Character Forming?

This week the rain desisted, the sun came out and so did my mini, early daffodils.

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Oh good, I thought, Spring can’t be that far off.  My grass arena and the country tracks should dry out and I can get back to work with my horse.

I found out he had other ideas.

There’s absolutely nothing I can do to alter the fact that in the last two years I’ve had three long layoffs due to accidents and operations.  And just when I was getting fitter last Autumn, a weird, inexplicable attack of vertigo meant that, for two months, I was unable to balance on my own two feet, never mind on a horse.  Then the rains came, and when it wasn’t raining, it was snowing….

So you could say our work ethic has been severely undermined!

This hasn’t stopped me spending as much time as possible with and around the horses, in their fields and in their boxes in the barn where they pass the winter nights, but the only time I ventured out on a hack with Pom this year, the going was so slippy, I decided the possiblity of yet another fun spell in hospital just wasn’t worth the risk.

There is also nothing I can do to alter my horse’s past.  If you’ve read earlier posts on this blog, you’ll know that Pom is a Pura Raza Española, or PRE, as Andalusians are now known.  Born in Tarragona in 2001, sold as a yearling, sold as a five year old, sold again nine months later and imported into France.  Thus far all his owners were male.  A year after his importation to France, he was bought by the woman who sold him to me.  She had, although she downplayed the situation, in effect ”rescued” him from a stables where he had had some kind of accident in which his rider had come off and he had been loose in a wood where his lower legs had been grazed and his left eye had been slightly damaged (there is a small cloudy spot, though he sees quite well on this side).  She had given him a good home and regular work, but her business commitments forced her to sell her two horses and move house.

Why on earth did I buy him, you might well ask?

I had been looking a long time for an Iberian horse;  a Lusitano (for several years I’d been riding a friend’s Portuguese horse after my oldie retired) or an Andalusian – and horses with ”papers”, in my (modest) price bracket and geographical area, were relatively rare, so I was prepared to give him a chance.

Long story short; I came, I saw, he conquered.  He came home a week later and in the early stages, I felt he was the Iberian horse I had been looking for – to fulfil my relatively simple requirements of pleasurable riding around the countryside and making modest progress together at dressage.

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Getting to know each other should be the most exciting part of having a new companion. Under saddle, Pom showed himself to be bold and forward-going, virtually nothing phased him.  On the ground, however, that bravado made him apt to be a challenge.  Before he was able to fully integrate with our two older horses he was visibly an unhappy, insecure horse and he soon began to be a serious problem, biting and lunging at Aly and the Pie and also at me and my husband.

In the initial weeks I wouldn’t approach him without having something to put between me and him in case of danger, be it a wheelbarrow, mucking-out fork, lead rope or even a tree. It was winter and he was 8 when he arrived.  We’d had snow, so I was bringing the horses in at night and I thought being around Pom in the stable would help our relationship, but I found myself keeping a short length of branch handy, so if he was eyeing me nastily I proferred that for him to chew on instead of parts of me and that worked quite well.  He got the message and got used to the fact I wasn’t going to go away and that, often as not, food and I arrived at the same moment.

However, leading him in hand was awful;  even with the nearest hand right under his chin he’d still try to turn and bite and even to get ahead of you and turn back on you.  I tried leading from the right in case his impaired vision was causing trouble, but it made no difference.

By the time he knocked me over, jumped over me and gashed my head with his shoe, I began to be seriously unnerved and wondered whether I ought to get help or get rid of him.  I certainly made double sure to wear a helmet when leading him in future.

But, in the way these things tend to happen, whilst I was trying to decide what to do I carried on riding him, which was a joy, and handling him and breathing calmly and evenly to keep the misgivings down and disguised, and suddenly, it was better weather, and time to leave the horses out at night and at last they seemed to have negotiated a compromise between themselves and allowed Pom to settle in.

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We appeared to have weathered the worst and over the subsequent months my worries subsided and we began to enjoy each other’s company.  Pom actually turned out to be more appreciative of stroking, scratching, rubbing and grooming (he very obviously appreciated treatments to calm his itchy mane and tail) than either Aly or the Pie.  In short, there was no more need for the chewing stick and we became a good team.

