the why’s and how’s

I’ve spent a significant amount of time the past couple days thinking about why Koda does what he does, and how to best deal with it.

I’m not sure why he does what he does, other than an excuse to not do things he would rather not do. I always try to give him the benefit of the doubt (read as find an excuse for his behavior), and when that doesn’t work I start doubting myself. Let me ‘splain.

We’ve had a nice stretch of dryer weather. On Monday I expected the worse, having not ridden for an entire week. It was uneventful. We stayed in the pasture/arena and worked some cones etc. Tuesday, Koda was exceptionally good while riding in the arena/pasture. My father-in-law stopped by and watched us ride for a while. I thought for sure Koda would start his annoying “backing-up while trying to mount” new routine, and we would get off on the wrong embarrassing foot. However he had something else to think about besides giving me the business, and stood rock solid. ..I was relieved. Dad didn’t stick around long. Koda held his trot nicely, and was listening good in general. Nemo was riding out and listening well. We decided it would be a good day to head out on the trail. That’s where the fun stopped. So much for relief.

Koda has resorted back to “tripping” something he doesn’t do at the trainers. Patty had said if he is just walking, it’s likely caused by not paying attention. I need to wake him up. I agree, but also wonder if he thinks it might get him out of going where he doesn’t want to go? You would have to see it to understand. We head out on the trail instead of feeding, and he begins to “trip” on nothing. A blade of grass and then oops, another blade of grass. Darn invisible things jump out and trip him! Either that, or it’s a lot of work to lift his legs. No, it’s not neurological. It’s selective. He’s a player, and eventually stops. It was so excessive; I thought perhaps he had a rock stuck in his hoof (excuse)? I found out later, that wasn’t the case. This was just one of those days.

The real issue came when we rounded the corner by the cornfield, and crap – it was the water hole all over again (minus the water). Why is he acting this way? We have been walking by that corner since they were yearlings. We backed, jigged, encouraged, kicked, yanked, spanked, and circled – wow, nothing I tried worked. Many cues later, I’m not sure who was more confused Koda or me. I’m pretty sure it was me. Brad and Nemo tried to help. Let’s just say I was spun up. I had it, and jumped off. Something I don’t necessarily agree with doing. It’s too much like giving in, no – it was giving in. I walked on the ground towing my naughty horse past the dreaded corner, who was suddenly okay with the corner (edit profanity). A young bunny, the size of a real live monster in his eyes – jumped out from under the farm equipment parked on that corner (excuse. really it is, he’s seen plenty of bunnies and farm equipment in his life). With that behind us I hopped back on, and we rode away. He still wasn’t listening very well, and the mosquitoes were getting thick. We turned around, and all rode back down past the dreaded corner going the other way. Koda and I headed back to the pasture but not before riding back up around the barns several times, much to his ornery dissatisfaction. No, I didn’t try the dreaded corner again. I didn’t have it in me. I would try again tomorrow, fully knowing it would be twice as hard…

Nemo and Brad continued riding alone down by the road. Koda got what he earned, he got tied up to wait and watch. You should have seen the look on Koda’s face, as he gazed over the fence at Brad and Nemo. When they came back, Nemo got all the love. I like to believe Koda understood why he didn’t get to go, although he likely didn’t. I know tying him up didn’t serve a purpose, other then to make me feel better. For anyone who thinks it was mean, it was a short time. The horse that deserved the praise, got it. Nemo soaked it up like a sponge.

Wednesday I put my big girl pants on, as well as my helmet. I’ll admit, it’s been years since I wore my helmet. It helped squash my self-doubt. I was going to ride Koda past that dreaded corner, even if it killed me. I was ready. We did the usual warm up-n-ride before heading out. Koda only “tripped” a couple times on the way up, and…we rode past the dreaded corner without any issues. Sigh. Mosquitos were still thick, so we quickly called it good and headed back. Maybe that’s why Koda doesn’t like going up on the trail, who wants to get eaten alive? (excuse) We continued our ride together along the highway. Koda and Nemo crossed the small mud puddle, and rode along the mushy hillside. When we returned, Nemo had to share the love. Koda even got a little extra.

All this still leaves me wondering why? and how? does Koda do what he does - there must be an excuse, I just can’t think of one at the moment ;)


Kate said...

The tripping might be neurological, or it might simply be that he's getting on the forehand due to something in the way you and he are interacting - it's probably a bracing/balance thing related to how the two of you are moving together but it's impossible to tell without seeing it.

I don't think of getting off as needed as "giving in", I see it as figuring out a way to make things work at the time. I don't think of my interactions with the horse as a contest with a winner and loser, I think of it as something we're doing together and try to find a solution to something the horse is struggling with. Horses are very sensitive to energy level and focus - if you focus a lot of energy and attention on the scary object/area by upping the pressure and attempting to drive towards it, that's almost always counterproductive in my experience. I'll bet the next time you rode by you were focussed on something other than the scary area itself and that helped him out. But who knows - my take is that it's our job to figure out ways to do the work together with the horse more effectively - there's no him and no me just us, and if it's a problem, it's a joint one.

aurora said...

