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Riding a drama queen...

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  • Riding a drama queen...

    Just had lesson #2 with the new guy, 5y/o OTTB who has been off the track since September. Bro is a very talented, smart individual, unfortunately he's also a bit of a drama queen who likes to throw in a temper tantrum here and there...

    My trainer and I do not believe he's doing it to be naughty, more of an over anxious youngster who really wants to please, but isn't thrilled when I tell him "NO, we're doing it MY way." It's really hard for him to do an exercise repeatedly and not try to take over like a kid saying "Me do!" Lots of head flipping (I do ride him in a running martigale), breath holding, most of the time he submits. Other times he tries to blow through my right leg, so I added a small nub spur and carry my stick in my right hand... he then has his temper tantrum when I spur him on the right, usually humping his back, flailing around, throwing it in reverse and more to the right with my spur repeatedly diggin in. He's smart enough that if I "aim" him, sideways, to a wall or solid obstacle, he'll save himself and stop before hitting anything. Nothing horribly scarey, just like a little kid throwing himself on the ground screaming in a grocery store because Mommy won't buy him candy. If he's just "flailing" (ie: not blowing through my leg and going foward), I sit quietly and plant my hands until he's done and just keep on going where I left off like nothing happened. I'm quick to praise when he's going nicely, even if it's just a few steps. If he's being a jerk (blowing through leg and stuck in reverse), the spur and stick come out (it's a racing bat, I mean business).

    I know this is all new to him and while he's coming along nicely(for the most part), it's very much the opposite of my old guy who you could just give him a swift kick/whack with a stick when he was misbehaving and he'd settle down. Like I said before, I give lots of praise in the form of "good boy"s, pats and scritches. I try not to react to his tantrums, unless he's ignoring my aids described above. I try very hard not to drill him until he drops, lots of breaks and loose rein walking after something new/difficult/good work. Most of his dramatics come out when doing very basic ground poles and simple grid work, flat work is not nearly so bad. He likes to rush through the ground poles after 2 or more times, so I've been incorporating them into everyday rides so that become NBD.

    At least I have a theme song for him now to the tune of "Dancing Queen," helps keep a steady rhythm too!

  • #2
    BTDT! 5yo OTTB thought tantrums were great fun. He too would get stuck in reverse/sideways and the only thing to do was wait for him to quit and then pick right back up where we left off. For what it's worth, he did get better as he got older and had MUCH less frequent issues with this, so there's hope for your guy : )

    Comment


    • #3
      How many rides has he had since coming off the track?

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by visorvet View Post
        How many rides has he had since coming off the track?
        Pretty regular, 4-5x/week, he usually gets the weekends off. He was sitting in his stall for 2 months before I bought him, no muscle on him. I've been keeping it pretty easy on him, lots of hacking out and very basic flatwork on a light contact. I've just recently (3wks?) started asking for a little more bend and start to give into contact during our rides.

        Hopefully it's just a "phase" he'll grow out of...

        Comment


        • #5
          Maybe the repeated exercises are repeating too many times? Remember, he's 5. Remember he has no muscle. Remember he's a TB. Remember whatever you're doing is new to him. He could be painful, he could be confused. I'd take a step back and ask myself how it feels to be him. It sounds like you're reading him well, you may just not be giving him quite enough benefit of the doubt...I'm guessing it is a phase but you can help him with it by requesting rather than telling him.
          Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

          Comment


          • #6
            One of my guys is a big drama queen. If he thinks something isn't his idea, or that you're trying to make him do something, he will fight to the death, for 10 seconds. It's a pretty hairy 10 seconds at times, but if you just ignore it and sit it out, he gives up and gets with the program. Reprimanding him for it causes WAY more drama which can include, but is not limited to, throwing himself on the ground. He did it when I got him at 4, he still does it now at almost 14 and it's not limited to riding, but can happen with in-hand work as well. I once had someone pull me out of his stall when he was throwing a tantrum, but again, I just ignore it and keep doing what I'm doing and he will give up after around 10 seconds or so.

            Boredom is one of the devil's breeding grounds for my guy as well. A few times through an exercise and he's ready to move on, so we do them forwards, then backwards, and make little changes to keep him having to think.

            The funny thing though is that he's also the horse that anyone can come to my house and ride. I put rank beginners on him and pony kids on him and he is always foot perfect.
            Rhode Islands are red;
            North Hollands are blue.
            Sorry my thoroughbreds
            Stomped on your roo. Originally Posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' :

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            • #7
              Welcome to my world. I find what works best is if the horse is resisting whatever I am trying to do, I think of another way to ask for it. Either that, or I ask for something even more challenging and then the initial request doesn't seem that bad after all (I have a mare; we play the game "The Battle of the B*tches" quite a lot). I've had rides where princess horse refuses to walk in a circle, so then she finds her a** backing up in a circle. Before I know it, she's more than willing to walk forward in a circle.

