Thursday, April 8, 2010


I had the trainer out today. Turns out she's exactly what I expected, much the same as I am, with the same kinds of ideas, none of which is a real goal oriented list type problem solving fixer upper... which is disheartening. I was hoping someone would come out and be like "I had a horse that did that exact thing and here's how I fixed it" but no. Now I'm out some $$$ and still in the same boat. Trainer did say that her body language was off and that her reaction made her think that there may have been something traumatic while tied in the past. The thing that gets me is that she trailers great, will stand tied forever until confronted with something scary. Its at that point that all hell breaks loose. I hate that I did this, but I'll confess it so that I know never to do it again......

Trainer requested that I show her how she reacts to being confronted with scary somethings while tied... so I rustled a baggie, trying to get her to react and pull just a little. Well turns out plastic baggies are TERRIFYING and she had the worst freakout yet, which bore forth her first tying related injury that I'm aware of. She struggled so badly that she gave herself a bloody fat lip on something. All I saw at first was that she pulled back and her mouth was bleeding. I knew this before, but I know even more now that I cannot tie her until we get her seriously de-stressed about all this stuff. I feel like a terrible mom, and it was a total mistake to provoke a reaction, I just didn't know how to accurately describe what she did and how she acted without triggering some kind of response for Trainer to see. I realize now that Trainer suggesting this in the first place should have sent off red flags, but I'm so desperate for a solution at this point that I just want to do whatever it takes to figure it out.

So for now I'm going to put a hiatus on the riding thing, work her butt so she's tired by lunging, and do lots of groundwork. Trust building exercise ideas? Give me your best shot. I'm going to go on a treasure hunt through the house and make up some really fun ways to desensitize/build trust. So far my ideas range from tying a bunch of plastic bags onto a yarn or twine string and putting them up across the top of the round pen/laying them all over her, get the tarp out, filling old water bottles with pebbles, water balloons, yard chairs, I really want to do confetti, the sparkly kind, but that would make a bigger mess than I'm willing to clean up. I might try to create some kind of headdress from those shiny twirly-gigs:

just to be extra creative. Please let me know if you have any other ideas for potentially scary things. Also, if you know of a good brand of rope burn proof gloves that I can pick up online somewhere, that'd be helpful. I'm going to try the cheap method of a 'blocker' tie, where you just wrap the lead around the tie post once to give you a little more pressure control. I also found that there are two nice high (taller than withers) tie horseshoes in the round-pen which I will utilize eventually. I'm going to try to get her to stop pulling back on the ground, so that she realizes that running away isn't going to solve anything.

I am just really disappointed about today. I was hoping for a concrete "do this and she'll tie" solution, even if it meant lots of time, effort, whatever. I'm still up in the air with what the right thing to do is. All I know is I can't tie her.

Goals: channel my inner monk to gain the patience needed for this ordeal.


  1. That is disheartening.
    Remember even if she had something happen in her past don't let her make excuses for the future. I find trainers do this often for horses and they have to tiptoe around a situation. Like for instance say a horse was abused, the owner and trainer would be extra cautious around the horse and slow with their movements. A horse is a horse. If you introduced that same horse to a herd of horses they aren't going to stand back and go "Listen all you other horses, this horse was abused at some point be extra nice". Nope, they are probably going to kick the crap out of the new horse. If you treat an abused horse like a normal horse, use normal body language that horse will shortly start acting like a normal horse.
    My pony had his first relapse on Wednesday. I went to grab his halter from the other side of the manger to bring him in and he rocketed back just about pulling my arm out of it's socket and bruising my rib. This is when I realized he knew how to give to pressure from the bottom and the sides of his halter, not the nose. I put his lead on like normal, grabbed his halter like I did when he pulled back and when he tried to rocket back I let him hit the end of the lead. Pretty quickly he realized he had to give to that different pressure of me grabbing the noseband and came forward when I asked.
    It does however sound like your girl has never learned to give to the halter. Try having someone stand on the other side of a tall fence board or tall hitching rail with a looooooonnnng rope that touches the rail for leverage and stability, preferably a lunge line made of cotton. Introduce something potentially scary and when your mare pulls back, have your helper lean back with all their weight into the rope. It's important they have the rope over a board or something solid so she can feel that solid weight and not a human on the end. As soon as she gives and makes slack in the rope (even if it's 20 feet away from the post) release the pressure, praise, rinse, repeat until she releases from the pressure closer and closer to the place shes been tied.
    Make sense?
    Try smooth grain leather gloves or rubber dipped palm work gloves. I have a few pairs of the rubber palmed work ones and they are great for anything. Like these they are normally 2-5$ a pair.

  2. Try not to be discouraged. This is only one "issue" in her training, and while frustrating and yes, dangerous, you will work through it. Maybe for the time being, don't tie her at all. Just avoid the issue. Teach her to ground tie? Did you try the blocker tie ring? Anyway, horses can be frustrating and training is full of ups, downs and sometimes tears. :-)

  3. Sydney - thanks so much for the ideas. I actually stumbled upon this technique today while bathing. I didn't want to solidly tie her, so just wrapped the rope around once so it had some pressure (like a blocker tie ring) but it gave when she really meant it. She spooked once, and pulled back, but realized she wasn't stuck, and the panic was gone. I'm going to hook her up with my long cotton lead to the same spot and try some work with scary stuff.

    I totally agree with the 'what's in the past is the past' sentiment. I was letting the fact that it was a Trainer get to me. I know better than that. You're totally right about her trying to tiptoe around the situation, because she was at a loss for solutions, and said so! I think I'll just keep on keepin' on and like Karen said, it's just one of the downs. Can't wait for the next up!

  4. Gosh, tying issues can be the worst. Mainly because its so traumatic for both horse and rider! I've known horses at barns that NEVER got tied. When I rode in college the rule was that you never hard tied a horse, only wrapped lead ropes around. I think all horse should tie, so I'm not suggesting you give up. Its is a pain to never be able to tie your horse to the trailer at the show, even just to run to the little girls room. BUT there are plenty of successful show horses out there that just don't tie. Heck, half the horses off the track have issues because they've only been in cross ties, or on walkers! I think that you can hard tie a baby and expect that they'll just learn submission, but they're young and moldable and don't do much damage. But once you're dealing with a full grown horse, you just can't do it, you have to find creative ways to tackle the problem.
    I used to show a horse that was a puller. I could never tie him. We finally got a tie blocker and he pretty much got over it. He still had to be watched on certain things, like we couldn't hard tie in the trailer until the door was shut.
    Good luck. But just because she pulls back doesn't mean she's a bad horse or won't amount to much. Lot's of awesome horses have skeletons in there closets!