Hard-Core, those Race Horses.

Yesterday was not cool.  I guess I could say that yesterday was a low point with Reason.  Ah, it happens.  My main question for myself though, is why?  Mis-communication happens for a reason, we are well aware.  But why?  Where did it go wrong and where do you begin?

Enter retraining Thoroughbred racehorse.  They know what the bridle means.  Connect A and B here: bridle (a) equals work (b).  Work of course means running.  All these things that we don’t think about come into play with an exracehorse.  When you break your average horse in regards to the bridle, you are first teaching them to like and/or accept the bit and bridle.  It means nothing to them, as this would be the first introduction.  It is up to us to create a happy connection with the bridle and horse, teaching them that it’s a positive experience.  Racehorses are already well aware of the bit and bridle.  They know exactly what it means.

Racehorses are intense creatures, unique to their kind.  They are bred, born and trained to do something that many absolutely live for and love.  Some are more hard-core than others.  Some are not open to anything but this life they love making retraining a very fine balance.  You cannot use fire against fire.  For even the most naughty of race horses need a very kind and forgiving hand before they look your way.  Ink was very much that hard-core racehorse.  He was tall and statuesque, so to speak, with his personality and view on the world.  Each piece of him had to be neaurtured and he only allowed this to happen once you understood him.  I never wanted to break the racehorse mind out of Ink.  I wanted to take the good it had to offer and apply it to his new life. 

Back to the bridling.  These horses are well aware of who and what they are.  Bridling is part of the window to their ingrained job and life.  You can’t just shut the window and expect the horse to ditch it’s past.  You have to look through the window, you have to let the light in from your side and allow the light in from their’s.  Bridling, as well as so many other aspects, large and small, are part of your observations through the window.   You have to understand what exactly the bridle stands for them.  It’s not a big deal mind you, it’s just what they know. 

As much as I know the easy observation of a horse who happens to be an ex-racehorse, being “frisky…”  cough-cough, Reason, could very well be blamed on crisp, cold air, limited exercise (none, except hand-walking and his own play-time in his paddock), there is that ever-apparent, one very important factor that is over-looked.  The bridle.  Just as we teach our horses to respond to our aids, leg, seat etc, the bridle seems to trigger a response all in itself as it’s own artificial aid to a racehorse. 

Reason was a frisky, impatient boy yesterday.  I bridled him up, because I was thinking (to re-wire the bridle response) was to begin hand-walking him with it on.  This, I thought, would disconnect the bridle to the idea of running.  Once the cycle was broke, Reason would then revert to me to get answers, instead of assuming the racetrack was coming – yippe! (I don’t want to bridle him up during every hand-walk as that would be over-kill and almost defeat the point.  Randomly would be best.)  Yesterday I did just that, bridled him.  He stood patient and was almost insisting for the bit.  But once we began on our walk down to th arena (which I’m thinking is another fault of my own) his head was up, he was ON and ready! “Noo..no…no racing Reason!”  I thought in my head. 

Sure enough he was ON.  The bridle pushed that button inside his head.  You’d be surprised the difference from halter to bridle when in the same exact situation.  The damage was done.  Once he’s in this mind-set, there is not a lot to do other than to be understanding and ask for unusual things bits at a time to try to collect his mind back.  Reason was pretty disconnected from me.  The only other thing I could do was correct him when he was getting frisky, which could escalate to a safety issue if not corrected.  But it’s such a balance, so much finesse!  I had to find the less invasive, attention-grabbing, respectful way to get Reason’s attention.  But my corrections did little help the situation.  (Backing, turning on haunches etc).  His mind, later, was not fried per sey, but he was defiantly closed off from any ideas at all. 

As I was walking him back to the barn, he was still being disrespectful of me.  I didn’t back down, but he didn’t care.  Again he was so ON that anything was going to set him off.  I finally thought that I just had to let him rest mentally, because as this point there was no getting him back.  (Unless of course we could use a roundpen or something, which we can’t due to his injury.)  I lead him over to a patch of grass, where he was crazily insisting to take him.  I did, thinking this might help him come back down.  I should have let him retreat there for more time, but I didn’t.  I tried picking up his head, more concerned about getting the bridle off and tying him back up where he is most agreeable and calm.  I tried picking up his head from the grass (which normally only take a little tug) and he struck out in disapprovement.  He was not being mean but he was clearly distressed and resorted to that tactic to get me off of him, to say.

This was an unacceptable behavior, but I couldn’t correct Reason without adding to the situation.  I had to handle him delicately.  I ignored him as if I had my angel back on the end of the lead and led him to the tie pole.  It was fairly close.  He was still on the muscle.  Once tied, he sifted around like he was ready to trot on a hot walker, but quickly calmed down.  I left him tied for quite a while, bridle still on, on top of the halter, in hopes he could relax in peace to think and come back down.  A while later, about 30+ mins, still standing calmly, I was certain his episode was over.  I was a little wrong.  He was still on the muscle.  Now at this point I could blame weather, the fact that it was past feed time, on his continuous friskyness.  But he was less intense and frustrated.  I walked him back to his paddock with the bridle on and despite his insisting to go to his feed bin, I made him wait and then took the bridle off.  He was calm enough at this point that I thought it was appropriate to expect the manners.  

I left him to eat and that was that.  

It was difficult and frustrating situation, but it’s making me think and learn more.  None of which was Reason’s fault.  I just have to learn how to handle the situation and react appropriately to not allow him to continue being ON.  

Today will be a better day.

Before I leave the post, I do have to say, Ink was much the same in the beginning.  I also think that Reason is going to be something else when he gets to riding.  I tink he’s going to be very talented.  I’ll write more about that later!

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