              It's a lot of reverse psychology.

              My horse is also the queen of tantrums:

              http://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/...brookfarm3.jpg

              http://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/...2_057small.jpg

              http://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/...2_028small.jpg

              http://i641.photobucket.com/albums/u...042011_006.jpg

              http://i641.photobucket.com/albums/u...030811_005.jpg

              I've tried every trick in the book (one-rein stop, back down to walk then ask again, get off and lunge her, etc) but what absolutely 100% works the best, and of course scares me the most!, is picking up her head and kicking her on. It's very hard for her to be leaping around if she's actively moving forward, plus it teaches her that she cannot get out of doing something just because she's feeling frisky.

              Smacking her or doing a one-rein stop, both of which I'd call a direct punishment, makes her MAD. Like fuming mad, like she's going to blast off into orbit. If I ignore her and push her forward, she starts to realise that her attitude sucks, it takes a lot of energy to be that naughty, and it isn't really getting her anywhere.

              Makes me real excited to have kids and deal with their tantrums...not
              http://www.lucysquest.blogspot.com

              Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments

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              • #8
                I also have a TB gelding like this, unraced (he's on the lazy side). In his case, I think he uses it to make things more interesting (he'll get a sly, amused look on his face just before he pulls one of his tricks on you). What works, again, is forward and ignore them and their behaviour. If you get into an argument with them, they get what he want. You have to keep your emotions out of it completely, which took me a long time to learn how to do.

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                • #9
                  From your description, it sounds a bit like you are pushing too hard, trying to muscle him into it.

                  Now, there is a time when some horses need a swift kick...but it sounds like this guy is just confused. I would quit spurring and spanking him when he gets stuck - IMO, all that is going to do is make him sour, especially if he's not being naughty, just anxious like you say you and your trainer believe.

                  You want to reassure him that he doesn't NEED to be anxious - not affirm his anxiousness by spurring and using the whip every time he gets stuck. That's a lot harder to undo. Just quietly stop and redirect him, matter-of-factly, until he gets it right. No big fuss, just keep encouraging him in the right direction with your body and your voice. It won't take long for him to associate his feeling of confusion with punishment, which is going to lead to the same reaction in the future every time you introduce a new question he doesn't immediately know the answer to.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Starhouse View Post
                    Welcome to my world. I find what works best is if the horse is resisting whatever I am trying to do, I think of another way to ask for it. Either that, or I ask for something even more challenging and then the initial request doesn't seem that bad after all (I have a mare; we play the game "The Battle of the B*tches" quite a lot). I've had rides where princess horse refuses to walk in a circle, so then she finds her a** backing up in a circle. Before I know it, she's more than willing to walk forward in a circle.

                    It's a lot of reverse psychology.

                    My horse is also the queen of tantrums:

                    http://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/...2_057small.jpg
                    Can I just interupt this discussion to say this is my favorite picture posted by Starhouse? (I'm curious where you ended up after this - still on??) Okay, carry on with the original discussion..

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
                      From your description, it sounds a bit like you are pushing too hard, trying to muscle him into it.

                      Now, there is a time when some horses need a swift kick...but it sounds like this guy is just confused. I would quit spurring and spanking him when he gets stuck - IMO, all that is going to do is make him sour, especially if he's not being naughty, just anxious like you say you and your trainer believe.

                      You want to reassure him that he doesn't NEED to be anxious - not affirm his anxiousness by spurring and using the whip every time he gets stuck. That's a lot harder to undo. Just quietly stop and redirect him, matter-of-factly, until he gets it right. No big fuss, just keep encouraging him in the right direction with your body and your voice. It won't take long for him to associate his feeling of confusion with punishment, which is going to lead to the same reaction in the future every time you introduce a new question he doesn't immediately know the answer to.
                      After making sure that you read this post over and over, and you are still sure he's being naughty, then turn to Starhouse:

                      Originally posted by Starhouse View Post
                      I've tried every trick in the book (one-rein stop, back down to walk then ask again, get off and lunge her, etc) but what absolutely 100% works the best, and of course scares me the most!, is picking up her head and kicking her on. It's very hard for her to be leaping around if she's actively moving forward, plus it teaches her that she cannot get out of doing something just because she's feeling frisky.
                      I have a 4yo TB mare who has been pulling shit with me lately. A significant portion of it is that I've only just realized she is not meshing well with her trainer and picking up bad avoidance habits. So part of it is that she's confused, and yet at the same time, rearing/bucking/sticking is not a proper response to confusion.

