Friday, June 17, 2011

The Rehabilitation of Storm......... Unexpected Behavior on the Trails........

Part 1

As I continued on in my struggles with Storm and the canter I still continued with a session on the trails after our ride. Mostly that was to continue building on that foundation of correct movement that hill work pretty much guaranteed but I also wanted to get the Arabian horse really comfortable on the trails.

It was on one of those rides that Storm manifested more bad behavior. While we were not cantering, much of his behavior very much mirrored what I was dealing with during canter work. Having this outburst for a frame of reference really made it look like Storm's behavior really was about not getting his way.

We were out on the trail at the north side of the park where the little farm is that has horses. The barn sits back a ways from the fence and there are paddocks coming off of each horse's stall so most of the time we see the three horses each in its own paddock up near the barn. The paddock closest to the park is the biggest and actually comes up close to the fence line but I rarely see a horse there.

Most every time we've gone on that trail, which would usually be each ride, Storm has seen those horses from a distance. The very first time the horse actually got himself into a little bit of trouble talking to them but I don't consider that to be anything unusual. Other than that, I had had no further issues that would indicate that Storm would be naughty because of the presence of those horses.

It's not like Storm has never been anywhere where he might encounter strange horses. I showed him in halter once at the fairgrounds in Puyallup and they took him to a horse show in Oregon for schooling that first year. Neither time did Storm exhibit any inappropriate behavior around strange horses. There was nothing to tell me Storm might pull some unusual stunt in the proximity of unknown horses but that's exactly what he did.

We came up a small rise right into the fence line of that farm and one of those horses was standing right next to the fence. The minute Storm saw the other horse, he squealed a huge stallion hello and actually struck at the ground as he tried to dive towards the fence. I pulled him around and spanked him. That's when the horse went into a full blown fit shaking his head at me, squealing and trying to dump me.

I've been dumped by horses a number of times but only once have I felt like the horse was really trying to dump me. That was back when I first started Dandy under saddle and I pushed the horse too far. I knew if that horse ever decided to dump me I was toast and I also knew the day I did it, I had crossed that line. Just as there was no doubt that day that Dandy had had enough of me, there was no doubt in my mind on this day that Storm was just as determined as Dandy had been to rid himself of me.

Luckily for me Storm is not as athletic or talented as Dandy was as a youngster. As much as Storm wanted to be rid of me he was not capable of bucking to the heavens with his head on my knee. While the horse did manage to get me off balance he was not able to sustain the kind of assault to get me on the ground. Instead I managed to change up the direction I was pulling him rapidly back and forth getting him off balance enough that I could get the opportunity to fix my position in the saddle.

Once I was again balanced myself I was able to get Storm turned with his back to the horse at the fence and then really spank Storm in a manner appropriate for the offense he levied on me. To be honest even though I think I was pretty tough on Storm, I don't think he was the least bit intimidated by my corrections. I'm pretty sure all he could think of was that loose horse on the other side of the fence and he had some claim to make.

It was pretty clear to me that I was still sitting on a firecracker capable of exploding again. There really wasn't much room with all the underbrush around to be having this kind of battle with a horse. About the only thing I really could do was keep Storm turned away from the horse but I sure didn't have the room to safely prove to him that I could make him work in the presence of that horse.

I must admit this is the most intimidating situation I have encountered on a horse in my life. I've had plenty of times the adrenaline pumped while I reacted and the fear really settled in afterwards and I've even been seriously hurt a couple of times but nothing felt quite like this. Being on a stallion that has the breeding instinct on it's mind and no belief he should listen is probably the most dangerous situation I can think of and that's certainly what I felt like with Storm.

I have ridden Legs when he's thinking things he shouldn't but I always know he is listening to me. Storm's thoughts at seeing that horse were probably no different than Legs' under the same circumstances but Storm was NOT listening to me and didn't think he had to. That's not a feeling I'm going to forget anytime soon.

All of these things flashed through my mind as I tried to figure out the best course of action. I knew this situation really needed to be addressed but safety really was my first concern. Knowing there was nothing safe about this situation for either one of us, I headed Storm back down the trail we had just arrived on knowing that I could count on him to leave because I'd asked.

That is one of those things about Storm that makes this whole journey worth it to me. He may have some things mixed up in his head right now about who is in charge when and how BUT when all is said in done he IS really trying to do the right thing. Being in that situation he may have believed he knew what was right, but I knew I could tell him it was time to leave and he would believe me and go just as I asked.

AND that's exactly what Storm did. I knew he didn't want to leave. I could feel it in his entire body but he left because I asked him to and I didn't have another problem with him on the trail that day.

I have taken the horse back on the trails since then but I have been very careful about getting anywhere near that farm. Until I know I have this thing worked out in Storm's head, I'm not going to put either of us in that situation again.

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

This is Faye with her filly, Echo at her side. This was the year the twins were born and Echo, along with the other Legs' babies, kind of got lost in the shuffle. There are not too many baby pics from that year except for those of the twins.

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  1. I think this horse is well named. Good on you for sticking it out and handling a potentially dangerous situation so that both you and your horse came out of it well.

