Monday, November 1, 2010

A Little More on Behavior.............

Part 1

Yesterday was not the first time that I've had problems with the Arabian horse's behavior since he was returned to me. While I've not been surprised by any of this behaviors, I find them frustrating. Knowing what the horse is capable of being and what he actually is seems like such a waste. I just don't understand why anyone would allow a stallion to go backwards like that.

I guess it comes down to not knowing what's appropriate behavior in the first place. A horse's innate nature is to take advantage if they can. Their hardwired to lead if not being led and many people don't understand exactly what that means. Little annoyances are not something to be dismissed because to the horse it means the door is open for them to move up the pecking order and that's the last thing you want with any horse, let alone a stallion.

The dangerous part about it is that door may not mean to the person what it does to the horse. I always worry about that one hole in training I haven't closed because I know it means the horse believes it's in charge and it can and will take over at the least convenient times. The fact the hole even exists may not be noticeable until the horse acts upon it but when it does, it scares the beejezzes out of me.

I've been aware of the hole in Storm's training from the day he got off the horse trailer here. The first thing he did was rear, scream and paw the air announcing his arrival and ignoring me. The horse may have responded easily to my voice but I knew this was not the last I'd see of this take charge Storm.

In the beginning just taking the horse into the barn, he would try to drag me to the stalls of the other stallions. Bowing up, screaming and looking to strike, Storm wanted a confrontation with any horse within his path. He responded reasonably to discipline but is always looking for an opening to take on those other boys. I have always must remind him when we leave his stall or enter the barn that we're going through there on my terms.

This particular behavior didn't surprise me after what he'd done getting off the trailer. I'd seen this kind of behavior back in the days his testosterone really started to flow. I knew it wouldn't take long to manage it but I also wondered what other behaviors were in there lurking.

I am cautious swapping horses around in the horse trailer when I'm over at the park. Even though Storm learned all this stuff before, it was clear right from the start I couldn't count of him remembering. It's just not safe to take for granted the horse knows what to do and will do what is expected. I keep Legs and Tag as far away from Storm as possible while he's relearning the ropes.

The first couple of days at the park, Storm didn't stand quietly to be groomed and tacked up. Instead he moved around paying little if any attention to where I might be. The horse was so interested in taking in his new surroundings he forgot his manners. Bumping into me and even pawing, the horse got scolded repeatedly. Storm immediately moved away from me but just as quickly went back to what he was doing. He also nipped at me a few times trying to get my attention. Dealing with him was stressful to say the least.

I was worried about how he would behave with me on this back. Just because the first ride had gone OK didn't mean the second one would. When that ride went OK I hoped I was worrying for nothing but I soon found out I had been right to be concerned.

By my fourth ride as I started to ask more of the horse, I began to run into resistance. First there was a little shaking of the head. When that didn't work, Storm even stomped his front feet striking at the ground with a fierceness that worried me. I had seen this red headed temper when he was younger but never had I seen it while riding him.

It was when I asked the horse to lope that I got the surprise of my life. At first the horse didn't even try to lope so I asked him again. When he didn't respond then I quickly popped him with my bat. Storm spun himself around in a circle and threw himself towards the rail all the while shaking his head trying to jerk the reins free.

Now it's not like I have such a hold of him that the horse isn't getting any relief. I am always on top of rewarding appropriate behavior. Even when things are blowing up I know to find points of release so the horse can find it's way to the desired behavior. Storm was just having none of it. He was throwing a full blown temper tantrum because he just didn't want to do what I asked.

This kind of behavior is typical for a horse that is not used to being asked to do difficult things. Once they've been ridden for a while and always given the easy way out, they come to believe that they only have to do what is easy and they are used to people backing down because of fear.

Believe me, I certainly had fear over this behavior. Only thing with me is I am not one to run from fear, more likely I'll dig in my heels and get what I'm after. That has certainly been the case with Storm but I know there are still battles to go. It's going to take more than a couple of months to fix what has been created over that two year period.

In this particular situation, I had to pull the horse around the opposite direction to even get him to pay attention to me. Once I had that done, I moved him forward again and tried again to lope. The second attempt at the lope brought the same result and Storm and I tustled again.

This time I had to get more physical with the horse. He threatened to rear as I tried turning him the opposite direction. I kicked him hard with both legs and slapped him on the b*tt with my reins. The horse squirted forward and loped off and that was the end of his protests for that day anyway.

I have to say that I feel sorry for this horse. When he did finally give up, he had the most confused look on his face. It was pretty clear that Storm just doesn't understand what's going on. I don't think he really wants to be bad. He just thinks its ok for him to take over when things get tough. I know he will relearn otherwise but in the meantime it makes life stressful for both of us.

To be continued..............


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  1. Nuts, they have let him run the show haven't they! Dangerous thing to do with any smart horse especially a stallion! Sounds like you have him well in hand so far , but it's really too bad you are having to re teach manners and behavior that I suspect you handled once already when he wa s baby!

  2. I feel for ya. I sure sure don't envy you having to deal with multiple stallions. I know a person gets used to it and that the rest of your bunch is very well mannered, but having one like Storm will certainly keep you on your toes. Be careful!

  3. fern, yes I think he got away with things and it didn't help that he wasn't asked to work to his potential. Poor guy, I feel sorry for him. He's in trouble and it's not really his fault. He had been taught much better manners than this.

    BECG, Most of the time you can't tell they are stallions because they really do try hard to be good. If that wasn't the case, they'd be geldings by now. As for Storm, his ground manners are coming around quickly and I think his manners under saddle will too. It's just the riding part is intermitent due to the yucky weather and that slows things down. I know down the road he'll be amazing so it makes the journey worth it for now but you're right, I'll stay on my toes and be careful in the meantime.

  4. I have been guilty in the past of allowing my fears to get the better of me while riding a naughty horse. In the end, it backfired on us both. I'm glad you stuck to your guns and made Storm behave; I hope that future rides are much smoother for you two.

  5. WOW, you are amazing, you have so much determination and courage! I must admit, looking at the photos of Storm, I think he is well worth all the effort you are putting in on him, but his behavious is still scary! Good Luck, and stay alert!!

  6. Best wishes and be careful!! It's such a shame they let him get the upper hand and now you have to deal with his attitude. I'm sure he'll come around soon with your super training skills though.

  7. youknow, if you're thinking sport horse and hunter, why not geld him? It sounds like he wasn't primarily western pleasure anyway, and not many people are into a stallion in the hunt and sport disciplines....

    it would certainly make him more marketable in those disciplines. Especially if he calms down and becomes kid trustworthy.

  8. JJ, Fortunately I know this horse doesn't really have it in him to be mean. That makes it easier for me to deal with this current stuff because I know with a little consistency he will give up and go back to the easy going cooperative horse he used to be.

    AAL, you're right about this horse being worth it. If he wasn't I wouldn't even mess with it. I'd geld him and be done.

    FV, thanks for the vote of confidence. I figure it won't take much but not so much because of my skills but because at heart he really wants to be good. It will just take him understanding that this behavior will get him into trouble.

    BaxtersMum, hunter was just my thinking to get him in the ring next year if he wasn't ready for western BUT I believe this horse is the epitome of what a western horse should be. I really hope I get to show him in that discipline.

    I expect the current situation will be short lived and the horse will come out the other side as reliable as his father.

    In actuality I planned to geld this horse when he was two but I had someone whose opinion I respect very much talk me out of it. Since she is a person who believes most colts should be gelded, her opinion carried a lot of weight in my decision. Her opinion hasn't changed and we've discussed the current situation. She believes the horse will come around as quickly as I do. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.