                      She is LIGHT on her front end at the slightest issue, and that's not acceptable to me. So confused or not, I spread my reins (to "funnel" her forward, and make sure she's not trapped) and then boot/smack her forward. The second she steps forward, it's "Gooooooooddd giiiirrrrrlllll!", and a pat on the neck. Occasionally as I'm giving her that pat she tries it again, and it's just rinse and repeat. She can be confused, she doesn't need to go up, which is why she gets the smack. She is getting the hang of it. Still tries some shit with me a few times a ride, but yes.... forward forward forward!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RacetrackReject View Post
                        One of my guys is a big drama queen. If he thinks something isn't his idea, or that you're trying to make him do something, he will fight to the death, for 10 seconds. It's a pretty hairy 10 seconds at times, but if you just ignore it and sit it out, he gives up and gets with the program. Reprimanding him for it causes WAY more drama which can include, but is not limited to, throwing himself on the ground. He did it when I got him at 4, he still does it now at almost 14 and it's not limited to riding, but can happen with in-hand work as well. I once had someone pull me out of his stall when he was throwing a tantrum, but again, I just ignore it and keep doing what I'm doing and he will give up after around 10 seconds or so.
                        My horse is pretty much like this, only add in a side order of neurotic anxiety. He's been like this since he was started; he's 19 now and although he's generally calmer (and lazier), the drama queen is still in there.

                        When I got him, his big trigger was any rider using their outside leg on him. Yup, outside leg, whichever direction, used anywhere on his body, at any gait or movement, would cause an almost immediate balk combined with circling and a few little hops. Learning how to sit BACK, push forward, and keep him straight pretty much reduced these episodes to zero; but his neurosis just switched to other triggers. He's really lucky I love him so much.

                        Of course some of these episodes probably looked like pain (and that should always be considered!); but we had ruled that out, and honestly I just learned to feel it coming and nip it in the bud. I also learned tact; that helped.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by islgrl View Post
                          Can I just interupt this discussion to say this is my favorite picture posted by Starhouse? (I'm curious where you ended up after this - still on??) Okay, carry on with the original discussion..
                          Lol thanks I am pleased to say that I stayed in the saddle in ALL of the instances I posted
                          http://www.lucysquest.blogspot.com

                          Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Sounds like you need to take things back a step or two. He doesn't seem to accept your leg. What does he do if you are on the ground and ask him to move over. If he fights that....keep doing it until he understands, accepts etc before getting on. One of the drama girls in our barn has been going to very good trainer. Her tantrums got a bit violent. She went back to long lining her....and boy did that make a huge difference.

                            I do think that we sometimes forget about doing the ground work on the OTTBs. There is a reason we do a lot of ground work with our purpose bred sport babies....and it is something that not all race horses got when they were started.

                            So to me, what you described is a horse with some holes in his basic training as a sport horse. Take him back to the begining and fill those holes now.
                            ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Ditto BFNE. The majority of horse tantrums are caused by pain, confusion, and/or frustration from lack of understanding. Usually a horse saying "I Can't!" or "I Won't!" means you have to slow down, back up, and explain things a little better. A rider responding back with "But YOU WILL!" only works when the horse truly understands what's being asked of him and knows better. On a young 5 y/o just off the track, it's likely that he still isn't sure what you want. Just be patient, consistent, take baby steps and reward the slightest improvement. Unless he's about to hurt himself or you, I would ignore the "disobediences" (don't pick a fight) and just keep asking him to try to respond properly. Go back as far as you need to make your request easy for him. If he blows through your leg at the trot, come back to walk and ask him to stay straight; if he still ignores your outside leg, halt and ask for turn on the forehand.

