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Taking the Jekyll/Hyde Horse out in Public

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  • Taking the Jekyll/Hyde Horse out in Public

    I've made a resolution to start getting Rico out of the back yard this year. Saturday was our first outing. Took him to a local schooling show. No goals for the day other than to get him on/off the trailer safely and keep him calm and see how/if he settled. Nice setup, a stall to keep him in so he could chill and relax. Brought his tack and dressed to ride 'just in case'. I take a very conservative approach because my super quiet, low energy horse at home does not do 'new' environments very well. Gave him a little calming supplement and 1/2 tube of Ulcerguared just before we left.

    He was worse than expected when we first arrived. Put him in his stall, he screamed and kicked the door, tried to run over the top of me, which resulted in an embarrasingly ugly public CTJ fight over personal space. Took him out for a walk, and although he was prancy, looky and still annoying about walking into my space, we managed a walk around the grounds and back to his stall without needing a chain or another CTJ moment, so I consider it a win.

    After his walk, he settled much better in his stall, so I let him chill for a few more hours, enjoyed spectating with the folks from my trainer's barn, then loaded him up and took him home. I've paid for a stall for the show series (5 shows) so I'm hoping that by the end of the season we'll actualy be able to get on and ride, LOL.

    Anyone else have a Jekyll/Hyde horse who's perfectly sweet and well behaved at home and loses their marbles when you take them out of their comfort zone? How do you start them on the road to handling new experiences with more confidence?
    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
    Witherun Farm
    http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/

  • #2
    You have to figure out where it comes from.

    Is it tension in the body, is it fear, is it simply lack of experience? Is it bad memories?

    I describe my guy as Jekyll and Hyde. In his case, it comes from tension and that tension in large part comes from anticipation. He's VERY high energy, but at home super mellow at the same time, and really relaxed. Trailer him somewhere, and after a race career in which he trailered in to either work or race and an eventing career in which trailering somewhere meant galloping cross country - and he gets new places and tenses up in anticipation of running. That tenseness is a common inherent tension in TBs, and in his case the way to get past it is working him, making him use himself properly even when he doesn't want to until he starts to relax, swing in his back, and becomes adjustable enough to do transition back and forth and release some of the tension. It typically means the first ride can be 45 minutes of canter-only until he releases enough tension to even stay settled at a trot. He'll be good on the ground AFTER the ride - but beforehand, obedience and respect of space is all I can hope for even if there's also some aerial movement going on at the end of the rope.

    As an eventer, he used to get a cross country saddle and hour gallop to work out the tension prior to dressage tests. Since that's not typically an option at dressage shows, I'm learning how to ride him in a schooling arena with other horses and get him past it. That doesn't mean he doesn't still have leaps into the air, though, and this weekend he was so tense (a 50 degree drop in temperatures didn't help!) I was worried for a moment he was going to dump my trainer when she was showing him in reaction to being asked to walk.
    Originally posted by Silverbridge
    If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

    Comment


    • #3
      The less routine in his life, the better. My horses are at home so I have total control over their routine or lack thereof. So at the core of their lives is 'no telling what we'ze gonna do today'. A new horse in my life goes on errands with me. I take the trailer to CVS and pick up my Rx. We haul to trail heads. We ride then we stop and have lunch on the way home. They might start out hollering idiots but even they tire of it quickly.

      I don't coddle worried horses.
      I don't harass them and demand perfection.
      I just put them to work. Lots of requests, transitions, directions...not a lot or any of whoa and stand. They don't need to stand still and soak in the sights. They need to walk and trot in hand then whoa and go on again at a trot and now. Now if you think that will spin him into oblivion well...you know your horse, I don't. But it seems to me that ask them to do simple math keeps their mind busy, occupies some of that OHGODWHATISGOINGON space and gives them being there a purpose.

