Rogo is a bad boy tonight

I did something stupid tonight. My green horse inexperience came through badly. In preparation for taking Rogo to Joan’s tomorrow I decided to lead him around outside the fenced area (at home). Of course I should have been doing this all along, but didn’t think about it. I used to lead him back in the woods when he was a 2 year old, so it didn’t seem like that big a deal. Anyway, after leading him around the yard and down the road to the beach everything was going beautifully. He was completely calm, and even though the other horses were calling to him quite agitatedly  he didn’t answer once or even glance at them. I took carrot pieces to make it enjoyable and we stopped for those. Also practiced whoa and backing up and everything worked great. By the time we got to the beach my confidence in him was such that I thought “we’ll go for a nice sunset walk on the beach”. We walked up the beach no problem but when we turned to come back he only took a few steps before squealing, spinning, bucking and ripped the line out of my hand. (My arm is now killing me.) He galloped back up the beach, not to the horses but to a nice patch of clover where I got the lead line back and brought him home. The bad part is that now I know he has it in his head, just like running off on the longe line. Now that I’ve written it maybe it doesn’t sound that bad?  I just had a regular lead clipped to his halter so had no control (didn’t think I needed any). For his safety I need to learn some other methods that give me more control until he is more predictable.
Yuk. This is killing my confidence to go to the show, and maybe it should. I have no experience or knowledge of how to handle a 17 hand 5 year old from the ground when he decides to take over being boss. Guess  I better get some supports in place or stay home.
It's hard to know when you should push out of your comfort zone a bit for the sake of progress and when you should work on more repetition and being absolutely cautious. The plan has been not to compete for the first day of the show. If it isn't going well we can always scratch for the second day when we are entered in Walk Trot A and B. Cheryl thinks it's time to get him out there and get some experience with show environments and I agree in theory. 
I'm so traumatized I forgot about our lesson today! It went well - he did his first test ever - walk trot A, and it wasn't too bad for a first test. Cheryl said we passed, so if we can do that at the show we'll be laughing! Once I get him moving off my inside leg reliably he'll  be doing very well. Also did a short canter in each direction and transitions were very good.


I think you’re being harsh on yourself in describing your decision to take Rogo for a walk on the beach as stupid. Everyone who deals with horses has, at one time or another, been blindsided by an unexpected behaviour.

Sometimes when you replay the incident in your head you can come up with the whys and the wherefores of what happened, but sometimes there seems to be no obvious cause at all. Perhaps your boy was just feeling happy. The fact that he didn’t try to evade you when you caught up with him in the patch of clover would indicate that he is not being particularly naughty or expressing that he believes he is the boss; it seems that he didn’t feel it was a big deal. By just catching him and calmly continuing with your walk back home you haven’t escalated the situation. You don’t have a behaviour pattern here; right now it is just an isolated incident.

I think you’re right to think about prevention. It may just be as simple as stepping up your groundwork with him for awhile. You may want to try using a chain with him. I had a trainer who always got her youngsters used to having a chain over the nose, not that this would be used routinely but simply so the horses wouldn’t automatically assume that there was something worrisome about to happen. She had had many clients who only used a chain for “special” situations like trailering, vet visits or going to a show grounds. Once the horse makes that connection, the chain does not give you added control but has the opposite affect by just raising the horse’s anxiety level. Since you have a 17H youngster, the chain may be a good idea. Another option would be a rope halter or a “Be Nice” halter that uses contact with pressure points to add control.

I have a 17H Percheron. He is elderly and in failing health now, but when I first had him he was an imposing beastie. I didn’t use a chain with him much since he is such a worry wart, but I have found that giving a sharp downward pull(s) on the lead rope was more effective at controlling him and prevented us ending up in tugs of war. Generally I’ve been able to lead him with just a leather halter and a cotton lead rope even in stressful situations.

Rogo is lovely and I enjoy reading about your progress.

(I am an aging chicken re-rider. I am not a trainer nor do I play one on TV so my advice is definitely not “expert”)
Carol said…
Thank you sooo much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment! I really appreciate it. The incident really threw me, especially since I'm taking him to his first show and have enough other things to worry about :) You are right - he hasn't learned a bad habit from this one incident. A few days have gone by and he's fine. My teacher came and showed me how to use a chain and we've practiced so he knows the feel without it being hurtful. Your suggestion reinforces that we're on the right track. Thank you!
Our draft cross mare pictured at right (the black and white pinto)is half Percheron we're told. I adore her. Your horse sounds wonderful
but then I have a weakness for Percherons.