Friday, September 5, 2008


I rode Poppy and did not even come CLOSE to dying.

Poppy's new bit came and it fits, BARELY. It's a 6" hanging cheek french link. (Can't remember if I said that last week or not.) If his stupid head gets any bigger he is going to need a 6.5", ugh. His lips barely touch the edges of the rings. I will probably get him some bit guards to make sure the rings don't start pinching him. He has a lovely soft mouth and I don't want to mess that up.

And I started riding him in my western-ish saddle. I rode him a couple times last year in that saddle, then I decided he was getting too big so I started riding him in a draft-sized Aussie. You know what? I HATE THAT SADDLE. That saddle is the source of a lot of my fear about riding Poppy. Stupid fucking Aussie.

The Aussie has like 4" of padding, which means Poppy is effectively a hand taller when I'm riding him in it. And the Aussie has a slick seat - a really deep bear-trappy slick seat, but a VERY slick seat nonetheless. And the Aussie is extremely wide and makes Poppy feel a lot broader than he really is.

So I've been looking really closely at Poppy and Champ. Poppy's back is slightly broader than Champ's, but not too bad. I threw the usual saddle on Poppy last week and it fits ok - not perfect, but good enough to walk/trot around in.

So. Normal saddle, bit and bridle that fits. I dragged a chair over to him and climbed aboard. We did a little bending - very soft responsive mouth. We did a little ambling - so far so good. We made one calm circuit around the run-in-house and ambled back over to the other horses. Then we stopped.

Here's the "HELP??" part of the post. Where the hell is the gas pedal? How do you motivate a horse to go?

Poppy has always been the opposite of my other horses. I don't know whether it's just him or if it's a drafty trait, but he just plants his feet and will not move sometimes. He's UNSPOOKY. Incredibly UNSPOOKY. Nothing I can do on his back will startle him into movement if he's decided to stop. He won't even lunge right unless I have the lunge whip in my hand and I'm close enough to him to pop him with it.

I worked around this in the past by getting him out on the trail with one other horse to follow. Even Poppy doesn't like to get left alone on the trail. But there's nobody to ride with me here - my only choices are to work it out in the pasture with the other horses or lead him to the trails and work it out there.

But how do I work it out? I don't want to fuck this up and end up with dead-sided horse, or a horse that's scared of me. And I don't want to keep letting HIM decide when to stop. I've got the tack I need, and I think I've got my mind ready, but I'm not sure what to DO now. Any suggestions?


  1. Would you be interested in me posting this for Leeandra to comment on?

    If so, can you post a little Poppy background for her to go off of?


  2. Yeah, that'd be awesome!

    He's 4 year old Percheron. Yesterday was maybe his 10th ride total? Very green. He's had a mostly normal upbringing, with a lot of turnout with other young studs and young geldings.

    Basic hard-but-fair ground work by Jen, the person I bought him from - stuff like "If you bite the humans, they hit you back really fast and really hard" and "sometimes you have to go in a round pen and w/t/c in circles for the humans."

    I expect basic respect from him - don't bite me, step on me, tromple me, or try to drag me by the lead rope. I will also whack him for biting me or deliberately stepping on me, which he only very rarely does. He has nice ground manners but NO concept of personal space or stay out of my bubble or any of that. He's just an in your face horse. Ears up, big floppy lip quivering, delighted to see people and get scritches and maybe get treats, constantly edging in closer and closer to get more attention.

    You know about the clicker training. He loved that and thought it was the best game ever - he got attention AND food! I can't work out how to translate clicker training to under saddle work, and honestly I don't really want to. It's fun, but I don't want him to expect me to ride with a clicker and a bag of goodies.

    He just has no go, no impulsion, no nervousness at all about him. Nothing to channel into forward motion or yielding. I just don't have a handle on him, yknow?

  3. Two words: dressage whip. Cut off the dangly bit if you need to, but there is nothing like the sting from a good supple whip to get their attention. Tonka is like this sometimes -- he spooks by standing still and locking up. Very handy for the not-falling-off factor, but quite different from Raven (understatement). I carry the first 2/3 of a dressage whip in my boot when I ride him, and I only pull it out if he locks up on me. I give him a whack on the rump or the flank and the moment he startles out of his funk I pull him off balance to get a front foot unglued. Once that happens lots of leg and anticipation of it happening again.

    We used to have a small draft in my dressage barn and you knew that our coach was displeased with you if you drew her name for a lesson. They can and will move forward with impulsion, but you really have to ride them.

    Anyhow, just my two cents. I never ride with a crop or spurs, but after Tonka got glued to the middle of the road and I had to dismount to get him moving I realized that something must be done. He's gotten much better as a result of my cruelty.

  4. I'm actually leaning towards this. Either a whip (I have an 18" whip, not a true dressage whip but it works) or the whappy part of long roping reins. You know how you tie a knot in long leather split reins and then you have a bit of leather to whack the horse's neck with? The whappy part.

    Or maybe I should go get a real dressage whip so I can reach his butt without unbalancing myself. Whacking a horse on the neck is a great way to get his attention if he's used to it, but not so good for instinctive behavior...

    Anyway, it fits with the one-two-three principle. All training seems to have some version of it - a soft cue, a medium cue, and a DO IT NOW! cue. I'm pretty sure Poppy is just ignoring me - he will move off of leg pressure or a verbal command, unless he's just not feeling like listening to me.

    Thanks for reminding me about the proper use of a whip. :) And the pulling him off balance thing - I've done that with him on the ground, and with other horses when they get "stuck."

  5. Whappy reins don't do it for Tonka. The strike is too close to his brain, I think. My 18" crop doesn't work so great either -- better on the flank than on the rump. The dressage whip has a nice snap when applied with a flick of the wrist and that really gets him. Anyhow, you are dead on about my philosphy -- ask politely, ask insistently and then demand action.

  6. Hey Funder!
    DP is correct as always. Dressage whip to the rear with little hesitation or regret. This was the first lesson I learned when starting dressage (read: not trail riding). Go when I say Go! Whack Whack! Now go when I say Go! Whack! Now go... oh good boy!

    Works like a charm.

    And even now, after three years, I still repeat this lesson EVERY. SINGLE. RIDE. If I get it out of the way in the first two minutes, the rest of my ride if very pleasant and productive.

    I still feel like an animal abuser, especially surrounded by super-sensitive run-fast thoroughbreds. But you can't argue with the results and I welcome anyone who things differently to try to get Brego to move without this warm up. :D

  7. Whew, Daun, that makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER. Brego is lazy too. I just don't know if Poppy is completely typical for a draft or just a very weird horse... but I'm starting to believe he's a normal draft.

    So a trip to Tractor Supply is in order. For a dressage whip. Only a whip. Nothing else. I can go MONTHS without buying anything frivolous - as long as I stay away from tack stores. I lose all self-control in them. Because it's for the horses and they really need another bag of peppermint horse treats, or a new brush, or ohhh look those boots are on SALE...


    Daun: Please come tell David what you just said about me being right all the time. He still seems to have his doubts...


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