      Haul often, go anywhere he's welcome to go. Confidence comes from learning this may take a while but I can handle the math. ANY local horse gathering, he'd go to: playday shows, western shows, roping practice, anything...he should go.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by katarine View Post
        Haul often, go anywhere he's welcome to go. Confidence comes from learning this may take a while but I can handle the math. ANY local horse gathering, he'd go to: playday shows, western shows, roping practice, anything...he should go.
        Yup, this is the plan. I find the biggest obstacle being 'where he's welcome'. People seem to get downright cranky when they see typical green bean shenanigans in public. So its the 'I need to take him places to get him over it, but no one wants him there until he stops acting green' conundrum.

        It didn't used to be like that. When I had my 2 year old, I took him everywhere and just dealt with the craziness and total strangers were kind, helpful, patient, and supportive. Now they scream at you to 'take that horse home, he's dangerous and has no business in public', when they jig at the end of a lead rope.

        I've also noticed that people are a lot more clueless. They'll walk up almost on top of a strange horse that's dancing around and then get nasty with you about it.
        Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
        Witherun Farm
        http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/

        Comment


        • #5
          I totally agree with katarine.

          If he isn't welcome in public places find a friend who will let you take him to their farm for an hour or two once a week to walk around, ride, or just sit in a stall. Take him to a trail head and park by yourself (IDK where you are in MD but Little Bennet has a huge parking lot where you can easily seclude yourself if needed) and just hand graze. Just trailer some place and let him stay on the trailer. Just drive around and come back home. I would do anything to get him out.

          My mare was the same way, just got very excited about everything going on and didn't know how to handle it. We can now go almost any where and she will stand tied to the trailer well but once the bridle goes on we have to get right to work or a tantrum will follow. Our next goal is being able to stand quietly in the beginning. It just takes time and repetition. Every time we go out we get better. I try not to make a big stink over it, if I'm riding with people who take longer to get ready we walk/trot around and on whatever we have been working on at home or I just let her hand graze depending on the day.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Trevelyan96 View Post
            Yup, this is the plan. I find the biggest obstacle being 'where he's welcome'. People seem to get downright cranky when they see typical green bean shenanigans in public. So its the 'I need to take him places to get him over it, but no one wants him there until he stops acting green' conundrum.

            It didn't used to be like that. When I had my 2 year old, I took him everywhere and just dealt with the craziness and total strangers were kind, helpful, patient, and supportive. Now they scream at you to 'take that horse home, he's dangerous and has no business in public', when they jig at the end of a lead rope.

            I've also noticed that people are a lot more clueless. They'll walk up almost on top of a strange horse that's dancing around and then get nasty with you about it.
            so find some no name get together and go. Western and gaited horse folks are a little less uptight than (most) english horse folks about silly horse stuff. Just go and stay out of their way and put him to work. If he hollers, make him pay with transitions.

            Is he the only horse at home? Is he missing his buddies? Was this horse ever ok about going out in public?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Trevelyan96 View Post
              I've also noticed that people are a lot more clueless. They'll walk up almost on top of a strange horse that's dancing around and then get nasty with you about it.
              Oh, good lord yes.

              My horse was almost run over by an idiot driving a water truck at a speed far too high for a horsey area/non roadway. Next time he saw it I was hand walking him around the show arenas and he was of course terrified, started backing up in a hopping, nervous manner. Some moron comes walking up looking at her phone - again, through a horsey area, not a spectator area. My horse luckily caught her out of the corner of his eye and halted, shaking and terrified but not wanting to run over anyone. I managed to get her to stop 2' from running into his butt. She gave me a dirty look for yelling at her to stop and pay attention (after speaking to her in a normal tone didn't work.) Once she finally looked up I said "my horse is spooking, and luckily he froze because you almost ran into him." She looked up to see a giraffe just in front of her, shaking... gave me another dirty look and stomped away. The positive side was my horse decided the truck wasn't so scary after all, as apparently stupid people are far more terrifying.
              Originally posted by Silverbridge
              If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

              Comment


              • #8
                My gelding can be very inconsistent in how he reacts away from home. There are days when he unloads on arrival like he has lived there forever and can't be bothered enough to even notice that he isn't home.

                And then there are days when he unloads like he has been possessed at some point during the trip. He whirls around, and generally acts like he has never been off his home property EVER in his life.