Thanks for the thoughts Kate. I completely agree with energy focused adrenaline, the result is rarely favorable.

I should re-word a couple things, but I'll leave the post as is. Koda doesn't trip when I ride him up at the trainers, or any other time, except for when we head out from the pasture. Could be positioning? Who knows.

I also should have said "giving up" (not giving in) because that's why I got off - I gave up trying while mounted. Getting off did get us past the corner safely :)

Jeni said...

HI Aurora My trainer once told me "Your horse is bomb proof so now you need to be". I'm not exactly a nervous or fearful rider, but if my horse is edgy I have issues relaxing. I call it baggage from almost 15 years of riding an Egyptian Arabian. If I wasn't always watching, waiting and feeling I'd end up on the ground!

That has carried over into riding my two very calm girls. To the point where I was making Bonnie hyper sensitive. Example, indoor arena in the wind. The building pops and crackles a bit. Every little pop and I'd about jump out of my skin, which made her jump in fear. She got to the point where a ray of sunshine thru an slightly open door was sure to cut us right in half and kill us. She'd spook, shy, rush, you name it. I started to expect her to do the spook and would spook before she did. No good...

I had to do like you did with the corner... think about something else.. anything else except the door and that damned ray of light. To get us both past it, mentally and physically!

Ok.. now to address the whole 'getting off = giving in or up" I'm with Kate. There is no shame in that at all and it's not giving in - or up as you still got Koda thru whatever crisis there was. I don't think horses equate mounted vs unmounted with actions.

A week or so ago I was out trail riding with a group. I was riding Bonnie who is normally go anywhere anytime kinda girl. Well I ended up doing an emergency dismount because she had totally lost her mind. I most likely could have rode it out but it was easier for me to handle her, and calm her from the ground. She feels more secure about situations that are frightful to her or even rubbing her the wrong way if I'm beside her taking charge.

Koda's security up to this point is you at his side. This whole concept of trusting you to help him through things mounted is new to him. When you went out with your "big girl panties and helmet" on you had your mind and resolve set to get past it. I bet you were thinking "We are going through this" instead of "Oh #!$@ here comes that darn corner again I bet I'm going to have problems". Remember horses feel your confidence level all the time.

Another thought is that there maybe on some level a lack of respect. Given the fact that he will not stand still to be mounted. I know with Rosie unless I do some ground work first working on respect - move feet when I say and only when i say it's ok, she does the same thing. Bonnie has started the whole walk before I'm completely seated thing so now I make her do hind quarter or shoulder yields until I can mount without her walking off without a queue to do so.

Good luck with it all =)

aurora said...

More encouraging words, thanks Jeni! I appreciate the valuable insight.

I don't think Koda disrespects me perse, he is still testing me - as any young three year old (or any horse for that matter) would. It's much the same, but in my opinion done in a different manner. Lately he has chosen to back up vs stand still, and he simply must stand still before I for one am willing to get on. Ironically the past two days, he stands like a rock for mounting. We'll get through it. Tonight, he passed with flying colors - altho we only did arena/pasture riding. Looking forward to what tomorrow brings :)

CCC said...

Hi Aurora, (I always wanted that to be my name when I was a little girl)

I've been riding a grumpy little grey horse lately and learned a valuable lesson because I was willing to to listen (to him) check it out at cowboycopingcowgirl.blogspot.com/2010/07/burden-of-resentment.html

My favorite saying is "What greater wisdom is there than kindness?"

aurora said...

I can't wait to check it out, I love your wisdom - and kindness in general.

fernvalley01 said...

SOunds to me like you have a young horse who is trying out some "colty" stuff again. Got a case of the I don't wanna's. And add to that I wonder if you are anticipating a bit on your trail rides .What I mean is , he has bween a stinker , so you are riding "at the ready" for him to be one again" When you got on with your helmet and ready to take him on ,you were more confident and he did less wrong and was more responsive . That sayys to me that he is a pretty sensitive guy who is picking up all your cues even the ones you aren't aware you are sending

aurora said...

CCC, I wanted my name to be Bobbie when I was a little girl lol. No clue why. Back then my name was considered weird. The name Aurora actually runs in my family, four generations to date. It was my great grandmothers favorite name.

Fern, I wish I could control my over active mind - but I haven't found the off switch yet! The odd part was we were having such a great ride, but that changed. It was slightly "off" before we even got to that corner. Must have been thinking something I shouldn't have? We have never had trouble with that corner before, I wasn't knowingly expecting it. I think my correction came too late and not intent enough, then too many. I'm not mad at him for doing it, just disappointed in both of us (mostly me) that I couldn't get him past it while still mounted. But your right, there was no way I wasn't going to ride him past that corner the second time around.