A year or so later I had a complicated leg fracture which took a long time to heal and left me much weakened, which in part was a reason for tripping backwards and breaking my jaw and fracturing my skull when around the horses, (on a stone wall or a hoof, I still can’t be sure which).  Since when I have been much more risk-averse and only fit enough to ride for relatively brief periods.  Though when I have, the Pom has scarcely been any different than pre-breakages.

And so back to this week.  I’ll make no bones (sic) about the fact that, because of our history, I have only done groundwork with Pom in very restricted situations where I felt safe and I have mainly side-stepped lungeing.

On Monday, after a dry weekend when I was otherwise occupied, I prepared Pom, mounted up by the barn and rode down to the school, where we had a ”bitty” but not entirely unsuccessful short schooling session.  One thing I absolutely love about this horse – however fresh he is – he has never bucked or tried in any way to dislodge me when under saddle.  However, getting him relaxed, balanced, even, and heeding downward transitions was never going to be a cinch.

What the heck, we needed to get back to some basics so, on Tuesday, I decided we should give lungeing another go.  It actually went better than expected, and we carried on with a few basic exercises on the ground until I saw he was getting frustrated and ”lippy”, so we finished on a good note (one rule I had imposed was respecting my space, so he is now a champion ”backer”!) and left it at that.

On Wednesday, my friend Kerri came to ride the Pie – as she has a couple of times previously – for a short hack out.  This has worked well before as there’s no separation drama for the horses (now Aly’s no longer with us to keep Pie company).  But the Pie is smaller, much older and slower than Pom, and he quickly became frustrated – not having seen the greater outdoors for a couple of months – at being restricted by his friend’s pace.

About twenty minutes into the ride, Kerri found the Pie faltering and, indeed, upon closer inspection, though his feet were clear and there was no heat or visible problem he was favouring his left fore.  A touch of arthritis in his hips and particularly in his shoulders was one reason he had been allowed to join the slightly older Aly in early retirement years ago, yet he had been sprightly and fit enough recently for the farrier and vet to give their encouragement for some light work (and Kerri’s definitely much lighter work than me).

Obviously we had to turn back for home.  Kerri dismounted to lead the Pie and I would have done the same, except the only way I could confidently control Pom was from up top. He’d sweated himself up into a state of frustrated over-excitement and it was all I could do to hold on to him.  It was not exactly the pleasant ride out we’d anticipated.

Yet by the time we got back he had calmed down and we decided to keep to the original plan which was to try loading the boys into the new (old) trailer, which I’d parked conveniently (yep, I’m slowly getting the hang of reversing!) and opened up in readiness.

After untacking and a quick breather we brought them round and Kerri took the Pie towards the ramp.  He was taking his time, but I didn’t think we’d have problems, as the Pie is generally quite amenable to persuasion.  I did however twig that, instead of positioning Pom by the forward, exit ramp to encourage the Pie up and through towards him, it might be better with Pom not far behind Pie, that being the usual herding order. Bingo! Pie onto the ramp and in without a fuss.

Pom’s turn and he took a little sniff of the ramp and strolled in like a pro.  This is the upside of his boldness;   nothing scares him.

I was so pleased with him as, to me, this trailer represents our main hope for future progress and it’s certainly been one helluva long time coming.

On Thursday, I had to go out to a legal meeting and a miss a glorious, bright, warm day for riding, but on Friday, I hesitated between riding out on my own and risking repeating an overexcited, stressful experience, or schooling at home again, or a little more groundwork. As the previous day had left me wrung out, I opted for the latter, much to my later regret.

I started by placing a couple of obstacles in the small area of field we were using (nearer the house than our ”school”) for us to do simple exercises of walking up to, around and between them, bending, stopping, backing;  just trying to get him more lightly responsive again to forward, halt, turn and reverse in different configurations and combinations, but even so, from the start, I sensed resistance.  Suddenly the softness went from his eyes and he went back to the behaviour I thought we had long overcome; trying to bite my leading hand, trying to get round in front of me, striking out with his forelegs (damn and blast training him for Spanish Steps).  So, reckoning he was bored and not comprehending why we were doing what we were doing, I aimed to send him off into a lungeing circle, but time and again he attempted to come back in, as a challenge, not as a join-up.  At one point I fumbled the rein and whip, and, seizing the advantage, Pom charged in at me and made to bite the back of my (helmeted) head. (I didn’t see all of this as I leapt aside, but I’d asked my husband to stay close at hand and keep an eye on us in case anything went wrong.)

