Sunday, April 4, 2010

Always fun

It snowed some more today. We were completely unimpressed by it. I'm not even surprised that it's April and snowing! Random snow flurries are the new normal.

Yesterday I rode for a while and went some places, but that's the best I can tell you. Yep, I forgot the GPS! Eeek! I think we got close to the end of American Flat Road, circling around behind the Stead airport. I rode on land that's not supposed to have dirt bikes, and of course there were 5-6 dirt bikes, and of course Dixie lost her freakin' mind. We spent 20 minutes stuck on the side of a hill, doing one rein stops - every time I'd tell her to walk and point her down the hill, she'd try to take off and I'd haul her back around in a circle. It was way too far to walk, so I didn't want to get off, and she was way too hot, so I didn't want to let her trot down the hill. Yes, babe, dirt bikes do make scary noises, but you've heard them before, and I promise they won't eat you. Sigh.

When we got back, I worked a bit on trying to teach the sidepass from the ground with clicker training. I think the first step is to move a back leg over, then a front leg, then back-front-back-front. The first step of "move your back leg over" is "move your back leg, just a bit, without moving the others, and without going forward", so that's what we worked on. At first Dixie wanted to move forward, then she wanted to ignore the tapping, then she gave me a tiny bit of what I wanted, then she started moving into the pressure - sidepassing perfectly toward my whip arm. WTF? Took a break from it and did some reverse and some head down, then tried one more time and got a bit of what I was looking for and quit for the day.

Today I went out and did more clicker training. First we worked on the sidepass lesson again - she was a bit better, so I just repeated it a couple times on each side and then quit. Then we tried targeting, since there's actually a traffic cone in her paddock already. I am trying to gradually stretch out the distance so that one day she'll walk over, touch the cone, then walk back to me for her treat. Right now she just gets frustrated and starts pawing.

Whenever Dixie gets frustrated or impatient, she paws. She's always done it. It's actually what she's doing on trailer rides - not real kicking, just "why am I tied up standing still" pawing. I don't think it's something that I can effectively punish, and I've been hoping it would go away on its own, but it hasn't. Hmm.

Anyway, I did a bit of rope desensitization with her legs (not popular), then I played with her tail. Partly just because I should be able to, and partly because I think we need a crupper for down hills. I am not at all eager to actually try putting a crupper on her and then riding, so right now I just get off when the saddle scootches forward on downhills. But maybe one day I'll get up the nerve to do this insane thing, so I'm getting her used to having her tail messed with.

The last thing we did was at-liberty backing up. The first time, Dixie gave me one step of grudging reverse. Then we walked forward, stopped, and I asked her to back up again. She came forward and sideways and tried to slam me with her hip, so I smacked the hell out of it with the lead rope I was carrying. She leapt away, slung her head once, stopped, and looked at me. I said "Come here" and she walked over. She stopped when I raised my hand, then started backing up (straight and with impulsion!) when I said "back up." Much better! She's never easy, but she's always fun.


  1. Sometimes I think our horses were twinned and separated at birth. They are so alike in their mare attitudes.

    I have been using a physical correction with Phebes on the pawing. Not punishment, but rather I want you to stop that and pay attention NOW! She likes to paw when she is tied up in the tack room, because she knows she is going to be saddled and is not a happy mare. She also does it after being unsaddled as she is anxious to get the heck out of there! My response over the past two weeks is a flat handed slap under her belly. Makes a noise, startles her a bit as she isn't expecting it (not hard enough to be painful), and she quits (for a little while), but I repeat each time, and ask her to stand quiet. I've actually made some progress in this one area.
    My girl also paws (and sweats profusely from stress) in the trailer. I wish there was a magic bullet for that one. ~E.G.

  2. pawing: if you aren't close enough to enforce a reprimand, don't bother responding at all.

    Yes, that's the voice of experience.

    I was able to re-direct a confirmed paw-the-ground-er to become a confirmed paw-the-air-er, but that's as far as I got. He wasn't dumb--he wouldn't lift his front foot at all if I could reach him, because he knew I'd make him back up or circle or work in some other way. But if I was more than 10 feet away, he'd lift that pawing foot and wave it, just to show me that he could. Brat.

    Trailer stress: Have you tried trailering with a GOOD traveller? Find a horse who hops directly into the trailer, starts munching the haybag as soon as the door is shut, and falls asleep as soon as you get on the freeway. If you don't have one of those, borrow one . They are worth gold. Horses (especially young ones, but all of them, really) learn by watching other horses. If you put a nervous traveller in with Steady Eddie, the nervie one will learn how to relax. It also helps if you take your horse someplace nearby and wonderful, like a meadow full of grass, or a chiropractic appointment, where they get some "feel good" as soon as they arrive at the destination.

    No, it doesn't show up in a bunch of training guides...but it should. Teach your horse to travel happily and you will be able to ride further, faster, and happier when you arrive.

  3. EG - I also think we have Evil Twin horses :)

    Yeah, I was kind of thinking what Aarene said - if I reprimand her, I'm just teaching her to not paw when I'm within reach. She's not dumb!

