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Handling disobedience when alone?

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  • Handling disobedience when alone?

    I was wondering how you guys handle major disobedience when hacking out alone... I'm looking for ideas to keep in mind for next time.

    Here's what happened... Horsie and I were hacking out on a trail ride by ourselves yesterday. This particular route brought us across a creek and out to some wide-open fields, which seemed like a fun plan since we had just gotten a ton of snow and we were the first ones taking this particular route... who doesn't love to ride through fields of deep, pristine snow on a gorgeous sunny afternoon???

    Anyway, Horsie and I have taken this route dozens of times. The creek crossing is early in the trip; ordinarily it's a teeny little thing, maybe 2' wide and only a couple of inches deep, and it's a very gentle slope in and out. Horsie never bats an eye at the creek; he'll step in it or over it, matters not to him. However, the snowstorm had made steep banks on either side of the water, so it suddenly looked like a big scary ditch.

    I wasn't surprised that Horsie gave it the hairy eye. Since I had neither a crop nor spurs at the moment for "emphasis," we gave it a few tries forward to no avail, so when that didn't work, I turned him around and we backed over it instead. Worked like a charm and off we went.

    On the return trip, I figured we wouldn't have so much of a problem at the creek since a.) our footprints had significantly destroyed the "steep snow-banks" on either side, and b.) it was on our way home, within sight of the barn, and he would definitely want to go HOME, right?


    For 10 minutes we tried to get over the creek-- forwards, backwards, sideways, with tree-branch crop, you name it-- no luck. He was NOT crossing it. So I dismounted (which I really didn't want to do) and led him across. (Actually, more like I stepped and stood and splashed in the water to reinforce that it was no big deal, but he decided to rock back on his haunches and launch it from a standstill.)

    Not wanting to just quit with that, I figured I'd try to lead him back and forth across it a few times for emphasis, so he'd figure out that it was no big deal and when Mom says we're crossing, we're crossing.

    Wrong again.

    Another 15-minute struggle ensued with me on the ground. I tried every trick I knew-- backing him over it, ground obedience NOT involving a creek crossing just to get him paying attention to me again, longer tree branch as "longe whip," etc., etc. NOTHING worked.

    I am embarrassed to admit this, but I eventually had to take off my hoodie and tie it over his head to blindfold my stubborn beastie and walk him back and forth over the creek a few times, just to get him to cross it (which he did). After that, we did ONE crossing sans blindfold and called it a day.

    So... what do you all do when you're out by yourselves and encounter issues which you really NEED to address right then and there from a training perspective? Similar stories or ideas of what I could have done differently?
    *friend of bar.ka

    "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"

  • #2
    I think you did a really fine job - you didn't give up, and eventually did get the result you wanted, then stopped. I probably would've had to tie horsie to tree, build a boat, load horsie onto boat, and paddle home.

    I'm alone most of the time with my horses - DH doesn't ride, and I could be laying dead in the bushes for weeks b/4 he'd come looking for me....so I admit that I really have to 'think' about which battles I'm willing/able to fight. I've dismounted lots of times, had my little discussion/training session, and led horsie back to barn....mostly because I'm too old and short to get back on my 16+ hand horses. Sometimes when I'm mad though I can 'leap back into the saddle' on addrenalin alone.


    • #3
      Geez, cnvh, I think we should be asking you for guidance, not the other way 'round. You did everything I've ever heard of for that.

      Is there ANY way that, next time out to the stream, you can recruit another horse and rider to give you a lead across the stream?

      Sounds like you handled it as well as anyone could.

      I wonder if the reflections and light off the snow made him more aware of the big bad hole than usual? I have read that horses see better in the dark than we do, which to me translates to more light sensitivity. And snow can be very glare-y. ???
      I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
      I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


      • #4
        I think you erred in picking the fight after the horse DID go forward over the creek the second time, albeit not quite like you would have preferred.

        THAT was the time to tell him "good boy" and remount and go on home.

        Good horses don't "disobey" without good reason. Given a horse's eye sight peculiarities, sun glaring off fresh snow and a creek crossing presents a formidable challenge. As far as he was concerned, he gave you a LOT by conceding to launch over the creek against his better judgment. But you had to push it and push it and push it.

        The real error might have been in backing him into the creek the first time, thus "tricking" him into compliance instead of treating it like a totally new thing and convincing him to trust, but that would have been salvageable (or at least not been exacerbated) with being content with him eventually leaping the creek when you tried to lead him across.

        This is assuming the horse is generally a "wants to please" type who had a temporary loss of confidence and didn't find whatever it was he needed coming from his rider to remedy that.

        OTOH, if he's a "FU, I will NOT!" type, then simply never go out "unarmed". Carry the crop and wear the spurs every single time.


        • #5
          Yep, ditto the above. You handled that well. I don't think I'd have even thought of the backwards thing.

          When I'm riding alone, I try to pick my battles; sometimes it's better to get off for a while if I think there's even a remote chance that I'd have trouble riding through something.

          Well done, though.



          • Original Poster

            Ditto TBMaggie... I am entirely too short and un-limber to be ground-mounting onto his 16.1hh back, so we had to do the "Walk of Shame" home afterwards.

            As for the "backing through water" trick, I learned that from our resident cowboy, who's done that maneuver a few times at this very same creek crossing. Of course, I've only ever seen it have to be used ONCE, and we were out with a group, so on the return trip, said horse just had to follow his buddies back home. Hindsight being 20/20, I'm wondering if it's not a "use once and never again" trick, because even though nothing bad happened when we backed through the creek (he didn't stumble or anything), he was NOT falling for it on the way home.

            Anyway, this horse is generally never the "FU I will NOT" type... on the contrary, he's usually quite brave. We dabble in baby-level eventing though, and I don't want him to start getting into the habit of thinking he can refuse stuff like this. If we safely get through something, I expect him to figure out that it's OK to trust me and go for it... so I'm hoping I haven't created a monster out of this little bitty slice of water.

            Oh, believe me, we will not be heading to the creek unarmed again, at least not while there's snow on either side of it... Luckily there are usually buddies available to go riding with, so next time I'll bring a friend as well.
            *friend of bar.ka

            "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


            • #7
              And I will toss out another point of view from nearly the same experience I had last week with my saint of a mare. For what it is worth once mounted, I'm not too much of a touchy feely person, more of a Monarchy system where the horse does as I say, no questions asked if it is a finished horse. Ask anyone in my hunt and riding circle and they will say my mare is an honest citizen, whether by herself or in a group of 200.

              We had 6" of deep wet snow with no drifting that made all surfaces look the same. I tacked up to go ride heading out the regular way, beside the house on the driveway. There is one spot that holds water- remember it was covered by snow- right there and my mare would not walk across it. I nudged/thumped her and she planted her hooves. In the 5 or 6 years I've owned her she has NEVER refused a request and we ride through some rough, trappy ground. I hopped off, led her on her tip toes through the soft spot, it was muddy under the snow, hopped back on and off we went for an hour ride.

              Horses hate soft ground, even worse when they can't "see" it. As you know, watch a group of trail riders or fox hunters and if allowed, the horse following will always put his hooves where the horse in front of him went. What I figure is instinct kicked in at that spot and my mare sensed the soft, deep ground hidden under the snow and wanted no part of it. No big deal and actually humbled my Monarchy a lil bit.

              So, in your shoes I probably would have stopped once I got back across on the return trip. Just a guess that your nice guy was experiencing what my mare did last week- Self preservation.