I would like to blame Koda's latest antics on Spring fever, but this last round surfaced during the deep freeze. We board at our trainer's barn, where earlier in the year she happened to catch Koda doing "it". You may recall on the second consecutive day of naughty behavior, she asked to ride him.

Since then I've continued a little loping each ride, but to be honest it's taken convincing. I dislike controversy. The last couple months we have been unable to consistently ride three times a week, some weeks not at all. It doesn't help the situation. I truly believe Koda needs consistent riding, I know I do.

Lately we have been loping without much collection, mostly half arena circles or transitioning gaits. I was trying to build back up, and get back to where we were with our riding. Before the hunching started. It was lovely, a place I thought both Koda & I were enjoying. I miss it.

We were progressing nicely, until last night. We had loped briefly both directions earlier in our ride with no issues. When I asked for a collected lope, Koda responded with a hunch!

I opted to get off and backed Koda up firmly, it produced the fear of god in his eyes. I got back on regardless. He was a wad of bundled nerves. Me too. We went back to doing successful things. Some bends, walking and trotting around cones. When the tenseness in his body (and mine) subsided, I tried again.

One step, two - hunch...after I managed to get him to stop jigging, so I could get off, I did more ground correction. But this time, I couldn't make myself get back on. I know I can't end rides this way, especially on a horse like Koda. My hubby said he would ride him. Gulp. It's not that I didn't think he could, he just doesn't know my horse under saddle. Nothing like handing him a time bomb. He got the same hunched response, but corrected it in the saddle and then loped. No, I didn't get back on Koda afterwards. I was toast after the second dismount. I began this ride in a really good place, but it sure didn't end that way.

I fully know I should have stayed in the saddle the first time, and not reward Koda's naughty behavior by giving him what he wants = less work. He wanted to be done with the ride, so he can go back to eating. Loping right away would have been ideal, but I needed to calm things down. Clearly a case of shoulda, coulda, woulda, but didn't. I have the knowledge and am capable of riding through most challenges, but.....I am so disappointed in the whole situation. I need to change my mind set, somehow. I am letting him push my buttons. Getting older has turned me into such a wuss. I just can't toss caution to the wind anymore. I could send Koda back into training for a tune-up, but it doesn't really solve the problem. Me.

When your horse responds with a hunch, how do you work through it?


Anonymous said...

If my horse starts that sort of thing, the first thing I suspect is physical pain, not disobedience. It could be a lot of things, and I'd recommend systematically working through them before assuming it's a training problem. The list includes: saddle fit (this can change over winter with loss of condition), some other sort of chiropractic or muscle pain, problem with hocks - this often shows up at canter, and even things like problems with feet/metabolic issues.

Horses don't do things for no reason, and I don't really buy the (common) theory that horses try to get out of work by being disobedient - they're trying to tell us something by their behavior.

Anonymous said...

Also, the fact that it happens when you ask for collection makes me think it's a back pain or hock pain issue - those really show up in collection while the horse may able to make do in less collected work.

Karen Burch said...

I agree with Kate. I would check saddle fit and alignment, then hocks and feet. I really don't think your horse is being bad on purpose, but rather trying to tell you something.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think you should rule out any physical issues first. If there are none then you'll have to come up with an alternate plan because it seems if the hunching continues it may be a training issue.

I'm not a trainer but I've had many difficult horses over the years to deal with. One thing I've learned is that punishing them and putting the fear of god in them is not always the best way to deal with a horse. I try not to pick a fight with a horse because they are much bigger and more powerful than I am. I always try to earn their respect and have them confident in me as a leader. That's not to say I will let a horse walk all over me because I will correct them when they need it.

You might try working him from the ground first to assess his soundness and mind set and to warm him up. That's not to say to just let him run around on a lunge line until he's tired out but really work him as if you were in the saddle. There's a wonderful book I always refer to that teaches the most correct way to train a horse from the ground:"Horse Training In-Hand"by Ellen Schutof-Lesmeister and Kip Mistral. I love this book and it's really helpful in training any horse.

Once you get on, take deep breaths and relax. Try walking around on a loose rein and getting a nice bend with just your body position. When it's time to trot do something different. If you always start on a circle go straight instead. Just mix it up and don't do the usual stuff. This might keep him listening to cues for what comes next.

I would try to incorporate some fun into the rides too. Let him jog over a few poles on the ground or just do a zig-zag pattern around the arena. As for loping I would let that go for now and concentrate on doing fun things that won't get either of you tense. You may be tensing up just before you ask for the lope which in turn tenses him up and makes him think something's not normal. When you do ask for the lope again. Do it in a different area and at a different time in your riding progression. If you always do it after the trot, don't, try it after the walk. If you always start on a circle try going in a straight line down the center of the arena and stopping and getting off. Maybe mixing things up will help. I don't know.

In my opinion forcing a horse to do something he doesn't want to do will simply create another problem to deal with. I always try to think of alternate plans and ways to have them do what I want but at the same time let them think it was their idea in the first place. I hope this helps and you don't resent my opinions.

aurora said...