                              It can be hard when you have a talented, smart horse who oozes potential...but remember to take your time and don't rush. You'll only cover up holes that will collapse later in the long run!
                              “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                              ? Albert Einstein

                              ~AJ~

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                My new mare has some of those episodes...
                                With her it is mostly a mental block with some leftover fear of physical pain/discomfort. She has seen the chiro 3 times and that has really helped improve her attitude.
                                The main thing I have learned to avoid with her is to get into a BATTLE!
                                I do not believe she is being ahem shall we say "expressive" to be "bad" but rather that she truly gets frustrated and/or fears the discomfort/hurt. We go back to something a bit easier or that she is more familiar with, or I change how I am asking.
                                She interestingly also does take offense to my outside leg on her at times. So again, instead of continuing with what I was working on at the time (for example canter departs,) we will go back to something else to help us achieve our goal (for example turns on the forehand in motion.) She still has to respond, I am still working towards those canter departs, but it gives her a sense of success and calms her down.
                                "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by EventerAJ View Post
                                  Ditto BFNE. The majority of horse tantrums are caused by pain, confusion, and/or frustration from lack of understanding. Usually a horse saying "I Can't!" or "I Won't!" means you have to slow down, back up, and explain things a little better. A rider responding back with "But YOU WILL!" only works when the horse truly understands what's being asked of him and knows better. On a young 5 y/o just off the track, it's likely that he still isn't sure what you want. Just be patient, consistent, take baby steps and reward the slightest improvement. Unless he's about to hurt himself or you, I would ignore the "disobediences" (don't pick a fight) and just keep asking him to try to respond properly. Go back as far as you need to make your request easy for him. If he blows through your leg at the trot, come back to walk and ask him to stay straight; if he still ignores your outside leg, halt and ask for turn on the forehand.

                                  It can be hard when you have a talented, smart horse who oozes potential...but remember to take your time and don't rush. You'll only cover up holes that will collapse later in the long run!
                                  I totally agree. With mine, scoping her for ulcers and treating the ones we found made a tremendous difference. Changing her grain to one with very high fat and very low NSC's has helped, too. Having her saddle fitted every six months has kept any additional problems from developing. She is seen by the chiro periodically and gets massages. I have a really good friend who is very much into the Clinton Anderson natural horsemanship stuff, and while that isn't really my cup of tea, I've learned a lot from watching her work with her horse. I have used a few of the CA groundwork techniques on Lucy with great results. She's not a horse you can exhaust physically (there is NO end to her energy...I've tried to find one!! she only gets more and more fit) but she can be mentally tired out.

                                  Still, she is a flighty, athletic, and hot headed mare and no amount of vet checks, expensive tack/accessories, or calming supplements is going to change who she is.
                                  http://www.lucysquest.blogspot.com

                                  Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Starhouse, why the big hardware in your mare's mouth/face? Maybe a loose ring with a nugget would help her not over react? A kimberwick is pretty severe and the shanks on that hackamore are pretty long. Congrats for staying in the tack! Amazing what we learn when riding the Drama Queens, eh?! Mine doesn't tend to leap, thank goodness, but he has incredible braking power and the spin that follows tends to leave me there alone, picking dirt out of my teeth.
                                    Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      There are many horses that don't take well to repeated drilling, others thrive on it. I would take a step or two back, and then break down my approach into smaller bites.

                                      When they start anticipating, it is time to change the game. We are supposed to be smarter than they. Out thinking and out planning an anticipator can be a challenge.
                                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                                        Sounds like you need to take things back a step or two. He doesn't seem to accept your leg.
                                        Yes.

                                        Horses that started on the track will often have experience under saddle but very little understanding of the aids. A horse needs to understand each aid separately before they can understand what to do with multiple aids. If they don't understand, the result is usually tension and confusion.

                                        There is, IME, only one way to deal with this. You have to go back and teach the aids separately, one at a time. Like bfne says, start on the ground, using voice commands. Then introduce the horse to the lunge whip so he learns how to move according to where you're pointing it.

                                        When you start riding him again (I should add that hacking/easy trail riding is fine during the ground phase, just keep it simple), start with the inside leg. Walk on a circle, ask for him to step under and push out with his inside leg 3-4 times on the circle. When he understands that, you can teach the outside leg to move the horse in on the circle. Then you start using the outside rein with the inside leg to control the shoulder movement. And so on.

                                        You can teach the halt when you can sit deeper and use both legs on the horse. The halt should always be square, from Day 1. The gas pedal is two legs -- he can learn that after he understands what each leg used alone means.

                                        I do all of this at the walk. I've had people tell me they don't have the patience to do this but there's no way around it. If you want your horse to be on the aids, the horse has to know WTF the aids are.

                                        Oddly enough, this is my very favorite thing to do with a horse. It's a challenge, it takes time and dedication, but it's infinitely rewarding. Once it's done, you have a horse you can really work with and who is much safer on the trails, because you and your horse are speaking the same body language.

                                        Good luck and have fun with your horse. If he's the type that wants to understand or is eager to please, he'll probably gain a lot of confidence by having more clarity on what you're asking him to do.

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