Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Well not really, make that "Puddles, Trains, and Quads".

After over a month of little to no rain (it spit on us a couple times), we finally got rain. A lot of it. 2-3 days of it. The ground needed it so badly- everything is dying around here.

So rain meant it's time for Penn to find his water wings... because he's AWFUL about squishy or wet or puddled footing. I guess that's what happens when you're only ridden inside, but I don't get it- the horse lived outside for 6 weeks before I bought him, and I'm sure sometime in his 6 years of life he's been out in a wet soggy field. Though, I've noticed that he keeps himself quite clean, so I'm guessing he just doesn't like wet and soggy. Too bad!

I dedicated an entire weekend to it. Sorry Penn! Not like we could do ring work anyway- the outdoor was too slick for more than a walk.

I'm breaking the post up into each day- Fri, Sat, Sun. The trains and Quads are on Sunday if you want to skip ahead!

Friday Penn went down to the outdoor. My plan was just to ride him around and practice what we did in lesson before the real rain started, however there was a huge puddle in the arena so I made a beeline for it and we got started.

Penn wanted nothing to do with that puddle. He immediately went to, "I don't want to, I'm going to rear!" and backing up. One thing I'm trying to squelch in him is the tendency to rear. Whenever something happens that he doesn't like, he threatens to rear. He's not balanced, so if he does manage to leave the ground, he's going to fall down (he managed to slip on grass and fall when he was causing a scene about getting on the trailer- he did stop leaving the ground after that).

He's so sweet and smart- rearing is totally out of character for him (he even does it with ears forward and a kind eye!). Sometime in his past life, someone let him get away with it. The one thing I've learned is you have to be smart about what you do. If you open a can of worms, you damn well better close it in the same ride or handling session, otherwise you're going to end up with a monster and a huge problem. Someone let him win a fight when he reared, and he's so smart that he latched on to rearing as a way out. He goes to it immediately- there's no considering doing what I want or looking for something else. I have a zero tolerance for dangerous behavior- biting, kicking, and rearing included. Horses are too big to do things like that. So we had a bit of a cowboy moment or two while we discussed keeping our feet on the ground and moving forward.

I'd walk him with a purpose towards the puddle, he'd slam on the brakes, head up and very light in the front end, threaten to rear, attempt backing up. Cue seat bones to dig in to stop the backward, then left hand out to the side and pulling back to my knee while cracking him on the butt with the whip to break the rear and get his feet moving again. We'd go round and round in almost a turn on the fore until he stopped resisting me. I'd give him a second to think, then reapproach the puddle. On the plus side, we only had 3 or 4 rounds of this before he decided that he could march through the puddle (quite literally- he was bringing his knees up to his eye balls). Lots of praise, walk a big circle, come back around. We had a few more discussions about the puddle, but eventually he gave and got in the puddle with minimal prodding.

I didn't really care how he went through the puddle, as long as his feet ended up in it (not hard- it's about 8 ft wide and 20ft long), and didn't stop or duck out. So he then decided to hop and jump in the puddle (think super collected canter right before a Lipizzaner does a capriole) in an effort to run through it (my seat blocked him so it ended up in hoppy motions). He eventually started dragging me towards it in an effort to run through it, so we had to have a discussion about trying to bolt too. Poor horse, gotta try everything wrong first.

Eventually he relaxed and realized that the puddle would not eat him, that yes, he must go through the puddle no matter what, and that he could be a round gentleman and walk and trot through it (round being a super plus and totally not expected of him!). I made him stand in the puddle for several minutes. He lost interest in it and watched the other horses in the ring work and eventually cocked a hind leg and waited for me to let him know he could move on. Good pony.

Something I learned is to trust my seat- if I had too much rein contact and he questioned, I could set him off. I had to learn to trust my seat to keep him forward and legs to keep him straight so that my hands could be super super soft. This is the first time I've dealt with a rearing problem myself- Mikey just didn't rear and it's something I wouldn't touch. However, Penn is mine, I didn't feel out of control, and my trainer was there teaching at the other end of the ring and was keeping an eye on us.

We had a lovely work after the puddle work was done. He was through, quiet, round, and pushing. It was great. I had an incredible right lead canter that everyone just stopped and watched and went "ooooooo!" Oh little horse, the things you're capable of! So fancy.

Dirty horse! The sand was an inch thick on his hind boots, haha!

It was raining Saturday morning. So I went to the barn to ride Penn in the rain and search out puddles! I rode him through every puddle on the property that I could find. The yard has several tire rut low spots from the trailers coming in and out, so we had our first battles there. There's 5-6 puddles right by the barn, so we worked up there until he was willing to go through those without a fuss.

I went down to the outdoor, and there's a tire rut low spot on the road that's about 30ft long and 3ft wide, and I made him get in that one too. That was almost an epic battle- he locked his neck so I couldn't pull the left rein to break his rear, so he backed himself into the elephant ears and almost over a drop into a little drainage stream. I had to get creative to break the rears. He did leave the ground once. I felt it coming and that there was nothing I could do, so I put my hands halfway up his neck and put my full weight over his shoulders. HA! Being overweight has one big advantage. When you're riding a horse who's just not that strong, you can put rears back on the ground. His front end came flying back down and he plunged onto his forehand. He did not try it again. I did win the battle and he had to walk back and forth through the puddle until he did it willingly and on a loose rein.

