Yesterday's Visit WIth The Horses

I had a good visit at the barn yesterday. First I free lunged Dan. I put some good music on, put out ground poles and played with him for about 15 minutes. I ran around the arena with him, so I'd get a work out too and he went through the poles really nicely. When we finished that I did a bit of clicker work on getting him to look away to get a treat, stand at liberty without moving and just started asking him to back from a voice command only. He's very quick with clicker training, but it's been a couple of years so we're brushing up.
When I went to put him back in his stall he had to go by a horse who always leans out and tries to nip the horses who go by. Dan hates him and on this occasion he hopped up a bit and struck at the air with both front legs in quick succession, hard. He's never done this before and has always led very well. Luckily I was beside him and not in front of him. Maybe he wouldn't have done it if he thought he'd hit me, but it was too close for comfort and even though he was provoked he definitely shouldn't act this way. I haven't faced this issue before, ever, so I had no plan for a reaction. What I did was give a very firm verbal 'no' and immediately made him back all the way down the aisle. Then I had him stand for a moment and then led him out, quietly this time without a reaction beside the nippy horse.
Last year Dan was stalled beside this horse and disliked him so much that he made himself lame kicking the stall wall that he shared with him. This year we put Dan in another barn, but we have to go by the nippy horse to get back and forth to the indoor ring. Dan gets along with most horses, but about three years ago we boarded at a place where he was stalled beside a grumpy horse (also very nippy) who Dan took a big dislike to. He doesn't take well to horses who try to pick on him. When our three horses are home Rogo is the dominant horse, but he is very quiet about it and all the horses get along, although Dan is kind of a tease to Rogo and Savanah. He pulls their tails and tries to get them to run, etc.
I've warned Jen, who's riding Dan, to keep an eye on it and I'll continue to do ground work with him, as Jen does too, but I'm not sure if there's anything else I can do about it.
After this I free lunged Rogo and Savanah together over poles. I kept the boppy music and ran along with them too. I'm getting so much exercise! I've started running with our dogs too (we've turned the riding ring into a dog turn out for the winter). Animals LOVE it when you do this. Who knew? Both horses and dogs act very happy and excited when I run along with them and they get so energized. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think I'm feeling a little stronger already?
After all this I rode Rogo. The ride was fine - contact was good, bending was good, energy was okay (worked for it but it came). I also think he's finding his balance at the canter and I'm very slowly but surely getting into a better canter position on him. It's really helped to be lunged on Savanah.
Now for a confession - I think I've discovered a reason he may be breaking more in his canter, and it isn't just loss of balance as he learns to use his hind quarters more. The riding ring needs to be raked and the track along the walls is worn to the base along the middle of each long side :( 
This means hard footing and Rogo is bare foot for the winter. I'm feeling pretty guilty. I didn't notice the footing was getting thin (there's a 'path' but you can't see that the sand/rubber footing is so worn unless you walk over and carefully examine it) until yesterday. He isn't lame or acting up, I just noticed he isn't as happy to keep his canter and he's always loved to canter. One big hint was that he pulled against my hands and cantered into a corner, where the footing is deep, and he hasn't done this since he first started cantering under saddle and hadn't really figured out how to turn. Sooooooo ... I won't be riding until the ring is raked. I may do it by hand. There isn't the cushion needed and also without the proper footing it could be slippery for a canter. Come to think of it it wouldn't be good for the base either.
I finished my afternoon at the barn with some clicker training with Rogo. This is all new to him, so we worked on him looking away for a treat. He turns his head so far back he almost touches his side, so I'm thinking I'll make sure he learns to do both sides, and then he can do bending exercises all on his own! :)


juliette said…
Poor Dan with the nippy horse. It is good you weren't hurt. I feel bad for horses who have to be out or stalled beside horses they don't like.

Your running and playing with the horses (and dogs) is so great! I am certain they love it!

That adorable Rogo is so funny bending far for his treat! I can't wait to start with my boys. My tubby Pie will turn circles, I am sure, for a treat.
Achieve1dream said…
Poor Dan. I feel bad for horses that feel the need to lunge at their gates or nip at horses from their stall. I used to know a dressage horse who was stalled during show season during the day so his black coat wouldn't bleach and he hated it! He was so stall aggressive. To people and horses. He never was aggressive with me or his owner though. Or the barn owner. It was sad. He was so much happier outside. Luckily he was sold to a girl who rides for fun so he gets to live outside all the time now. :) I just wish I'd had the money to buy him because he was such a fantastic horse.

Anyway sorry for rambling. :) That's too bad about the arena. I agree it probably would not be very good for the base to keep riding on it. You could ride off the wall too if you wanted to keep riding but not rake lol. I can't wait to hear more about the clicker training with Rogo. I really need to get back into doing it with Chrome. He's my first horse to clicker train and it's so much fun. :)
Glad you had a good ride. Sounds like fun cranking the music and playing with your horses and dogs :) It's good that you noticed the footing issue. Hope you get it straightened out soon.

If I'm lucky, I have my friend the grader coming over to sort our arena out tomorrow morning. It's gotten so deep I can't harrow it with my small tractor anymore. And Val's got a swollen ankle, so we have to do something.

(Nice on with the auto - carrot stretches!)
Anonymous said…
Wow your horse Rogo is totally gorgeous!! What a handsome boy. I love your blog. Glad to know I am not the only one who runs with their horse for exercise!! :)
Jeni said…
wow Dan was upset! Glad you were not hurt and I think your reaction was just fine.

Not riding here yet.. still too much ice and now +9 F very cold!
Dom said…
Good work correcting the bad behavior immediately. That sort of thing can turn dangerous SO quickly. Good job thinking on your feet.
juliette said…
Carol, I know you already just enjoy...I have an award for you over at my blog!
Anonymous said…
Horses are funny in that they seem to carry grudges just like people. Cassy has a mare that she can't stand, and she's the sweetest little Arab. We're pretty sure she's never done anything to Cassy.
With dogs having an issue like this we get them into a situation with the dog they take issue with and save their favorite treat for only when that dog is around. You could try that; anytime you walk past that horse, break out a great treat so that he's connecting that area with a happy moment. Just make sure he hasn't misbehaved before he gets that treat of course:)
Carol said…
Thanks for all the feedback and ideas everyone. The treats might help - I'll have to be VERY careful about attitude when he gets them though :)
Kc said…
I nominated you for a blog award! see it at
Jan said…
Carol, How fun that you are running along with the horses when you lunge them! It is wonderful that they seem to like it so! They have perhaps never had a human "play with them" like that- I must try it too!
I think you handled Dan's kicking in a good way- glad you weren't in front of him! And very observant about the footing and how it is affecting Rogo. I hope you can get it raked and softer for him. What a good neck bender he is, too!
it is so neat that you and the dogs run with the horses and get exercise as well. i've heard of the clicker training, and heard that people get good results with it. you are doing a great job with your animals!!