Mar 26, 2012

A Horse is Like an Onion

I’m working on the post/s about the therapeutic work we started to do on Bryan, with links to the sources and webpages per the salient info. But until I get there, here is another episode of Our Life With Bryan. As per his usual, it was educational.

Nicole and I had been so entertained and intrigued by Bryan’s first outing that morning that we decided, oh what the heck, let’s get him out again. I was curious to find out if there were any connections in his responses, or if *everything* provoked that blind nervous reaction, so, like my turnout experiment, I wanted to see if different ways of approaching riding made any difference. Comparing Bryan’s current situation with what I knew about Lisa’s riding school situation. I knew that her riders always mounted on a mounting block *at the ring*. *Not*, like we did, in the barn aisle. So, a couple of hours after our first riding attempt, we got him out again. He was the same; quiet, but pooping and head high, uninterested in cookies and not connecting with us at all.

This time we led him out to the ring. There were a couple of people riding at the far end (the ring at that barn was gigantic). He could see other horses but again, it didn’t seem like he noticed or cared. He stood the same, head high but obedient. This time he stood quietly as she swung her leg over. This time, he stood still when she sat down. This time, he walked off quietly. And so, with a look and a nod from me, off they went, around the ring.

He walked so weird! Was it a pace? An amble? A shuffle? Hard to say. But what ever it was, he did it, and that’s all he did. Nicole patted him and patted him, and as she relaxed, she let the reins get longer, until he was cruising around on the buckle. And so! Woot! She picked up the reins, she dropped the reins, she leaned, she flapped her legs. He never changed.

They went twice around, and then reversed. Same. The weird gait, and head high-ish, but totally quiet. I asked Nicole if she was brave enough to trot, and with her usual confident aplomb, she picked up the reins, gave a squeeze and a cluck, and off he trotted (well, his version of a trot!) around the rail. Again, a reverse, and that was that.

We were fairly astounded. So here was our school horse. Is that all it was? To get on in the ring? Who knew!

Feeling cocky, I told Nicole to circle. And so she did. B immediately picked up speed and his agitation was clear. Nicole managed to steer him back to the rail where he immediately resumed his little trot-trot-trot. Hmmm. ‘Try it again!’ I called. And again, speed and agitation. Just to make sure, we tried a couple of more times. Clearly, LEAVING THE RAIL IS BAAADDDD!!!! Being on the rail is GOOOOOOD.

The ring fence is a low, one rail wooden structure, about 42 inches high. There are openings in the fence that lead to a nice little 12 ft wide track around the perimeter of the ring. I told Nicole to go out, and trot around the track. They got the first part, but the second, not so much. Mind you, he was just one foot away from where he had been, but clearly it WOULD NOT DO. They pranced and jigged their way to another opening and made it back to Planet Safe Zone, where Bryan promptly put his little horsie robot hat back on and round they went, trot-trot-trot.

Today’s Data Point?

Bryan needs his routine. And clearly, it was up to me to figure out what it was!


  1. You know, I actually had an OTTB like that once, inside the ring at the rail was the safezone. Outside the ring, NOT SAFE. The center of the ring, NOT SAFE. I eventually got him over having to be on the rail to be safe, but he never did get comfortable out hacking. Can't wait for the next Brian chapter! :o)

  2. you can retrain them, it just takes consistancy and time. My sister's little guarter/morgan cross had been a barrel racer at his last home. Any time we took him into an open meadow he would start to prance, crow hop, all the while looking for the barrels. But if you took him down a trail, he was perfect. It took about one year for him to forget the barrels and relax in an open meadow to the point where we could safely canter him across one.