I appreciate all your suggestions & opinions, as well as the book recommendation! I put myself and this situation out here, because I want to hear other views. Interestingly enough, over the years I am usually the one wondering if something might be physically bothering Koda. Not sure why the thought didn't cross my mind this time? Perhaps because of his personality & approach to many other types of situations. However, this just may very well be a saddle fit issue that has grown into something larger...

Anonymous said...

Hope you get things figured out soon - these things can be quite perplexing.

aurora said...

Thanks Kate, I truly appreciate your insight!

Grey Horse Matters said...

Hi, after my ridiculously long comment yesterday I was thinking more about your situation. And thought it might be something very simple and not due to mental issues. Maybe Koda is just not ready for collected canter after a lot of time off. It may be nothing more than the fact that he doesn’t have the muscle tone yet to sustain a collected canter and it makes him uncomfortable or causes pain.

You might try short (10-15 minutes) every other day on the lunge to bring him back to his optimum condition followed by a relaxing walk. When the weather is warmer if you have any hills going up and down them is great for conditioning.

By the way I love his name. Did you pick Koda because it means “friend” in the Native American language?

Shirley said...

Some excellent advice from some very knowledgeable ladies!I second their opinions; rule out physical issues first, and if he still gets hunchy, try to find the reason- because there is always a reason. I do think that stepping off him when he does that is not the answer, and that if loping is an issue at this time- don't lope until you have your confidence back and you have ruled out physical causes including fitness. There are plenty of ways to enjoy your horse without loping, and if you get to the place where you are having fun with him again, and all physical things have been fixed- then approach it again. Sometimes it's us who has to back up a step in our expectations of both our horse and ourselves.

aurora said...

Grey Horse, I find your comments to be very thoughtful and I personally enjoy it when people take the time to share more in depth responses! I love that you guys care enough to do so!!

Koda is definitely out of shape, therefore our rides have been on the easy side all winter. We take lots of breaks, he barely breaks a sweat. I do plan on going back to doing more ground work, it's a great suggestion and should help in more ways then one.

Also, will start by calling the equine massage therapist that helped us out the first time Koda launched me, to see if she finds something again and go from there. I will be re-evaluating my saddle. Those who have been reading this blog for a while know I have saddle issues. I own two, and have yet to find the right one (altho this one was fitted to my horse, but turns out it doesn't work for me...). Finding the right saddle is very frustrating, to put it mildly. In the interim I'll go back to riding in my husbands saddle, altho it's wide for me it fits most stock horses. I'll stay away from collected lopes for now, while I get something figured out - I hope!

I don't get the credit for naming Koda, his breeder chose his name. It's a bear from some Disney movie. She likes Disney, and named Nemo as well (Koda's dam is Nemo's grand-dam, they were born one day apart). I didn't know Koda's name means "friend". We liked their barn names, so we kept them. Thanks again, you guys are the best!

aurora said...

Shirley, agreed staying mounted would have been a better way to handle things - and some very knowledgeable wisdom has been shared!

C-ingspots said...

You've got some very insightful comments from some experienced ladies, and I agree with everything mentioned. I feel very much like you do, with aging I've become a wuss. It's so frustrating!! I have to work through fear issues almost every time I ride anymore, and that's because I get to ride so rarely these days. I do a lot of deep breathing, I pray and I sing. We do lots of walking around and serpentines, direction changes and such just to get us moving around together and working as a team before asking for much more. It's a process and I've just started considering that it's part of the journey. I don't know how else to handle it, without working with someone and taking weekly lessons just to force myself to ride with some regularity.

C-ingspots said...

One more thing...in regards to your last post and the Mark Raschid clinic. This would be the perfect venue for gaining knowledge and a working plan to deal with this very issue. I KNOW you would not regret the opportunity to ride with this man. He is the real deal, and not just any old "trainer". If you're anything like me, you'll start out with massive butterflies, and might even be so nervous as to feel nauseous...I was. Many times. But, I went. I got on, did some deep breaths and then in no time at all. Seriously, no time at all, I was way too busy working to be nervous. When you're in the calming presence of a very good horseman, both the riders and the horses feel the peace. You will be more confident knowing you're in good hands, and your horse will relax because of that. I really hope you go and ride. I promise you will not regret it!! You will come out of the adventure with new confidence and resolve... :)

aurora said...

Thanks for the encouragement Lorie. It's good to know I am not the only one, so many just don't get it...or aren't willing to say it out loud. If I waited to ride when I felt brave/confident/fearless enough - I would never ride again. These days it's something I work through. I ask myself all the time, how can I get rid of "it"? The only way I know how, is by doing it and building on successes. Unfortunately, it's easy to get set back.

The odd part is, there wasn't anything I was aware of and harboring inside. I went to yoga that day (which helps) Koda seemed to be in a good place too. Oh well, there are much worse things. After all, 90% of the ride was pretty darn good.

As far as the clinic, the first thing that crossed my mind is - no way would I ride in it! I would be mortified if this were to happen in front of an audience. Yes I know, I just publicly told however many people that are reading. But I absolutely hear what you are saying, and know you are right!