I’m sure at this point we had lost all coherent communication and I was now dreading another trip in the ambulance, so I did the only thing that came into my mind as a solution – bear with me and don’t laugh – lunged him round a tree!  The advantage of this being that, in keeping me, him and the tree as a triangle, with the line forming one side of the triangle away from me to the ”base” line between the tree and the horse, if he started to turn in, I could prevent him doing so by keeping the line taut between him and the tree ahead of him.  Not exactly something you’d find in any textbook, but it did, finally, enable me to get my point across in safety.

A short while was enough for me to note that his eye had softened and his jaw relaxed and thus to feel able to approach him again and re-establish contact.  I did, however, feel bitterly disappointed that I’d confused or angered him to the degree where he felt he had to make his unhappiness felt by dangerous aggression.  I’d seen the resurgence of that little devil in him I thought we had exorcised years ago.  I also hated to feel the return of the fear I’d managed to put behind me and a loss of the complicity we’d built over three years.

That was yesterday; today it’s freezing cold and, intermittently, snowing again. I felt it better for both of us to have a day off to enable us to return to routine normality.

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What conclusions to draw …..?

My gut feeling is that Pom comes from a breed honed to work cattle, fight bulls and parade their owners at the ferias.  He was bred, owned, probably broken in and worked by different men for most of his early life and (though it can be invidious to generalise) the equestrian culture of Spain is a far more machismo affair than that of Northern Europe.  He was probably treated strictly and learned to defend his corner.

He may only have been castrated at six, on entry into France, as in Spain many male horses are left entire, but French riding establishments do not welcome stallions.  He was also apparently shut in and left unexercised for a long while after his accident – which must have occurred not long after his arrival in France – becoming bored and sour.  He certaintly did not seem at all socially adept on arrival here, treating horses and humans with suspicion and sullen wariness.  Even after finding his place and feeling more secure, his tendancy is still to try and dominate.  In our very limited ”herd” situation, though he now defers to the Pie’s elder statesman status at a haynet, it doesn’t stop him herding and bullying his fieldmate.  He was also quite gratuitously aggressive towards a weakened Aly, who had been top horse before his arrival.

I knew from the beginning he would require firm but intelligent – strategic handling even, and I considered my experience and nerve sufficient to the task.  Even so, I was unprepared for the level of aggression he showed and have had to apply all my resources to upping my game and conquering his demons for both our sakes. His life is now secure, reasonably natural and content and his rules are few but clear and I suppose the hardest thing to endure yesterday was to feel that after we’d come through so much together, it felt like going back to zero.

An over-reaction, emotionally, as today he has been as good as gold to be around.  I suppose he has made his point in the only way he knows.

But I wonder what makes him so dislike being worked from the ground and lunged?

I dream of the day I might play freely with him at liberty as well as riding him ever better, but I know that until we are able to keep up a regular routine – with a trainer to advise – and put in much more work, that dream is going to remain, tantalisingly, just beyond my grasp.  But what do any of us get involved with horses for, if not to strive towards those slight but shining possibilities ……..

*****

A Postscript:

As regular readers will know, I am not usually to be found lacking a sense of humour, or, for that matter, using this blog as a soapbox, but I have had a gut-full of sick, tasteless jokes (even from friends) and ill-informed media comment about the horsemeat scandal in the UK.  I choose not to eat or buy red meat and, while everyone has the right to choose what they put in their stomachs now, it may not be the case for larger populations in the future.

