Come To Jesus With Rogo

I know I brag too much about Rogo's sweet personality, but guess what? He has a flaw. Yes, it's true, unbelievable as it sounds, there's one bad thing he does. He runs away on the lunge line when he doesn't want to work. He has since the first time he was lunged. I've never been strong or skilled enough to hold him when he was really determined to get away, and thus he's learned he can do it. Trust me, I've worked hard to bring it too an end. I've gone months with no incidents, always to have him slip back when I thought it was safe. I'm sure I don't need to tell you this is a dangerous habit - horses aren't equipped to make decisions about where to go in our world.
I've never ended a session because he ran away - he always has to go back to work. Also, although you'd think that this would lead to big time bad manners across the board, it doesn't - he's kind, soft and safe to be around in every other way so I guess I let it slide for too long.
The two main things I've done to hold him on the lunge when he's really determined to get away are:
  1. thread the lunge line through a girth strap and up to the bit, so that if he tries to run he'll pull his head around (this would require side reins so the bit couldn't pull through, or putting the lunge through the nose band and bit and fastening it back on itself), and 
  2. thread the lunge line in one bit ring, around the poll, and fasten it to the other bit ring, so that if he tries to run he'll put pressure on the bit and poll
If I do this, he learns not to try to run, but eventually when I stop using these stronger methods he goes back to  running, especially if I push him at all. I wonder if anyone else has had this problem and if so, how they've fixed it?
Anyway, a couple of days ago he ran twice in a row and I just had it. It's very dangerous to him/others  and at best he isn't willing to work at all when he does this. So I put side reins on to keep him from getting his head turned out (a prerequisite to running off) and put the lunge line through his bit, around his poll and into the bit on the other side. Then I worked his ass off. I insisted on instant and complete obedience - walk, trot, canter, trot, woah, trot, etc., etc. and step smartly when you do it and do it NOW. He was very taken aback. He's never been pushed that hard or had me demand instant and complete obedience.He tried to run several times, couldn't do it, and then did the best work he's ever done on the lunge - beautifully round, hind quarters engaged, gorgeous gaits. 
I won't say I'm happy about it. Being demanding with him doesn't come naturally to me (maybe with others, but not with him lol). And I'll also quickly add that I don't believe that being tough and demanding all the time with him is the best approach. He's a confident boy which has it's advantages and I don't want to 'break' him as such (even writing that makes me cringe), but we need to come to an understanding that he doesn't defy me by running away whenever he feels like it. I'll have to find the right balance and it's going to have to be stricter than it has been.
I'm sure it's no coincidence that our ride the next day was amazing. Big beautiful gaits and responsiveness to aids - love it. So there's my confession - I was tough with my baby and although it didn't feel great I still think I did the right thing. 
Today I rode Level One test 1 for the first time and he went through it without a hitch, although it needs polish (going into the corners more, more pronounced lengthenings). Doug took some pictures and much to my dismay Rogo's nose is still stuck out - yuk. I desperately need a teacher to keep me on track. Doug helped me and will help me again tomorrow. If it isn't too awful I'll post a video for future reference :)


Anonymous said…
Sometimes you have to get big to solve a problem - particularly a safety related problem like the one you've got - you probably won't have to stay big once he understands the point. Sounds like good progress.
Carol said…
Thanks Kate. I was worried about how people would react, but I wanted to chronicle things as they happen and the safety issue us what pushed me to 'get big'.
Karen said…
My boy used to do this when he was first learning to lunge. I fixed it just the way you ave - I ran the lunge line through the bit and back to the girth so that when he tried to run, I had the leverage to keep his head toward me. I think there is a difference between being FIRM and FAIR with our horses, and then going beyond that. They need us to be firm sometimes. They need that leadership - for their safety and ours. Don't feel bad about getting firm with him - you were fair and he doesn't hold a grudge. :)
TeresaA said…
sometimes you have to just step up and be the boss. it sounds like you were and that you got the right result!
TBDancer said…
Agree with Kate and Karen about "going big" and establishing Alpha.

My horse is off the track and I've heard that ALL racehorses go with a chain over their nose (or under their chin or upper lip) as a matter of course.

Huey gets a little full of himself when he's been confined to the stall/paddock for a few days and knows he's going to turnout. We have the "Dance of Joy" combined with his "inner helicopter." Not fun. I rattle the lead chain and he suddenly tries VERY hard to control himself.

I would suggest you use all the tricks of attaching the lungeline to his head so he just cannot get away. Period. Too many things can "go south."
Val does the exact same thing - when I lunge him on my own. At home. Of course when I tried to show my trainer what he does, he lunged perfectly. It frightens me, I worry about injuring my hands as the line plays out, and Val gets a c-r-a-z-y look in his eye when he takes off.

I agree with getting tough when the situation demands it. I also wonder if it is possible we are communicating something with our posture that we don't realize. I believe there are a lot of subtleties to lunging... I know I haven't mastered it yet :)
Lexa said…
Harry used to be the same way and still is sometimes. We have a tall pole cemented into one of the ends of our indoor arena that we use to lunge the young horses around and when they try to run out it's easier for them to stop because the line is looped around the pole once. All you can do is keep working at it, I'm sure that Rogo will get the message soon if he hasn't gotten it from this session!
Anonymous said…
Oooh did I have this problem with Odie! Can't have a colt running around loose!

Hopefully he'll think twice after today. Our horses want us to lead them, and every once and a while they let us know when we're being too soft. ;)

Also--loled at the 'inner helicopter'. :P
Carol said…
I never dreamed so many others had this problem too. Misery loves company! :) It gives me faith we'll get through it.
CFS - Rogo also gets that look in his eye. I know just before he's going to go because the eye gives it away. Sometimes it helps me catch him just in time.
smazourek said…
"I was tough with my baby and although it didn't feel great I still think I did the right thing."

I've just come to this realization myself. It stinks but our horses aren't perfect unicorns, sometimes they need a line drawn in the sand.
Jeni said…
I'm just now home from vacation and attempting to get caught up.

Rogo is still a young horse remember that. He needs firm, fair leadership from you. If that means getting big and lead mare bossy then you have to do. For his safety and yours.

Would love to see video and pictures from yesterdays ride.

You may want to keep lunging him with the side reins to work on the nose in the air.
Jan said…
Carol, I call this the "there's a new sheriff in town" syndrome, and I've had to use it a couple of times with Buckshot. To deal with an issue, it is sometimes necessary to get stronger with our horses than perhaps in the past. But, like others have said, it doesn't mean you will have to always be so strict, but if needed you can be as strong as the issue needs. Good work by you! Sometimes it is good to open our horses' eyes up to us - he still loves you, don't worry!
There have been many times when I had to get tough with my horses. I don't like to do it and I would never call it abusive. But to my way of thinking even a pony has more strength than I do and can cause himself or others harm. There also comes a point where a horse will push the envelope to see how much he can get away with, it's like dealing with a bunch of five year olds some days. I wouldn't feel bad about getting strong with Rogo, he's young and he really does need direction and he needs to know where his boundaries are, what's acceptable and what isn't. I would say you did the right thing and look at the awesome ride you had the next day after he got corrected.
Achieve1dream said…
Unfortunately sometimes it's necessary. I think you did the right thing too. Sometimes for our own safety and theirs we have to get tough with them. It's not like you beat him, so don't feel bad about it. You guys have an amazing relationship and this isn't going to hurt it. :)