Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dickhead Returns

Too cute to be called Dickhead.
A while back I wrote a post about our family's use of nicknames and the fact that Indy may have
thought his name had been changed to Dickhead. (He's young and blessed with ADD and I have a tendency to communicate through the use of colorful language).

I find that things with Indy follow a pattern.  Lots of really good behavior and then some not-quite-so-good behavior.  Like tonight, for instance, was one of the latter.  It was a gorgeous night, we'd had a lesson on Sunday that was not one of our best (totally my fault) and I thought a trail ride would be a low key experience for us both.

And the trail ride part was great.  The beginning and end parts, not so much.  When we left the barn I noticed the outdoor ring had a new wall jump that looked like it came from a giant Lego castle.  There was also a round pen with poles set like a pie cut into a bunch of pieces. Some of the round pen walls had fallen and were laying on their sides.  Did either of these new items in the ring bother Indy?  Nope.  He marched right up to investigate, sniffing them and noodging them with his nose.

Round pen and pole exercise. Or Pie. Take your pick

The issue came when we left the ring. I went to steer him left and he planted his feet and refused to budge.  The issue?  A patch of grass he walks over pretty much every day.  Heck, he GRAZES on it darn near every day!  He snorted and refused to go near it, backing up, hopping up and down, and trying to wheel around.  We went back and forth for a bit, and eventually he gave in and we went over it.  Maybe not the particular patch we were fighting over, but we went forward over grass that was very close to the patch we were fighting over.

Then we wandered around the farm and on the trails, and that was wonderful.

And then we came back and I got the bright idea to bring him over to the offending patch of grass to CONFIRM the correction we'd made.  Big mistake. HUGE. What can I say? I'm a dumbass.  We argued.  We discussed the issue at length. He cited reasons why we shouldn't go over the grass, I contended it was the only acceptable outcome. We expressed our divergent opinions, crossing over the driveway and every damn blade of grass except the ones we were squabbling over.  As you can imagine, my language was a bit salty.  I may have called him Dickhead again. (I did. Several times. I felt the situation warranted it. I have opposable thumbs, so I get to make those calls.)

The Grass Patch of Doom. 
Clearly terrifying.
I decided it was time to try something different.  I know you're not supposed to get off, but that wasn't getting anything accomplished so I got off.  And started to do some ground work, moving his haunches and front end, getting him to back up or come to me, just to get him to listen to me again.  At first he was resistant, but I persisted and he became softer and more willing.  We did our groundwork for about 10 minutes, on the offending grass, no less. (He didn't seem to have a problem with it once I was off him, the little booger).  Once I felt he was completely focused on me and what I was asking him to do, I got back on him and walked him up to the Grass Patch of Doom.  He hesitated, but went over it. I made a fuss over him, jumped off, and let him grab a few bites of grass.

Maybe conventional wisdom says I shouldn't have gotten off him, but the way I was doing it wasn't working.  I felt the need to reframe the conversation, and in this situation it worked.  That doesn't mean I should or will get off in the future.  It just seemed like the right thing to do tonight.

And we're okay now.  He got lots of kisses and scratches and he put his head in my arms for a long hug.  I said I was sorry for calling him Dickhead, and he told me he may have been over-reacting about the whole grass thing. 


  1. I think you did the exact right thing! I've gotten off before and re-installed who's the boss, sometimes that's what you need to do. And at least you repair the relationship with snuggle time ☺️

  2. Eh f*&^ conventional wisdom. There's a super, duper scary red mounting block in our ring that occasionally my mare loses her mind over (even though it's been in the same spot FOR A YEAR). One day I'd had enough of her shenanigans, so I jumped off, led her up to it, and I sat down on it for a few minutes until she came to her senses. Sometimes they just need us to physically show them that something isn't going to jump up and eat them.

  3. You probably already know that this is my opinion, but I think getting down and doing ground work to get his brain back on you was the very best idea! It's safer for both of you and you get a good result instead of just stubbornly battling it out until one of you quits.

  4. I also would have got off. When what you are doing isn't working I feel that it's best for everyone to give another approach a try, rather than continuing to beat your head against a wall.

  5. Getting off sounds reasonable to me. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. You changed the conversation and got different results. Sounds like it worked.

  6. Ha it must have obviously been snakes. Or something. Maybe now grass eats horses?!?

  7. This is exactly what trainer, Clinton Anderson, advocates. If it's not working in the saddle, get off and move their feet so they are using the thinking side of their brain again. Sounds like you nailed it! :)