For what it’s worth here’s my view.  It seems to me the present problem is twofold:

Firstly, government legislation, backed by local food inspection should have safeguarded that if you buy a product labelled “beef”, that is what you get.  The proliferation of European legislation and the monopolising tactics of the multinationals have closed local abattoirs, butchers and grocers and made the standards for farmers so exacting that the supply chain for cut-price, processed food has lengthened to the point of untraceability.  Hence illegal operations have been able to make a mockery of governments and consumers.  The only way to fight back is to buy local, demand quality and pay the price for good food even if it means making other economies and, if there’s any way you can ….. grow (at least some of) your own.

Secondly, the scandal of live transport of horses has still not been properly tackled.  And there are far higher welfare standards for farm livestock destined for the plate than for equines; old, unfit and unwanted, who end up in the food chain.  Presently, though it’s distasteful to me personally, there is a demand for cheap meat and a need to dispose of an excess of horseflesh.  The only way I can accept a justification of any consumption of any mammalian (or other) meat is for animal breeding, welfare, transport and slaughter conditions to be beyond reproach.

If you couldn’t look your food honestly in the eye …. then don’t eat it;  I’m sure we could all agree on that!

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About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
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30 Responses to Character Forming?

  1. Elaine M. says:

    Good morning! Your post was such a welcome read, since I have been eagerly awaiting your latest exploits. Horses are such incrediblely sensitive creatures, with such long memories, it’s no wonder that Pom hasn’t forgotten what must have been previous rough handling. My younger sister is currently experiencing the same thing with a new rescue dog. I told her to expect a good 2 yrs before he trusts enough to forget what he has been through. It took the same amount of time for her old horse Sarge to lose the dead eyes and put aside his bad memories. It seems that Dini and Pom are cut from the same cloth. It’s been 9yrs of dealing with a challenging horse, so I can truely relate to what you are feeling. I laughed when reading of your new lunging partner…THE TREE! That was highly creative and it worked! Eventually Pom will come to realize lunging is no longer a trauma. The problem with buying challenging horses seems to be time; we grow older way too fast to wait out all the issues!

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    • Thank you for your wise words, Elaine – and I do feel exactly the same about time being a big issue. In effect I’ve lost a couple of years and am not as I was before, so I need to “get on with it”! I look forward to hearing how Dini’s doing and if he’s joined you down south – and if you’ve all settled in now …..

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  2. Glad you are back in the saddle, and to tell the truth, my experience with my own horses and my client’s horses, is that this kind of erratic begin back isn’t uncommon. His past matters, but not as much as his present. Andalusians are so sensitive, and It is possible (probable) that the aggressiveness you have seen is physical. (I have a couple of ideas if you want to email me privately.) For now, good for you for having daffodils and for starting the conversation with Pom. This is that time that you look back on years from now and smile about…

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    • Thank you for your encouraging comment, Anna. I remember, in the dark, early days wishing we could be six months on and having faith that things would be better, and they were … if only we had been able to maintain a regular routine. I would be most interested, and grateful to hear your ideas, so will e-mail …..

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  3. subodai213 says:

    I am so envious of your daffodils. Here we are growing only mold and mildew, yet I shouldn’t whine…the bluebirds are making definite measures of the box in our front yard.
    What an innovation-a tree! Yet I worry about you, my friend. and wonder what is going on with Sr. Pom.
    If I was one of the ‘ill informed’ that made an equally ill in formed comment about the horsemeat scandal in Europe, please forgive me. You know I would never want to hurt you.

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    • Don’t be envious of the daffs; they’ve been here longer than us (25+ years!) and are always a fortnight ahead of the rest, so cheer us up! No, I would never make any sideways comment to a friend that way. You are one of the best informed people I know, particularly in matters scientific and environmental. It’s the popular (UK) media which has reduced this serious issue to cheap jokes and easy jibes that has got me riled!
      E-mail under construction to you as we speak…….à bientôt, M 🙂

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  4. Sandra says:

    So many horses have a troubled past…and they never forget anything. On the positive side, that also means Pom will never forget all the good he’s had from you 🙂

    Size matters. I have started working with Arrow, I had to because he’s a little monster, and he went for my husband recently. So, I’m working on ground manners, but Arrow won’t give an inch without a fight and he’ll throw all he has at me. And believe me, he has a lot, but that’s fine, I make sure my energy matches his and that I out-persist him. The thing is, I can laugh it off and do what has to be done because he is so small – I wouldn’t have liked him or his antics if he was 17 hands!

