Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Horse Behavior’ Category

Milton & Me

Still waiting. So, a thoughty post.

All the physical parts are in place: trailer, truck, Coggins. Now we need to have all the people in town at the same time. Our most recent random gesture [Sand Colic?] seems to be working. Milton seems to be settling. I would almost … almost … be willing to try him in the enclosed ring myself. But we’ve waited this long for someone else to get on him first. Might as well stick with the plan.

I can’t envision riding Milton on a regular basis. Seriously, my imagination fails. Is he not the horse for me? Proof that one has to ultimately pick one’s own horses? Or am I so discouraged that I am unwilling to hope? Or am I grouchy bitch who enjoys wallowing in negativity? No idea.

Last weekend, Milton got away from Greg on the long lines. On his way back to the barn, Milton neatly jumped the ring tape [Spooked]. Not what you want to see in a driving horse, but encouraging for a jumping horse. (A storm blew. Greg halted so they could quit. Not fast enough. When we got to the barn, Milton was waiting for us in the aisle, giving us a look that said, ‘Didn’t you people realize it was raining?’)

Although Milton jumped 3′ with his front feet, the trailing lines took the tape down mid-body. Unknown whether his hinds would have gone clear.

What happens if Milton turns in a riding horse and a driving horse? How’s that going to work?

Despite living together for almost 30 (!) years, Greg and I don’t actually share that well. HIS dogs; MY cats. He helps me with MY riding; I help him with HIS driving. Mathilda was HIS horse; Caesar (aka Previous Horse) was MY horse.

What happens when we both have an equal claim on the same horse?

How do we settle show conflicts? Lesson conflicts? How does the level of the show/lesson factor in?

If we haul to Stepping Stone, does Milton drive or ride?

If Greg has a lesson, does he get the days beforehand to prepare? No point in wasting lesson money.

What if driving requires different shoes? Can one jump in those?

What if driving/riding training develops the horse in a way not suitable for riding/driving?

Or do I think too much? This has been mentioned in the past.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

The I-Got-This Training Theory

Last week, Rodney was proud of himself for mastering an exercise [By George]. That’s the goal for all of his work. Remember the high school science demo that used air pressure to cavitate a can, UW-M Wonders of Physics: Collapsing Can? That’s how Rodney’s mind works.

Overwhelming External Pressure


When the world is too much, Rodney collapses mentally. Since he’s 1400 pounds and has feet, he runs off. Inside, he’s a heap of crumpled aluminum. [Aftermath of an Explosion, walking up hill 2011; Weekend Report, trotting in-hand 2013; Walking Along, leather halter 2016; and so on and so on]

No Pressure


No threat. No collapse. Nothing to prevent the above from repeating. This is where he is with dressage. Good but not great.

Internal Support


Not just doing, but doing with volume and projection. Throwing energy outward. I want Rodney to know he can, to feel sassy. He needs to be ready when the inevitable happens: an exciting environment, or a spooky jump, or an amateur moment on the part of his rider. I want him to have sufficient internal conviction to handle external pressure. I want him to be able to say …


… ‘I got this.’

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Sudden Switch

Driving Thursday

Switching in a hurry from driving to riding makes Alvin mad. The only time I have felt Alvin threaten to mutiny was at a Dixie Cup show when our riding classes immediately followed his driving class.

In numerous shows, Alvin drove first and then was ridden a few classes later. He was fine. In fact, I was of the opinion that the driving loosened him up and put him in a good mood for riding [Report]. Just don’t ask him to do it back-to-back.

The switchover can be hard on riders as well.

Between the driving class and long-lining Milton, I have been holding my reins for driving more than for riding lately. It took me half-way around the first trot to mentally switch back. MSSP 2015

At Dixie Cup this year [Report], I didn’t have to suffer the switch. Mr. Whizbang did. After the victory pass in Academy Driving (!), folks swarmed him like NASCAR pitcrew. Harness came off. Saddle & bridle went on. One lap around warm-up. In we went.

Either Mr. Whizbang was of the same opinion as Alvin, or I had gotten myself into a state thinking he might be of the same opinion as Alvin. Whoever was the originating culprit, I clearly felt a deep breath go through the two of us halfway through the class.

Like my Mama says, It’s not the ups and downs. It’s the sudden changes of direction.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Sand Colic?

We continue to pursue the shadowy NQR in Milton.

Our latest effort is a week-long treatment for sand colic. We don’t have sand or even sandy soil. OTOH, Milton is big on picking up every last iota of feed. I have no doubt he ingests a lot of dirt. Perhaps there is a component that he did not meet in Canada. Maybe he is allergic to Alabama.

How’s it going? Over the weekend he had a subdued hissy fit while lunging. He carried on bucking and hopping and cantering, yet stayed on the circle. The lunge line has a 25-lb breakaway. Better to have them run around the pasture than tangle their legs, we figure. He never came close to challenging it.

