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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

June 11, 2010

Overcoming sluggishness

Photo: Phebes as a yearling & me about five years "younger".

Since we are now on a segue from Limited Distance so that we can better accomplish Limited Distance I am focusing on correction of issues that will make a stronger horse/person partnership.



In the past couple years Phebes has learned to drop her head for haltering, accept saddle, bridle, rider, walk & trot on cue, back up real pretty :) , load in the trailer, trot down the trail, cross water, cross ditches, accept syringing of electrolytes, accept me giving her shots, having her hooves handled, clippers, water hose, bathing, camping, being handled for the pre-ride check, stellar trot outs, and probably ten things that my bleary morning brain just can't conjure up.


A totally collected and controlled canter. Right now she will pick it up and shut it down on cue out on the trail. She absolutely refuses to canter in an arena setting, and if I squeeze it out of her it is very discombobulated.

Picking up the proper lead and changing leads. I don't have a clue about any of this, so I certainly can't teach it.

Despooking and exposure. I have done some despooking with Phebes but she is such an obessesive compulsive that I swear she knows which stick was on the ground yesterday, and if a new one has fallen today. Any change in her environment really bothers her. For instance if the neighbor's cars are in the driveway she will go right into her stall for evening feed. If they have visitors and there are additional cars in the driveway she has a ritual she must go through before she will go in her stall. She has to go to the fence line, snort, spin her head a few times (take that!) and then she will go in her stall. If you interrupt the cycle she will have a hissy fit, and start kicking her stall. Let her complete the cycle and enter the stall on her time frame and she is fine. She is a hypervigilint horse. Exposure to more situations would do her good.

Riding with other horses. This one is pretty hard. I occasionally find someone to ride with, but generally they are on fast paced horses which works against Phebes going slow and staying in gait. I end up fighting for control, sometimes being frustrated to the point of anger (which is non-productive), and we fail, and she learns the wrong thing. This may be in part because I don't have the physical fortitude to work through the issue, or that I don't know what I'm doing to correct the issue. This is also the trouble I have had at our LD rides that blows our enjoyment factor out of the water so it is really important in the scheme of things that I have a horse working on a loose rein in the presence of other horses who will probably run off and leave us. (Really need thoughts here from anyone who has corrected this issue).

Impulsion. Sluggishness moving away from home (or camp) onto the trail. In non-endurance settings Phebes is kind of sour on leaving home. She drags her fanny, and in a fear provoking incident may leave me planted on the ground and hoof it at high speed for home. If we are on a strange trail away from home (riding alone) she is at her most focused best behavior. Moves out nicely on a loose rein, like I want. At home I have to carry a crop and tap each time she is sticky about forward momentum and that is a lot. A backward thinking horse is not a good thing.

There are many little things we need work on. Phebes has no bend to her. She is very stiff on her turns, more like she drifts out.....and around a turn rather than bending into a turn. Head carriage. I'd like to see a little more flex and softness. Leg yielding which she does, but I'd like to see her get lighter and more responsive to this, and reliable. Neck reining, as we use a direct rein with the hack. I do not know if it is appropriate to try neck reining with a hackamore?

To fix these issues would most general riding instructors be able to assist in getting better results? I'm a do-it-your-self kind of person, and do not want to send her out to a trainer ever again if I can help it. The to do list is long, but not horribly so. It is definitely a shorter list than it was two years ago. ~E.G.


  1. Tried to leave a comment earlier and blogger ate it!

    It seems to me that your list of goals are very doable, especially considering what you have already accomplished. If you've taught her the other stuff, you can probably teach her the rest of the list, especially if you can find some help.

    I don't know any instructors in your area, so my recommendation is to ask around: find people on horses who demonstrate the skills you want, and ask them who their trainer is! Then go watch some lessons to see if the trainer is somebody from whom you want to take lessons. Keep looking until you've found TWO, just in case the first one doesn't work for you!

  2. Been reading for a while, I think this is my first comment. :)

    Neck reining in a hack is perfectly acceptable! I've found the easiest way to teach it is to teach her to steer from your legs first, and then add the neck reining while using your legs. Alternatively you can just direct rein as usual but also lay the other rein across her neck. She may or may not catch on that way, some horses do, some don't.

    I love your stories btw!