    If Pom really hates groundwork, and he’s so good to ride, would you not consider leaving the groundwork for the time being? Minnie always hated groundwork from the moment I got her, so I did everything from the saddle. I got a lot of criticism for not doing any groundwork with her, but it worked for us.

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    • I’m really glad you wrote that about Minnie, Sandra. If Pom hates groundwork to the point of anger, I’m listening. To you and him. As long as he accepts being lead safely, I admit I would rather build on the positive, mutually enjoyable, ridden side, without feeling guilty that that is our preference.

      Fair enough, you don’t have much choice with little Arrow – grief, I’ve just remembered that crazy Leapy Lee song, “Little Arrows” – ring any bells? 😀 – but do look out for yourself and your husband. (I’m grateful Pom’s no bigger than 15.2ish; nowadays that’s about as high as I can mount from the ground – pathetic!) I’m looking forward to seeing Arrow develop, and how he responds to the good you’re doing him.

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  5. maremother says:

    I had a bad (rather bucky) ride on my younger horse last weekend. I know how tough it is to suddenly have to deal with issues you thought weren’t issues anymore!

    I admire your ability to not just write the situation off as him being a brat etc. I see so many people saying things like “he knows better” when their horses act up. As if they are intentionally doing it to spite you like a sullen child.

    I was taught in such a mindset and I’m actively trying to overcome that. When Kricket decided to act so out of character this past weekend I immediately called it a tantrum and had to stop and remind myself horses don’t live in a vacuum. Me on her back and the ground under her feet aren’t the only things affecting her. Linda Tellington-Jones has some good things to say when your horse acts out of character that made me stop and list out all the possible reasons I could think of for her behavior. They can’t always be changed (like the other horses we were riding near but not with) but they do make you feel better about your horse and less like a failure!

    I hope you get to a more consistent riding schedule soon! I’m sure it will make all the difference.

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    • Thank you MM for empathising – that’s very welcome when you lay your problems out for all to read! (I did wonder if I ought to retreat to a bunker with a helmet on and expect some of the critical flak that rains down on people in some horse forums.) But I love it that the people who read me give me really positive, experienced-it-myself type support and I gain so much from reading like-minded posts and comments. I read (with some envy!) how you and Paige grew into such a close-knit couple and all credit to you for breeding Kricket and taking on her education. Putting our horses and their wellbeing first as we do, we end up exploring so many reasons for their behaviours and when you are kind enough to take time and give me your thoughts on the possibilities, that really helps. At least I know I’m not here in a vacuum, as it sometimes seems on the ground! Did you get to fathom out what made Kricket take to bucking? Did LTJ help?

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      • maremother says:

        I listed out all the possible reasons with my husband while we rode. (I think he thought I was a bit crazy, but he knew that before he proposed!) In order of probability,
        1) The other horses she wasn’t allowed to follow. She’s never been herd sour, but I think she might be a bit herd starved. She has always been social and now she only has Paige to socialize with. There were some other people who had brought there horses to the park and were riding nearby. She was VERY interested and (I think) did not appreciate being asked to work away from them.
        2) Lack of exercise. Because she is naturally laid back I tend to forget that she is only 6 and in her prime. She just started to learn that going forward could be more fun than sleeping when we lost a place to ride. It’s also been so so sloppy in her paddock that I doubt she has had a chance to burn much energy on her own.
        3) There were a lot of dogs. She has never had a problem with them before, but who knows? Maybe one looked at her funny.

        I haven’t gotten too far in LTJ’s training yet. I mostly bought her book for her bodywork techniques but just the little bit of philosophy helped me out so much I think I want to dig deeper. Her example in the book was of an endurance horse and rider. The horse was young but had always fearlessly followed direction. One day, she stopped dead in front of a puddle on the trail and wouldn’t move forward. The rider took the too-common stance of attempting to muscle her over it. They fought wills and both got frustrated and anxious until the rider finally gave up and got off. As soon as she stirred the water in the puddle, the mare walked right through it. It was reflecting the sky and confusing/scaring the mare.

