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

July 25, 2011

30 lowly wonderful fun and thrill filled minutes!

I just couldn't take it any more.  Had to absolutely had to ride the horse.  Still very hot, and humid.  She hadn't been ridden in eight or nine days.  Eatin' good.  All new gear.  Every, single, piece.   Since I had no buddy, no back up, and I'm prone to heat exhaustion I chose to work her in the field across the creek where the landowner has mowed a lovely path that snakes back and forth and around with a gradual climb on two sides.  We walked some, trotted a little, and I cued her to the canter and she lets loose bucking.  She's trying to get herself winded sideways to twist me loose, but I straightened her out.  So I turn her away from home, walk down the gradual incline, turn her around and send her up again, and bucking again commences.  We went through this process at least four times, where she finally gave up her union card and cantered the very short and gradual grassy climb.  She got herself worked up to a full bodied sweat and I could tell that even though I had the horse, her brain was thinking HOME.  She's got herself pretty joined up with Phebes.  Phebes having no choice in the matter but keeping the peace any way she can kind of like Stockholm Syndrome.  So I'm scratching my head a little as it could be one of several things.
  • Something she isn't liking about the change in saddle.  Of course the saddle is fitting me great.  But she had not offered to buck previously in the old Crestridge though I thought it was kind of wide and sitting low on her.
  • She was being a little snot and wanted to shake me loose and get back home.  She does have an "I want to go home" fit periodically, but they have in the past just been turning back on me and then jumping around a little.
  • Journey has been eating pretty good during this lay off period.  Low starch, but I've kept the chow and hay rolling as I'd like a little more fat layer on her topline prior to winter/ training/ etc.  She tends to be a lean horse and I'd like to see her maintain her weight.
  • Any combination or all of the above.
Hoping to do a longer ride tomorrow.  We only managed about 3 miles today with working through the bucking. 

Some other things I'm looking at.  Tonight I put an onboard heart monitor on her.  Though she seems externally pretty calm for the most part, her pulse rate was telling a different story.  She is a little more unsettled than she appears, which was what I thought.  The part of the trail where we had the hay incident, and the turkey incident really spiked her number on the monitor.  Both going and coming back.

I have to work hard to remember that this mare has had very little exposure for her age.  Just basic under saddle, a couple of handfuls of trail rides, a clinic or two,  and that's it.  On the plus side it took Phebes to 1000 miles of general trail work to get as good as Journey is now with maybe....50-100 miles or so?  I'm guessing because Teri didn't really know mileage just some trail rides, but not extensive work.

There are many small things needing fixing, and some rather daunting ones.  Her hoof issues are giving me some pause.  Though she has always been bare, she hasn't had the mechanical movement to build a strong hoof.  Her hoof walls are so thin that I doubt she'd hold a steel shoe if I resorted to one.   Phebe's hoof walls were like that prior to being under saddle and many miles.  I'm hopeful that with some fats, minerals, vitamins, and miles those walls will thicken.  It's going to take time.  Her soles on the front have zero concavity, flat as the proverbial pancake which is the source of her ouchiness over rock.  Then there is the hoof flare at the heel of all four.  Some separation of the wall at a half inch flare which makes me doubt we are getting a good heel first landing.  My hoof person (LSEGH) is going to do some micromanaging and try to correct that.  

On the plus side I love Journey's little motor.  She's like the energizer bunny.  If you want to trot you need only ask and she motors along.  We have pushed the trot up to 10 mph ( about 5 mph or so when we started) so she is learning to lengthen her stride.  We are doing that in a sustained way, just working on the gears so I know what I have.

But the important thing today is...

 I got to ride.  And I feel good (sweaty, but good) about that.                     ~E.G.


  1. I think all of your assumptions/ideas are good ones for the cause of the bucking. I have noticed that some horses just like to buck and will do so, even if they haven't done it for a while. Farley bucks - and depending on her mood and what I'm asking her to do, she'll buck. Sometimes they are happy bucks because she likes what she's doing (jumping) and sometimes they are irritated bucks because I want her to canter and she doesn't want to. Sometimes it's because she wants to lead change and bucking is the only way she knows how right now.

    I don't like it and I growl at her and let her know it's NOT OK - but it seems to be an intrensic part of Farley's behavior. Not saying your mare is like that! But your post just got me to thinkin' :)

  2. Yay for getting to ride, and yay for riding out all that bucking!

  3. I contacted her former owner. She said that the bucking at the canter was a recurring theme anytime she was too fresh. Better to trot until the fresh is worn off, then ask. At least I know now. When you are buying a horse I think sometimes owners are afraid that if they are brutally honest they won't make the sale, or the horse may miss out on a good home. As I joggled my memory this morning I thought I remembered Teri mentioning that she bucks out on the canter transition, then I opened my email and yes, she confirmed that. I had forgot I guess because Journey hasn't bucked and we've done a fair amount of flat and uphill cantering for short distances. But when I thought about it, we always did it after a few miles of warm up. Since I was in the field and had no notion of going anywhere else yesterday I asked her before I should have. Granted, a well-trained horse should pick up their cues whenever you ask, but well-trained she is not. More like "started".

  4. Good to know this isn't a completely new behavior.

    I'm not sure I agree with you that a well trained horse means that it will pick up a cue (including canter cues) at any time, any place, without misbehavior. A proper warmup is ABSOLTELY necessary i all of the disciplines I've tried out, including dressage. And it's individual to each horse. These are highly trained, obedient, submissive horses, yet some are warmed up at walk/canter before their rides, others walk/trot - and if you ask for something before it's ready, you could have a rodeo on your hands for a variety of reasons - even with a top level horse, because they are simply not to the point where they can give you what is being asked. I do not think that is necessarily the mark of an untrained or unfinished horse. A reiner would not ask for a show pen spin or in the first 5 or 10 minutes of the warm up. I would not ask a dressage horse for a truly collected frame until I had warmed up at the walk with some long and long - and if I did the horse would resent it because it's not fair.

    Different horse training/behavior philosophies exist of course, but my focus is on what is fair to ask of the horse - and whether I have properly prepared them that day for what I'm asking. For Zach (the horse I rode at Pebble beach), that meant not asking for a trot until I had done quite a bit (20 minutes or so) work long and low at the walk and canter. With Farley, that means not asking for the canter until she's relaxed and forward at the trot (although I experimented with warming her up at the canter after walking because that can be benefial to horses that are experiencing arthritic changes in their hocks, and it seemed to work OK).

    Just food for thought. :) I've never really explored my thoughts in this direction, so I'm sorting this out as I go.

  5. I'll grant you that not having a thorough warm up is not fair to asking for more technical movement. Or taking a stall kept horse out after being stalled or corraled for several days. There also are trained horses, and well-trained horses. Bucking just isn't acceptable behavior in my world, so I do need to think it through, and fix it. Even if that means changing how and when I ask, until she is successful.

    Pretty sure it boiled down to she needs a much longer warm up period mentally vs. the physical aspect. Probably an hour vs. fifteen minutes. Also realize that I'm not asking for a sustained canter, just a short gait transition, and back to the trot. Like shifting up, and shifting down. Pretty basic stuff. Since she has a history of doing this, all the more reason to get a handle on it so I'm not dealing with it at a ride when the atmosphere is torqued up. I don't really disagree with your thoughts, so much as I ride with a different mindset. What I want from a horse sounds simple.

    Go when I ask you to go.

    Go the speed I ask you to go.

    Stop when I ask.

    Back up.

    Bend, don't brace.

    Don't throw me on the ground and don't break my body parts. (bucking can make that happen in pretty short order if you aren't prepared for it, and who needs it?).