Spookiness during first rides
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, January 11, 2014 08:23 PM
I am in a process of starting my 3-year-old filly. And I run into a problem with her that took a while to figure out. The filly worked very well on the longe line and in hand. However, every time I got on her she would have very hard time to relax and if something spooked her she would run. Of course, she was on a longe line so she couldn't run far. However, for a month her runs were hard and fast like bolting until the end of the longe stopped her. I couldn't figure out why. She didn't try to get rid of me, there was no humping, bulking or bucking. However, she was definitely uncomfortable and easily scared. Things were improving slowly but not enough to really move on in her work.
One day I was longing her as I usually do before I get on her. To change direction I stopped her. I use halter to longe and my longe line is attached to the side ring. While we were standing beside each other something spooked her from behind. The day was windy and there were trees and tall grass swaying in the wind. The way she spooked looked exactly like the spooks she did with me riding her, however, she stopped after two strides all by herself before reaching the end of longe line. At that moment it hit me: "This time I didn't move and it made her stop. When I am on her back I move with her as fast as she does and that makes her wanting to run more as she perceives me running with her!" It was truly a light-bulb moment for me. Because it allowed me to create a strategy for the ride.
I got on her and started walking around. I was still on the longe line even though I walk around the whole arena and do simple patterns like circles and changes of direction. During riding longe line is attached to the bottom ring so I can change direction easily. My son came with his big camera to make some pictures. This of course made Regala worried and she started to run. Thinking of my strategy I tried to stay relaxed and with her movement, kept contact but didn't pull or didn't tried to stop or turn her and I was talking to her in a calming voice. Well, what do you know, she went around in more and more regular and steady gait, first it was canter than she started trotting and after a few circles I was able to ask her for transition to walk.
That was enough for her to understand that I am supposed to go with her and it is not the end of the world :) Since that ride, I rode her 3 more times. I was able to trot calmly both directions, come back to walk on request and go back to trot on request. No bolting or running so far!
Looking back I am amazed at how long it took me (more than a month) to find the explanation. I guess sometimes it is hard to shake the usual perception about a young horse and why they want to run or do other things. I feel lucky I had an event that helped me to figure that out, otherwise, who knows where we would end up with each other. Now I can build more trust and confidence in our work instead of dealing with uncertainty, fear and frustration. Working with horses is truly amazing journey, each horse is so different and finding the key to every horse is what makes this work so interesting and rewarding.
Happy riding...
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