        That struck a big chord with me. I had always been taught that you have to “win” with your horse. You can’t let them “get away” with anything. Linda says that’s BS and it’s more important that your horse trust that you won’t beat the crap out of it. (Paraphrasing there. Haha) So my solution to Kricket’s unnecessary spunk? We walked. A lot. In interesting places. We just took a big ol’ trail ride and, I have to say, it was much more enjoyable than trying over and over to get her to perform while she was anxious.

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      • All three of your reasons have been the cause of problems for me too 😀 The puddle example is exactly the sort of ingenuity and insight that makes for intelligent solutions to “explain” what we want our horses to do – love it! I wonder if tossing a pebble or twig into the puddle would work … the more upset Pom gets the harder he can be to remount sometimes!!!

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  6. I think you are very brave and are doing a marvelous job: you are kind, you persevere, and you are creative. (The tree was an elegant solution to making the point without picking a fight.) Pom is obviously a troubled soul with unknown issues to work out. He can only tell you through his actions, so you are slowly figuring out what his needs. Review your post, and you will see all the progress you have made. Instead of despair over a setback; celebrate all that you have accomplished. I find you inspiring and amazing.

    I, too, had a setback this fall. My horse is “bucky” in the canter; based on his behavior in the field & his physical exams, (he’s not lame or sore), he really would rather trot than canter. I worked on getting those canter transitions smooth and balanced all last year. Like you, I thought Monarch’s resistance was just a past memory. Then, on the last day before my trainer left for NZ for the winter and after a fabulous schooling session, we pushed him too hard and the buck returned. Now my trainer was gone, and I set about to solve this on my own. Oh dear, the very next schooling session was a continuous stream of complaints. He was taking his frustration out on me for pushing him. Throughout the schooling, I worked on rhythm and suppling to get him into a smooth canter. Each time I asked, he bucked. I could push him through the buck into a canter circle, so that is what we did. Then we did some lovely trot work to end on a good note. We did many trot/canter transitions that day, each with a buck, so the next day my back was very sore. (I’m just not young anymore.) I felt discouraged, back to square one where I had left off last winter.

    Fall didn’t last much longer. I rode him a few times, (with bucks) before winter set in. The bucks were fewer and less opinionated, so I think we were working through our discussion. Then winter set in with a vengeance- bitter cold & snow for two months. It’s still stormy, but not so cold. The arena thaws during the day. I’m getting a space mucked, so I can do some groundwork.

    Yesterday, we had a lovely ground session. I was just asking for walk trot transitions, because I was using a lead rope/halter, and the circle was small. Though I didn’t ask, he offered some amazing collected canter. It was beautiful. After the canter, I returned to improving his “forward” step in the trot- I wanted him to track up. I had a dressage, (not lunge) whip in my hand, and I shook it at him to lengthen the trot. Well, he was still in a collected frame of mind I guess, and got quite upset with the whip- rearing and bucking. I took this very calmly, and said in a quiet voice, “no, that’s not what I asked.” This settled him, and in about 30 seconds, his mind “came back” to me. When I asked again for a more engaged trot with the whip, again he reared-bucked. My calm response that he gave me the wrong answer to the question settled him once again. I brought him back to walk, asked for trot, then asked more quietly with the whip to engage, and he lengthened. I praised him profusely.

    When the trot was consistently improved, I thought I would see whether he would give me another collected canter. I was a bit nervous, because I didn’t want to start an argument. I asked for canter with my voice, not the whip. He was such a good boy. The transitions were very relaxed, and the canter was beautifully balanced. By thinking back on all that we have accomplished over the 10 years I have had Monarch, I realize that we have come a long way. Monarch has been off & on resistant in canter throughout his training. The episode last fall is a set back, but we are not losing ground. We learn each day. I will continue to muck my arena, so I have a bigger schooling area. I will continue to connect and bond with my horse. I will continue to use creativity to solve challenges in the training. I will continue to use groundwork to build his confidence in the canter. Then I will take him to my friend’s round pen for our renewed mounted canter work. He seems to feel safer there, so I want everything to be calm when I ask. And then when he settles into consistent canter work in the round pen, I can return to regular schooling and dressage. Make haste slowly, as the cowboys say. You, too, will continue to creatively develop solutions to bond, train, and heal your Pom. Best wishes.

