Monday, September 30, 2013

A Thoroughbred Kind of Day

Not every day can be a great one, and unfortunately today was one of the bad ones for Charlie. Right from the get go he was snorting at things that didn't exist, and I knew, sadly, it was probably going to turn into one of those days I'd end up scrapping my grand exercise plans and just see how much I could salvage from the ride.

When we got to Kate's house (which has a small ring I use in the backyard), the other neighbor's goats were there hanging out with Kate's horses. Oh joy. Cue meltdown. I'm pretty sure Charlie had never seen a goat before and, as he was already on the lookout for the killer rooster from last time, trying to convince him that these four cute fuzzy beings wouldn't be running out to attack him with their funny horns and little waggly tails was quite difficult. We stood there for awhile while Charlie snorted at them and stamped his foot, head high in the air. At one point the goats came right up to the fence in front of him to check us out, but overall they couldn't have cared less. 
Killer goats
After lots of reassuring Charlie started breathing normally again so I steered him to the ring area to start working. Lots of circling and keeping him moving was the only way to keep his attention; he was still giving those goats the evil eye, even though he could barely see them. I kept bending and counter-bending, doing walk-trot-halt transitions and working him off my leg to try and get him thinking. When he would actually focus on me we got some lovely trot work. 

Every now and then, though, I could feel him slowing down like he used to when he was distracted and didn't feel like working so I kept pushing him forward and turning different ways to keep his mind busy. 

I figured after a little while that I'd try the trot poles I had laid out earlier. Even though that usually makes him excited and more difficult to control, I hoped it might bring his mind back to where his feet were and what we were doing. It worked really well. The way I had laid them out there were two lines of three trot poles each set on the diagonals so we could trot over them in a figure eight. At first Charlie tried to jump the last two and he would get quick on the out, but after a few times he calmed down and trotted nice and fairly evenly in both directions. 

I was pretty happy with that and gave him a short break then on a loose rein, but I really wanted to do the poles one more time before stopping (I don't like him to be able to anticipate when we'll be done). Well he was not impressed with that idea and proceeded to do the unthinkable: he refused to go forward, shook his head around when I squeezed with my legs and then he reared! The nerve!!! I wouldn't stand for any of that and really let him have it, immediately yelling at him to get up and kicking him into a forward trot. That behavior is completely unacceptable and I wanted him to realize that all it would do for him was earn him more work. We did everything again, trot poles and all, until he calmed down.

After winning that battle I was ready to call it a day so we headed out of the ring and down the driveway toward home only to meet up with the wandering goats again. Like clockwork Charlie's head went straight up. We made it down the driveway but it was difficult. 

We would have been fine then except a series of cars came up behind us and, while Charlie is normally ok with them, he can think they're spooky when he's alone or on edge already, especially when they go by a little fast. The first set of cars was able to pass us without major incident, just a little butt tuck and sidestep from Charlie, but then two more groups came (I swear, it's like they knew my horse was being a jerk, the road is never that busy) and with each one Charlie got worse and worse, shaking his head up and down and jigging. I could tell it wasn't real spooks, he just had extra energy and was frustrated, looking for any excuse to act out. I was trying not to make a big deal of it, unwilling to start another fight; just keep walking forward.

Well then he started using every opportunity to "spook" (a trash can, a mailbox, a dead possum, a wet spot of pavement) and refused to go slower than a jig, I said "ok, obviously you're not ready to relax and go home so let's trot!" (I know, I'm such a mean mom but if he wants to go then we'll go). 

And trot we did...for the next twenty minutes. That is how long it took for me to reach through the Thoroughbred nonsense and reconnect with the Charlie who actually has a brain. Honestly, I didn't care how long it took as long as he came back to me and stopped being an idiot. It's not like we were doing anything he hadn't done before. So on we trotted, right past the house (that's right, Charlie, not stopping) and down the road further than we'd ever gone before, passing lots of "scary" things but I refused to let him stop or dwell on them. Forward was the only option. I didn't turn around until he calmed down, realizing it was using way more energy to snort and spook at things and be an idiot than it required to behave, and then we trotted (nicely) all the way home.

My mentally beat pony
In the end Charlie was listening to me and his head (literally and figuratively) was down where it was supposed to be. Whew! What a workout for both of us. He was sweaty but not blowing...just very mentally exhausted, poor guy. Hopefully the next ride we'll be back to normal. I still love him, this is just part of what it means to have a Thoroughbred!


  1. oh my, rearing, naughty boy! I don't think you are mean mommy at all, kids (equine, canine, human etc) need discipline.

  2. His OTTB was showing. Naughty Charlie! Good job working through it.

  3. I thought we were done with the rearing Mr. Charlie! At least you made it through :)

  4. Gosh he sounds so like my Miss Kika, must be something hardwired into the mad "red-heads" - glad you stuck to your guns and came out the otherside with the win.