I finally got to the outdoor and we went through the puddle from Friday again. No questions asked, he marched right through. I rode him all over the jump field because the footing can get squishy and he hates that.

We went back to the road, went back through the tire rut puddle a couple times before venturing up into the hay fields to look for more squishy footing to walk through. I went back to our original problem spot in the hay fields- it's a tire rut squishy puddle in the grass. Penn marched right through like it wasn't even there. I took him to the gate in front of his field (which has a large mud bog in front of it), and forced him to walk through it. No problem. I had schooled it in hand Friday night until he could walk through it by himself lunging around me... he may or may not have caused a scene for the girl who brings horses in in the morning during the week... he ripped the lead rope out of her hands in an effort to not walk through it.

I took him BACK to the tire rut puddle and made him stand in it for a while before finally allowing him to go back to the barn.

This picture brought to you by Penn, standing in a freaking puddle.

Sunday morning we went on a trail ride down to the river with two other ladies and their very trusty horses. To make a long story short, Penn was awesome. He marched right through all the puddles down there, leading the way! He wasn't always sure of the puddles, but all it took was a soft hand and driving seat and he'd try and that's good enough for me for now.

We have to cross train tracks to get to the river trail. Luckily, we use gas well roads to get there so the gravel is built up around the track, so no need to convince the horses to step over a metal rail and onto a railroad tie, then repeat back onto the gravel. Just walk over the gravel and step over the metal like it's a pole. We weren't sure if we heard the train coming, so we crossed and went on our way. After we crossed, sure enough, the train came. Horn tooting and all. While Penn was unsure of the train, he didn't do anything dumb and was happy to keep walking away from it.

Walking down the river trail. Rooster is leading the way!
Sometimes we see bikes, people, and dogs on this trail.
On the way back to the gas well road that goes back up the mountain hill, we heard the train coming. No problem, we'd just go a loop around the field, then double back and cross after the train.

Walking back towards the railroad tracks to go home. I have no idea how the picture got so turned. It's perfectly level where this road is.
We turned around and started walking back towards the tracks and were within sight when, sure enough, the train applied it's awful screechy brakes and stopped.

Killing time. The train stopped. PUDDLES!
One of the ladies took her horse all the way up to the train to see if we could see the last car. If we could, we were going to try to cross behind it since we have no way of knowing when it would get out of our way. She couldn't see the end of it, so back she came.

At this point, some quads came flying up the trail. Penn handled it really well. The noise didn't bother him that much. He really just wanted to go over and touch them! We moved out of the way so they could pass since they were such a hurry... and they went up and sat next to the train. I hate sharing the trail with them. They also ride up the road that we ride to the outdoor, except they FLY up and down it. I don't understand. The public road goes through the barn's 130 acres, but don't you still have to respect the land owners? Esp since you're right next to their house? And they know horses spook and that it's a horse farm. The BO has held the quads and called the police so many times for them whipping around past the house and near the horses. They almost hit Mikey and me last year when they whipped around a blind curve and gunned it past the barn... Except I knew they were coming and tried to get out of the way without stopping Mikey (he was just about in melt down mode so standing was a no-no). I screamed profanities at them (they were still moving forward!!!) and was screaming at them to stop while I tried to keep Mikey from bolting/rearing. Anyway. My baggage is not the point here. Penn was great when they popped out from behind the tall grass.

We eventually heard the clicking of the cars as the train started moving again. Only to hear the brakes shortly after as it came to a stop. AGAIN.

Penn making friends with Leader.
I took Penn's lead rope with me because I didn't know if he was going to be dumb, so I wanted something longer than my reins.
Rooster sitting sentinel.
Eventually the train got going again, but backwards from the way it came. There were two engine cars making a ton of noise. We hurried up and crossed the tracks as soon as the train was out of sight. I've been down there a ton of times and have never gotten stuck like that! There's no other way back up to the farm without going out to the highway and walking that back, or walking the river trail into town and having a trailer pick us up there.

Penn was great though, he never spooked at the train or got upset by it's many noises. And he stood like a gentleman while we waited. He got quite an eyeful on Sunday, between puddles, trains, and quads!


  1. Way to go on bomb-proofing the little guy! It's hard work now, but he is going to be awesome.

    1. Thank you! He's going to be so awesome, I can't wait. Mikey was almost bomb proof, but I think I'm a couple years with more life experience off the farm at shows, Penn is going to be that super bomb proof horse that'll pack anyone anywhere.

  2. Hahaha. Pig has lived out 24-7 for a lot of years, and HATES mud and sloppy footing. He's almost never muddy, even when the field is a solid pit of mud. Love that. However, walking through streams has always been kind of a pain, often resulting in rearing. Sometimes I fight the battle, sometimes I don't. He walks through puddles and will school in a sloppy ring. I figure there's no point in torturing him on a trail ride. Ha! Nice job with the bombproofing!

    1. Yea, no reason to torture him! Penn absolutely wouldn't school in a sloppy ring. I'm not sure he would now, at least at this point he's not balanced enough to do it.