As endurance riders, we all know about "know your horse!" and listen to them and all that jazz, and I have to say that when I started out doing endurance about 7 years ago, "Know your horse," was by far the best and most useful piece of advice we ever heard. So I just have a little story to relate that fits right in.
We just did a 50 on Saturday -- long, hot ride, topped out at least 90, + ridiculous humidity levels, + over 1 in. of rain the day before, so half of the trails were just like ice with some of the worst footing I've ever ridden. Anyways, tough ride, horses finished fine, but were understandably bushed at the end. So I put my mare in her pen afterwards with her iceboots on, and expect her to just chill out and eat for half an hour like she always does before zonking out and resting. Instead she starts walking around the pen, and keeps stopping and looking at this little scrub tree on the other side. I have no idea what she's doing, and it's not normal, but she has every kind of food she could possibly want. Yes, the pen is in the sun, but there was nothing I could do about that, and she had been thoroughly sponged and cooled and stood in the shade for a while at the vet check after completing, so she's clean and dry and looks fine.
So I'm just about to leave and figure she'll settle eventually when she comes over to the fence where I'm standing and gives me this really loud nicker, her "do something now!" nicker. Like, get your butt out of bed and feed me now, or take me out of my pen and walk me now, etc.... And I've learned, through trial and error, that I get into big trouble for not listening to this horse, because she's super smart and sensible. I decide that just maybe she is eyeing this little patch of shade on the other side of the scrub tree. So I take her out of her pen and park her in the shade with her water, hay, and grain, and just throw the rope over her back and leave her loose to see what she'll do (not something I would ever normally do, as she would get into a lot of mischief, but I had to see if my hunch was correct). And sure enough, instantly happy horse. She chills out and starts eating like normal, and just stays parked there like I dream while I start packing up.
I just had to laugh because I always marvel at how smart and expressive this little horse is, and how hard she tries to communicate exactly what she wants or what she thinks about certain things. (You haven't seen a displeased horse until you've seen her big, bright, super intelligent eyes suddenly change into the hooded, "evil eye" ) I could tell so many stories. I think she must think I'm pretty slow sometimes. Like how hard did she have to try to tell me, "Hello, person! It's too hot in this damn sun, put me in that patch of shade, right now!" Or one time, she suddenly stopped getting on the trailer -- and she's always loaded super nicely and loves going places. And after trying to retrain her to load and almost going out of my mind, I finally decided the problem maybe wasn't her. Even though nothing had apparently changed about the trailering situation, we finally found out that when our mechanic had fixed a flat tire on the trailer he had pumped up all the tires to max pressure, so the ride must have just gotten rougher for her. So we let out some psi back to where we normally travel, and problem solved. Suddenly happy horse on the trailer again. She was also much happier when I took stopped shutting her in her trailer slot and gave her the whole back half of our 4 horse trailer. Call it picky and over sensitive on her part, but she works damn hard for me so I figure I can cater to some of her little whims. So this was just another example to me of how you just have to know your horse, and know what's normal for them, and pay attention. Anyone else have any cool little stories about things your horses have tried to tell you?
I used to have a problem riding for long hours, and would get tired and frusterated. Mr. Horsey would sense that i was getting overtired or frusterated and would a) throw a small buck b) turn around and trot to where he was tied up or c) plant his feet and not move.
They really aren't so complicated when we take the time to listen, are they? I have found most of the horses I have owned over the years were quite easy to figure out when I listened what they were telling me through their actions. Not just knowing what was a normal thing for them but especially when they acted out of character. I wouldn't want to stand in the hot sun and eat my food after doing 50 miles either!!
Here's my story! My Appy mare always jumps right in the trailer like a champion. This spring after our first endurance ride she started refusing to go in, we had to work and work to get her in, if she even saw the trailer she would refuse to go near. She also started to have a sore back at the pre ride vet checks, after the rides were done her back was good, wierd I thought.
Long story short, this winter I bought new trailer ties, I had been having trouble hooking them to her halter cuz they were a little short and decided to go back to just using the lead rope and have it tied long. Now her back is no longer sore and she jumps right in again...
My mare always makes her needs known very clearly and I love her for it. My gelding, however, was a different story. Other than just about knocking me over with head butts on occasion, he seemed to be a closed book.
One day I was listening to a Dr. Deb Bennett cd and she talked about how foals let their mothers know that they want something by ever so gently rubbing the edge of their nostril against her shoulder. She said mama horse never misses this and always answers yes or no. We humans, however, miss this and the horse eventually knocks us over with his head to tell us he wants to go graze, get an itch scratched or stop standing there while you talk to your friend or whatever.
Last edited by Snowdenfarm; Oct. 5, 2013 at 08:26 AM.
My pony 'bobbles' if her girth is loose, or the saddle blanket is out of place.
She shortens her stride dramatically if there is a stone in a hoof.
She turns her head when she thinks we are going the wrong way. More than once she has been right.
She shakes her head if the bridle is not to her liking. Usually it's because the brow band is too close to her ears -
On a ride, she takes me to the water when she is thirsty, & will refuse to move until she has had a drink, and a few mouthfuls of grass.
I'm just the rider and she calls the tune, she has me well trained, haha.
Mine bucks if the saddle is not to his liking, which I guess is fairly normal. But as a young horse, it can be hard to tell what is naughty baby and what isn't. But now if he bucks in the canter, it usually means either the saddle is sliding onto his shoulders or I need to get my weight off his forehand. He will also now buck if he wants to keep up with someone else or if he thinks I'm holding him back too much for some other unknown reason.
The filly will refuse to stand for mounting if she's sore. That was my clue that she wasn't a naughty high strung baby, which she is, but that riding hurt her.
The mare will watch me inside the house, moving to a new window as I move, when she wants to be fed already.
Interesting about them nuzzling when they have something to say.
The first time I used a breast collar on my gelding, he kept hitting it with his chin. I finally got a clue that he was saying it was too tight and loosened it up a bit.
If a saddle doesn't fit, he makes a faces and acts like he's going to bite when I cinch up. If the saddle shifts while we're riding, his gait changes. Or rather, he will trot instead of gait until I fix it.
My husband has been riding my mare the last few months. Only a handful of times really. She is usually easy to bridle. Lately she has gotten where she clenches her teeth and not wanting to take the bit. My husband has been staying in her mouth too much for her liking. So, she will have a hackamore until I get him to stay out of her mouth.
I've learned to always question why a horse does something rather than assume they're being difficult.
The old guy is funny. I'm pretty sure he's senile but every once in a while . . .
The old guy is reactive and has been known to bolt from handlers. So the day that the pony was really acting up and trying to run through the DH I was a little worried that the old guy was going to feed off that. Instead I got the little nose touch on the forearm, no bolting, no bad behavior.
Another time in the winter we had fed everybody in the dark and gone to bed and the old guy started to call. He has this funny, distinctive short whin- that he makes. ( I say whin- because he leaves off the "ny" part.) So I listen to this for a few minutes, and decide something has to be really wrong, he never calls. Pony out? Next door pony over here?
Get up and get back in the snowsuit and discover that his water is dry. Obvously didn't catch that at dinner, and he needs his water. Fixed it and he was quiet the rest of the evening.