                There is no rhyme or reason as to why he reacts one way or the other. But it is always one extreme or the other. No in between, where he settles after an initial episode of bug-eyed idiocy.
                Sheilah

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by katarine View Post
                  Is he the only horse at home? Is he missing his buddies? Was this horse ever ok about going out in public?
                  He's been temporarily the only horse at home since the beginning of March. Other horse is at boot camp and will return home the end of April. He's been perfectly content at home alone.

                  He's always been 'horse centric', but used to be very good and relaxed in new places as long as there are other horses in sight. This behaviour began after he and his buddy were boarded for a few months last year. They were kept together, but he did not do well at all in the boarding situation, which was puzzling, because they're style of care was excellent and very similare to ours at home, but he still stressed himself into ulcers and developed other issues, including a reluctance to load, which has never been an issue for him.
                  Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                  Witherun Farm
                  http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    IdahoRider...my horse is the same way. Sometimes even at home. Sometimes, a beginner child could ride him. Other times, I don't even want to ride him myself. No apparent pattern with mine either, really. And he only works up, never down. So if we start with a nutjob, we end with a nutjob. Next day, he could be perfectly fine...and it has nothing to do with how much or how little he is working, either.

                    Freak. Show. But at least he's cute!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Trevelyan96 View Post
                      Anyone else have a Jekyll/Hyde horse who's perfectly sweet and well behaved at home and loses their marbles when you take them out of their comfort zone?
                      Gosh, yes, you are NOT alone. My horse is the very same way!

                      A couple of years ago, I made arrangements to haul him to a nearby indoor arena. My goal was simply to work out his willies about new environments in a safe, enclosed area. I took him about 20 times. I did not resolve the situation.

                      A little bit later, I put him with a trainer to do the same thing -- take him to new places and just try to work with him until he calms down. She worked with him for a month. It did not cure him.

                      Going back to read what everyone else said.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm quite familiar with this scenario. I find that the GENERALITY of it lies within the personality of the horse. There are different personality types, or shall I say coping levels, in horses. (I'm not talking the Horsenality stuff of Parelli) I'm talking about just like people. We all know that perfectly pleasant and wonderful person who is just below the surface a chronic worrier. They are bad in a crisis and the first to go wide eyed if something unexpected happens. But within the confines of their routine daily safety net, they exist just fine. Some horses can be just the same. They can be helped along through good training practices, consistently presenting new situations and environs with good experience. But some horses are just wound up tightly enough that they are the bell ringer in the herd. They are the first to pop their head up, notice something different and run for the hills even before the rest of the herd has noticed anything. Shoot first, ask questions later. When in their home environ, they are relaxed and uncomplicated. Presented with a new over-stimulating environ coming at them from all sides, they get overloaded and resort to primal survival tactics.

                        Not fun when you have one that is inconsistent or impossible to teach out of this state. In my career so far, I have worked with two truly tweaky horses. The rest learned to accept new situations through thorough teaching and exposure.
                        ...don't sh** where you eat...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Try Operant Conditioning with him.

                          As Katarine said asking him to stand still would probably be an exercise in futility, as horses want to move when nervous or unsure. They don't have to move FAST, but movement is what they do.

                          I'd also introduce as much novel stimulus at home as possible. Teach some behavior chains that can become habits and perhaps associate those chains with something portable, like a plastic cone or tarp. If conditioned properly, the sight of those should bring out his trained response, even in unfamiliar places (eventually).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            That's a great idea threedog. In fact I'm doing that this weekend with a wonderfully talented horse who has serious stress about in gates at shows. He's a former park horse that I'm sure was overwhelmed by his previous trainer. We've worked very hard to bring him around and get him confident. Without a long boring post, we show him country and a student is trying him equitation. One thing he loves and finds fun and very calming is the horse ball, the big ones the horses can push around. So we are taking one to the show to play with at the in gate. I'll let you know how it works.
                            ...don't sh** where you eat...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by winfieldfarm View Post
                              One thing he loves and finds fun and very calming is the horse ball, the big ones the horses can push around. So we are taking one to the show to play with at the in gate. I'll let you know how it works.
                              Cool! I'd love to hear about it. Anyone got a camcorder or video on their phone?

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