  2. Yikes! sounds like the makings of a real wreck! Glad you got him under control safley and out of there

  3. Glad to hear you weren't hurt, that was a pretty dangerous situation to be in. Good that he actually listened and left when you needed him to though.

  4. Shirley, boy, you're right about the name. The trainer I worked for when I first got started in horses used to say "be careful what you name them, they might just live up to it." I thought about her saying when Dave and Lindsay named this colt but he was theirs to name so Storm it was. I think about it sometimes when he's storming. Hopefully we're going to get through all this stuff and these things will be gone.

    fern, me too. There was a moment there when I wondered though.

    Arlene, it really was but I just didn't imagine such a thing would happen. I'm sure glad he listened too but I still feel unnerved when I think about that day.

  5. Wow scary, glad he listened when you sked him to leave though.

  6. I'm glad you got him back under control. Things could have been really bad.

    It always seems like after so many good rides that green horses just have blow up moments where they overload on being good, or something? I'm sure you'll get it all worked out.

  7. With all due respect, I just keep wondering why he is still a stallion? He has only been shown locally a few times. He has a terrible mish-mash of training on him that will take possibly years to fix. I just don't see the redeeming value in keeping him a stallion. Personally, I don't care how nice a horse is (breeding, conformation, etc) if they aren't proven in their sport, they shouldn't be breeding. Breeding should be an earned achievement.

  8. Dom, it most certainly was.

    Crystal, me too.

    Fantastyk Voyager, I think we'll get it all worked out too and you're so right, some of this behavior is very much green horse kind of stuff.

    Heather, I have stated before why this horse is a stallion. When I made the decision to keep this horse a stallion it was based on his merit as an individual. Of course that included his potential as well as his quality in both phenotype and genotype. It was not a decision I made lightly.

    As I see it, I made a commitment to the horse at that time. Then I put the horse into two separate situations that put him at risk. While those may have been honest mistakes on my part, they were still mistakes that caused harm to the horse. Now I believe it is up to me to fix it.

    Being the most closed gene pool of all the horse breeds, the Arabian horse is more susceptible to genetic anomalies. Because of that it is important to keep that gene pool as varied as it can be to keep the breed healthy and ensure its continuation for centuries to come. Discarding suitable stallions because they do not have the show record you desire could be disastrous.

    There are many lovely stallions that have not shown or that have only limited showing that have gone on to be remarkable horses in the breeding shed. Look at Out of Cyte who was injured as a yearling. Had his owners believed as you do, the horse would have been a gelding. Because they believed in him he has sired many champions including national champion get and surely is considered to be a sire of significance for the breed.

    I mention the sire of significance because it is probably a measure that will make sense to you. However, the lessor known stallions that are quality individuals that have contributed valuable variations to the gene pool are every bit as important to the breed as Out of Cyte.

    I think the only thing that makes Storm's situation different from that of Out of Cyte is the money behind each horse. If I had money like that breeder my horse would have never fallen into such situations, he'd have been with a big name trainer right from the start and already proved himself.

    While Out of Cyte's injury was physical and Storm's has been emotional that doesn't make it any less troublesome. I suspect you would put the time and money into rehabilitating a horse from physical injury. Doesn't the horse that has been psychologically injured deserve the same consideration? Certainly in my book he does.

    This horse's ability is in question because of the actions of humans and that is not his fault. I am not going to alter a lovely horse because of the stupidity of humans. I believe this horse will earn the right to breed mares some day and that may not be based on your measure of what makes a stallion suitable to breed but it will be based on who he is as an individual and what he has to offer to the breed.

  9. I KNEW you would come back with a great response as to why Storm is still intact! That comment bothered me all day.

    I'm tired of the 'show record proves value' BS. A show record proves what was popular AT THE TIME...IN THE SHOW RING. It proves almost nothing as far as worth of the horse. Some of the most famous show horses in history have had notorious disposition problems, conformation flaws and passed on genetic problems to their get.

    Not to mention that you haven't even bred Storm to anything, so he is not a 'breeding' stallion. (Harrumph!)

  10. BECG, thanks for the support. I know you have the same kind of feelings about this as I.

    Show record doesn't tell everything but there are those people who think it does which is really unfortunate because show records really do reflect money in most cases. There are awesome horses that never get to nationals or even in the show ring, for that matter, because their owners can't afford it. That does not make those horses any less valuable to the gene pool.

    As far as I am concerned the gene pool is the thing that really counts. Genetics cannot be bought, although the alteration of them certainly can but that's a post for another day. In the meantime, even the Registry is not advocating breeding animals only with a proven show record because they know it would be the demise of the breed.

    As it is they are frantic about the decline in breeding over the last years because it threatens the integrity of that gene pool. Those anamolies can be deadly and we have no crystal ball to see what Mother Nature has in store for us if we do not keep that gene pool as varied as possible. It is paramount for the health of any breed.

    Besides he is my horse and it is my decision to make. I am clearly the one that must deal with the consequences of it. If I thought the horse was the problem he would be a gelding in nothing flat but it's not his fault and underneath it all he wants to do the right thing. The fact he is such a kind horse makes this whole thing all the more tragic, if you ask me. He didn't deserve to go through this crap and it breaks my heart every day that he did. Storm will come out the other side of this, of that I have no doubt because he really is the kind of horse that should be a stallion.