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  7. What kind and encouraging words Cheri, thank you! How frustrating that the buck came back with Monarch, but you have shown wonderful patience and kind persistence and, after 10 years together you must have a beautiful close connection; he’s a wonderful looking horse – not dissimilar to Pom!
    I am really taking a lot of good feeling from my blogging friends’ comments and to know we all go through those deeply frustrating times, perhaps more so when a problem we thought we’d worked through resurfaces. I hope that breakthrough with canter comes through soon for you – it must be hell on your back, but it sounds more like a protest than trying to dislodge you. I will keep to that sound maxim like you and try to make haste slowly.
    In Pom’s case I am very interested in following up some points which Anna, who commented above, has sent to me – I love her way with her horses, training clients (and other animals!) – in particular the suggestion that ulcers may be causing Pom physical discomfort, and this seems to me a distinct possibility. I hope we both have better training times soon!

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    • A big storm has hit, so I will continue with my physical training- especially pilates, which really keeps my back from lapsing to spasm, and I also think it keeps my old bones in the saddle during Monarch’s protests. I agree that he is arguing more than trying to dislodge me.

      You have inspired my next post, so stayed tuned. I’m going to entitle it, “When Enough is Too Much.” The theme will be about gratitude and moderation toward our horses.

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  8. I’m glad I found you in the blogosphere, as I wouldn’t have known you any other way. I appreciate your encouragement and look forward to reading about your journey with your horse.

    My best riding buddy has a 17H PRE, who is coming 7. He, too, was quite a bully on the ground when she got him. Part of the problem was his size; he truly didn’t know where he was in space. As I read your post, I thought of Majestad. If he had been muscled through a bunch of lungeing without sensitivity and tact, he probably would have similar issues as Pom has. I am hypothesizing that he was made to go round on overly-small circles before he had the strength and balance to handle that type of collection. I think it fried his brain. I also think that you are discovering ways to explain to him how he can handle lungeing without force. If done correctly, lungeing is a beneficial training strategy. Lungeing, though, is a double-edged sword. My daughter’s horse freaks out with lungeing too. I’m helping him work through that. Baroque horses, (like Majestad, Monarch, and your Pom), are balance freaks: because they are so sensitive, they freak out if forced into movement where they cannot attain balanced movement.

    Good luck with your quest. I am going to share your blog with Majestad’s owner, Jody.

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    • I’m glad you found me too and that I’ve been able to discover more about you and your blog. Your comments on lungeing and Majestad have set me thinking yet again about the specific problems I had. I agree it’s a difficult balancing act particularly if the horse is out of condition like Pom. I do feel so bad about asking him for something that may have caused him pain or discomfort – he is still sulking with me too! Ooh, I wouldn’t like to deal with a 17hh bully (did you see Sandra’s comment on her pocket bully, Arrow, above?). Glad to have helped inspire your post and many thanks for the pingback, Cheri ….

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  9. Pingback: When Enough is Too Much: Reflections on Joy, Moderation, and Gratitude « Equitherapy

  10. Carol says:

    Sounds very much like you may have already figured out part of the reason for Pom’s behavior, rough handling and late gelding but if you’re interested it might be worth having a word with my friend Julia http://www.alemany-bird.co.uk/interview2.html She has years of experience with Spanish horses and it won’t be the first time she has come across the possible result of brutal treatment. She’s in England but offers “Spanish Horse Help & Advice” via Skype or telephone, you could email her in the first instance to see if the service would be of use to you here is the link to her website http://www.alemany-bird.co.uk/index.html she is v. knowledgeable (and nice). Anyway good luck with Pom.

