ID MyHorse

Does Your Horse Respect You? Part 3 in a Series

In Part One and Part Two of this series, I described how I learned the hard way about the need for groundwork to develop relationship and respect between my horse and me. At least, I had figured it out with my Arabian Kadeen, but I had to have a blunt reminder to address it with my new horse, Finn. At the end of Part Two, I described our challenging trip to a local park and Finn’s difficulty with going through any water. He was belligerent and he demonstrated his stress and lack of trust and respect by rearing about 6-8 inches off the ground. That got my attention…

Roundpen lessons

The next day after our not-so-enjoyable ride in the park, I tacked up Finn and rode around my dry lot. Although I knew we had a respect/relationship issue, it still wasn’t the first thing on my agenda to use my round pen. As usual, our ride in his familiar area, asking for familiar commands went just fine. He did everything I asked, with smooth transitions which he often executed by voice command only. As we completed our workout, I spied the round pen panel with the broken bottom lying outside the round pen. I decided it would be a good source of “pressure” to ask him to cross the panel. But I was smart enough not to attempt it from the saddle.

I dismounted and pulling the reins over his head, I asked him to cross the panel with me leading him. This is the only way we had managed to cross the water at the park the day before. He went over it twice…. and when I asked one more time, he balked. And then the games began…

I traded his bridle for a halter and lunge rope, and started to try and lunge him over the obstacle. He would have none of it, and in relatively short order his solution was to try and drag me around the dry lot. He was extremely obstinate. And so I finagled him into the round pen and pulled the offensive panel inside the round pen as well.

When I say “finagled” I mean it…. He wouldn’t go into the round pen (he’s a smart guy!) and I actually separated two panels and was able to get him in. TWO HOURS LATER he was convinced to walk nicely over the panel. But that was not before totally “giving me the hoof”.

He would canter around me in a circle, heaving, and sweating, and wanting to stop on his own, but completely unwilling to respond to my voice command to “walk”. His ears would flicker, but he never slowed a beat. So I would respond to his “deafness” by making him go faster. Over and over we repeated this exercise. Finally, he had enough and he complied. He would walk, trot, canter, and whoa on command. He walked nicely over the panel. We were both exhausted.

Once again, let the games begin…

The next day, I put his halter on, grabbed the lunge rope and whip, and headed for the round pen. He balked again at even going in. I managed to get him through the door of the round pen, and once again the games began.

It started off much as it had the day before. I started off seeing how much compliance I would get on just regular lunging. Not much. He wouldn’t respond to voice commands. He would periodically throw a fit and rapidly reverse on his own, leaving the lunge rope looped over his neck in an awkward way. I’d cut him off and turn him again.

Eventually, he started to wear out, and finally, he’d comply with my request to walk over the panel. But immediately after doing something I wanted him to do, he’d throw another tantrum and reverse on his own again. So off we’d go in another 10-15 minute cantering session before I’d give him the option of trying again. I’d get compliance going clockwise but not counterclockwise.

On and on it went, for another two hours the second day, until he quit fighting and calmly did as I asked. I had been foolish and slipped on my boots without socks on this second day, and after 256,000 revolutions around the round pen, I had worn a nice sore on my ankles. Once again, we were both exhausted. Stay tuned for Day 3…

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