and I took a whip with me so I would have an easier time communicating with her exactly what was going to happen.

When Lilly saw me coming, she would turn around and head to the far corner of the pasture and then when I got close she would take off. My fix was tiring because I did a lot of running, but here's what I did. When she took off, I would run after her, anticipate where she was going to go in the pasture, and I'd make sure to beat her to that spot. Then I would use the whip to encourage her to change directions before she got there, and we would repeat as necessary all over the pasture for as long as it took until she stopped running. My philosophy was, if she's going to run from me, she's going to run at my pace and go in the direction I tell her to. I wanted to be in control, and I would also work to separate her from her buddy because it isn't as much fun that way. With large pastures it's a bit of a challenge, but anticipating where they want to go is key to cutting down on your own run time.

I did make sure that once I caught her, I didn't work her. I didn't catch her and then make her do circles or even correct her at all with the halter and lead rope. I wanted it to be more work to run from me than to just surrender and come to me. Once she was caught, we would just go do something fun... like grazing or grooming or something I knew she would enjoy. No riding or work... it seemed to me that Lilly was equating me to work, so some days I would just catch her and do something fun, then put her back into the pasture. That might not be why Milo is running, but maybe it'll help him want to be with you instead of Chica.

I hope you're able to get through to Milo and he's back to his old self again. :)