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    • Thank you Carol, I will definitely take up your suggestion of contacting your friend Julia. I don’t, personally, know many other PRE owners and would value her experience. It seems there is a dark underbelly to the Andalusian myth that isn’t always aired – not, of course, that I would imply rough handling is widespread, just that methods can differ ….! I often look in on your site; very informative content (and humour too). I wonder if you have any comment on ulcers, which was a possibility raised to explain Pom’s sudden change of heart. Certainly he has had a lot of stressful experiences in the past and I would hate myself for reviving pain or even a physical memory of it.

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  11. magreenlee says:

    Hi Stella, are you going to Equisud this weekend? If you are, I would go to meet you, otherwise I will give it a miss and meet you some other time.

    It’s about 2.5 hours from us, not too far at all really, how about you?

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    • Hi Martine, great to hear from you (still following the blog) and I hadn’t forgotten our “date”! I have been hanging off making plans as Kerri and I were thinking of going on Friday and staying overnight, but she and husband are just back from skiing and he is full of flu and my horse sitter can’t do any time this week. In all probability we won’t make it, in favour of going to the new Salon in Toulouse in August which we can do there and back in a day! I’ll be sorry not to meet this week, but as Eric and I were hoping to holiday down south sometime this spring I hope we can work something else out? Best wishes to you, the LSH, the horses and dogs, S x

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      • magreenlee says:

        Yeah, no worries about this weekend, we will have to watch France thrashing Ireland (rugby) groan….
        Let me know your plans. We are away 28th March – 2 April, going to meet another blogger! Sharon at La Fiaba, we are doing a Transhumance with her in Tuscany. We WILL meet sometime this year xx

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  12. PF says:

    Hi Stella, have been enjoying your blog for a few months now. It has urged me to start writing my own so thanks for your unknowingly nudge! I wanted to ask your opinion about something within the horse world in France. Can you email me – don’t want to take up space here! Paula (Ireland)

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    • Hello Paula, I’m glad (and genuinely flattered) you’ve enjoyed reading my blog and that it nudged you into action. That’s exactly how I began – so let me know where to find yours and I will gladly read what you have to say. Do feel free to ask your question here – I subscribe to the view that comments and questions are the point of the blog – and I’m not afraid of you taking up space, as I’ve really appreciated the in-depth comments above. (Besides, it’s a small and friendly group and you’re welcome to join!) Look forward to hearing more from you (from the land of my ancestors) and happy to be of help in any way I can. Best regards, S

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      • PF says:

        Hi Stella, my question is regarding a business idea I have and I understand someone is doing it in France. So, as its early stages and we want to be first, I’d prefer if you don’t mind, to ask you in private. I will off course share on your blog the outcome – as it has to do with horses! Hope that makes sense. Agree wholeheartedly with open comments! I will pass along my blog site as soon as I get a few more items up. Thanks Paula

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      • Paula, I mailed your hotmail address a few days ago, don’t know if that reached you?

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      • PF says:

        No Stella, I didn’t notice it come through! OK – have you come across the product available in France called EquiBuche (I think thats the spelling!) – for woodstoves? If so – how much do they sell for and are they good. If not – might show they are not widely distributed. Thanks for trying. Chat again and to say again how much I love your blog.

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  13. Paula, I’ve not come across anything like this product here in the SW and can’t find any ads. – though we are a heavily wooded region! However, there is a company called AKSEA in Esvres in Northern France listed on French sites as manufacturing Equibuches, but nowhere can I find where or how to buy them. I get the impression they started up in Northern France last year, with plans for expansion – their founder Agnès Korn was interviewed on French YouTube – maybe they only market north of the Loire. It seems like a brilliant idea for areas where importing wood is expensive, but, if you could market a product which compressed “logs” of manure for wood-burners to market to horse and yard owners I think that would make a killing – I’d be first in line 😀
    Hope that helps! Remember me when you’re a millionaire!!
    Be sure and leave a comment on the blog when yours is up and running and I’ll pay you a call. And I’ll be glad to have you drop by here as often as you like! Best wishes Sx

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    • PF says:

      Stella as expected you are a star – very thorough answer. Of course I will keep you posted, but early stages so it will be a while. I’ll be dropping by often and will invite you along when I finally feel my own blog is worthy of a public viewing. All for now, enjoy spring Paula

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