    I am happy that she only paws after she's been saddled - she waits somewhat patiently while I get her tacked up, but after that, she's ready to go.

    Aarene - Was it the Toad? He sounds like he was quite the character.

    Dixie's trailered with Champ, who was a steady eddie in the trailer, and with Diego, who seems to really enjoy all his trips. She pawed with both of them. I don't really get the feeling that she's nervous, just mad that she has to stand still. No nervous sweat, not scared of loading, etc. Still, taking her somewhere wonderful is a great idea. Maybe when I get a trailer I'll try hauling her down the road to eat alfalfa!

    I do want her to be a happy traveller. I suspect trailering is almost as stressful as being in ridecamp, and I don't want her to end up a nervous ulcered wreck.

  4. Ugh! Snow again! We had a couple of inches Friday (we probably sent the storm your way) but it had mostly melted off here at home by the afternoon. Maddie's clinic yesterday, however, was farther north and at a slightly higher elevation, so if was a cold and blustery experience for all!

    Love your highly technical "I rode for a while and went some places" comment. Where would we be without all our gizmos? Lost, I guess!

    On the sidepass, after working on yielding the hindquarters, then the fore hand (turn on the HQs and turn on the FH) yesterday, the clinician had Maddie sidepassing afacing the fence in no time, first a step of TOF, then a step of TOHQ, the fore, then hind, pretty much how you were asking. But the fence to stop forward motion until she gets the idea really helped. He later had her doing it in the open by the creek (post is coming).

    One of the best cures for pawing is just to leave them standing tied, for hours if need be (think Mugwump). Or you can set a little baby-step goal of a few minutes, or even just a pause in the action, and as soon as they get there, untie them and let them graze or turn them loose, some kind of reward. Then stretch out the time expectation a little each time. That being said, I once spent an hour or so lobbing snowballs at one filly every time she would paw. She couldn't figure out how I was doing it, but it seemed to work...

    My one boarder, RT will "dance" in the trailer (or if he's closed in a stall for that matter) and work up a lather no matter how long or short a trip. Just claustrophobic, I guess. He's 30 this year, and not going much of anyplace, so I guess I won't argue the point.

    At any rate (I don't have my GPS) it sounds like you're settling into the new place...

  5. One of my girls, Lexi, is a pawer. She comes by it honestly as her mother pawed as well. She does it when she is tired of being in the crossties, which some days is about five seconds, but most days we can have about 15 pleasant minutes. Usually I'm done with whatever I need to do before she starts pawing but not always. She also does it undersaddle if I halt and then ask her to stay immobile for any real length of time (more than a minute or so). Honestly the undersaddle aspect I can deal with, when I'm riding we're typically moving! It is on the ground that annoys me. I hoped she would grow out of it, but no luck.

  6. Snow? Yuck! We've been having 80 degree days here in NC. The horses are shedding like crazy!

    My mare knows not to paw, but she also knows I can't do a thing about it if I'm not close enough. Sometimes she'll stop if I tell her "no", but mostly she just looks at me like, "whatcha gonna do about it? hmmm?" Sometimes I'll surprise her with the longe whip, though... I'll show her!

  7. baasha paws, usually just the air, and his entire life we thought it was adorable and never asked him to stop. other people would sometimes snap at him "quit pawing" but whatever, we find it cute.

    it was embarrassing a few months ago when i stopped to chat with a man on a big TB who stood like a statue the entire 10 minutes, and baasha pawed frantically the entire time, switching legs from time to time. i knew he looked like a freaky arab to that TB owner, but it's so darn cute, IMO.

    when he was three he'd paw a hole in the barn, and then spook at the hole he just dug. brilliant!


  8. Peanut used to paw non-stop when cross-tied. Paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw.

    One of the first things I did with clicker training was put a cue on that paw, and he actually stopped pawing.

    Until I started teaching him the Spanish Walk. He never pawed under saddle or while walking, but now it's paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw paw.


    I know I just have to get after him for doing it off cue, but he does it the BEST off cue. :(

  9. Hahaha, I didn't realize so many other people had pawers too!

    EvenSong - I don't want to let my horse dig a hole to China in front of someone else's nice tie rack! I keep thinking eventually I'll end up at a facility where there's already a hole, but I haven't since I left TN. It's always very nice places with pristine tie areas.

    Melissa - Lexi sounds like Dixie. At least she doesn't paw under saddle!

    in2paints - Dude, shut up. My dad emails me every day - "It's 80 here, 20% chance of rain, everything's blooming." I email back every day "Incredibly windy, still snowing, at least it's above freezing." I will get my revenge this summer!

    Lytha - Baasha sounds like a total airhead in his younger days! And I admit, Dixie's pawing makes me giggle - it's just so dramatic. "Human! I am displeased!!"

    Sara - I am very worried that pawing on command would backfire. Poppy thought pawing for a treat was so awesome that he'd offer it all the time. I think you got lucky with Peanut - or maybe I got unlucky with Poppy?


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