It was one of the odder things I’ve seen a horse do. He was clearly in PAIN, or UPSET, or SOMETHING, but the cause was not at all obvious. Perhaps the psyllium husks were doing their job and the gunk was shifting around in his gut. (We checked for colic, etc.)

Or he could have been reacting to the weather …

… or a different bit, or Swat on his zipper (although that usually makes them feel better), or the newest batch of hay…

… or he had a Thoroughbred moment and the rest of it is on our heads.

That’s the problem with NQR. It’s only obvious in retrospect.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

It Takes A Village

Riding Rodney is a group endeavor. Due to issues, I have have never ridden him without Greg in attendance. Time to change that. Did Rodney like it? Not so much. We lasted 8 minutes.

Tension from the rider? No. I could be deluding myself. Would not be the first time nor the first rider to do so. OTOH, I often rode Previous Horse and Mathilda by myself. Perhaps not ideal from a safety point of view, but riding solo is not a habit that freaks me out a priori.

Did I amplify his tension? Possibly. Probably. I will totally put my hand up to this. Especially since I am naturally a sedate, calming person.

Tension originating from the horse? Yes. I felt that I was sitting on a keg of dynamite. A small keg, with a long fuse, but a keg nonetheless. As proof, I offer that fact that he reverted to his old habit of popping out of gear at the halt [Meanwhile]. He has been nailing the statue maneuver lately [Feb 2107].

The “old habit” was less than five months ago, back in December of last year. Given our history, that’s lightning progress for Rodney & me.

In all cases, my response is the same. Pull my socks up and be the sedate, calm person that I need to be.

He used to be this way when his chaperone was present. He learned that. He will learn this.

Super Upside
Today is my wedding anniversary. Therefore, I would like to publicly thank the husband for being my village over the last 29 years.

Anniversary Posts [2016] [2015] [2014] [2013] [2012]
The year I forgot [Aftermath]


Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

We Spooked. We Survived.

T is for Tape. If you are joining me from Blogging A To Z, welcome! Since the blog is already daily, with topics for each day [About: Schedule], there is no specific A To Z theme. I may even skip a few letters. Gasp. Clutch the pearls. The goal for this year is less crazy, more visiting. [Ze State of Ze Blog 2014]

Rodney is a high-strung Thoroughbred. I am not being redundant.

When I started riding him again, I knew that spooking and hopping and fussing was in our future. He’s not the sort of horse to take a phlegmatic view of the world [Looking for Rodney’s Silver Lining]. I was hoping to start small and build up a tolerance.

Well, yeah.

A bit of explanation. Our “ring” is a section of the pasture marked off at horse-chest height with plastic construction tape. The same stuff I use to differentiate my large brown horse from large brown deer [Don’t Shoot, Hunting Season]. The horses respect it as a boundary, and it provides them the reassurance of being enclosed. Go figure. Most importantly, the tape is not gonna hurt them if they get the crazies and charge thru it, which has happened. Milton more than Rodney. The alternative is to build a rail or wall capable of holding their weight. The worst thing is a flimsy fence. I’ve been meaning to do a blog post on the whole concept. But I digress.

Mr. E [Dressage Lesson] has Rodney and me practicing halts. We halted. We moved off. We LEAPT sideways. I had enough hang time to contemplate my imminent future as ground art. We stopped. The horse had the decency to be standing underneath me. Rodney had gotten the tape under his tail, which startled him, which made him levitate sideways, which pulled the tape after him, which startled him. As causative agents go, it was legit.

Mentally, it wasn’t a big spook. No snorting before. No prancing after. One short, sharp ‘Eek’, and it was over. Physically, yowza!

Fortunately, when it comes to talent, there’s a lotta jump in that horse. Unfortunately, when it comes to ill-advised cavorting, there’s a lotta jump in that horse.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

This Is Why I Am Paranoid Around The Barn

Saddle Seat Wednesday

P is for a healthy concern for safety, not an obsession, not at all. If you are joining me from Blogging A To Z, welcome! Since the blog is already daily, with topics for each day [About: Schedule], there is no specific A To Z theme. I may even skip a few letters. Gasp. Clutch the pearls. The goal for this year is less crazy, more visiting. [Ze State of Ze Blog 2014]

A while back, I was at Stepping Stone, getting ready for my lesson. The grooming stall is full of SSF brushes and material, so I leave my brush box just outside, in the aisle. (Yes, I bring my own brushes. Your point?) As I was about to reach down to get a brush, I saw a horse being led up the aisle.

From an excess of caution, I stood up & stepped back, waiting for the horse pass by. As he got level with me, the horse suddenly kicked out with both hind feet. I was looking at the bottom of a set of hooves from about a foot away. At least, it felt like 12 inches. Probably was more. I was perfectly safe where I was.

What if I had been a step closer, bent over? Shudder.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott